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[casi] The Latest... from Riverbend

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

The Latest...

The electricity only returned a couple of hours ago.
We've been without electricity for almost 72 hours-
other areas have it worse. Today we heard the
electricity won't be back to pre-war levels until the
middle of next year.

We heard about Saddam's capture the day before
yesterday, around noon. There was no electricity, so
we couldn't watch tv. The first sign we got that
something abnormal was occurring was the sound of a
Klashnikov in the distance. I remembering pausing in
my negotiations with E. over who should fill the
kerosene heaters and listening hard to the sounds of
shooting. I grabbed the battery-powered radio and
started searching the stations, skipping from one to
the other. I finally located a station that was
broadcasting in Arabic and heard that Saddam may have
been caught.

We thought nothing of it at first… another false
alarm. It happened on an almost weekly basis. When the
sounds of shooting became more frequent, curiosity got
the better of E. and he ran to our neighbor's house
where they had a small generator running. Fifteen
minutes later, he came back breathless with the words,
"They've caught Saddam…" Everyone was shocked. We all
clamored for the radio once again and tried to find
out what was happening. The questions were endless-
who? What? When? How?

It was only later in the evening that we saw the
pictures on tv and saw the press-conference, etc. By
then, Baghdad was a mess of bullets, and men waving
flags. Our area and other areas were somewhat quiet,
but central Baghdad was a storm of gunfire. The
communist party were scary- it's like they knew
beforehand. Immediately, their red flags and banners
were up in the air and they were marching up and down
the streets and around Firdaws Square. My cousin was
caught in the middle of a traffic jam and he says the
scenes were frightening.

The bullets are supposed to be an expression of joy…
and they probably are- in a desert, far from
buildings, streets crawling with vulnerable people and
cars. In Baghdad, they mean chaos. People were
literally ducking and running, trying to get out of
the rain of firepower because what goes up must,
eventually, come down.

Yesterday was almost as messy. Most parents kept their
kids home. There have been pro-America demonstrations
in some areas, and anti-America demonstrations in
other areas. At around 6 pm yesterday evening, the
chaos began in Amriyah, a residential area in Baghdad.
The streets were suddenly filled with anti-American
demonstrators, some holding up pictures of Saddam. It
lasted until around 11 pm and then the tanks pulled up
and things settled down somewhat. Similar occurrences
in A'adhamiya in Baghdad, and one or two other areas.

Today there were pro-America demonstrations in Baghdad
organized by SCIRI and there were anti-America
demonstrations in Tikrit, Falloojeh, Samirreh (where
11 Iraqis were killed- CPA claim they were
'insurgents'), Baghdad, Imsayab and the biggest one
was in Mosul. Thousands of students from the
University of Mosul took to the streets with an
anti-occupation demonstration and some of the
residents joined them… the university president had to
shut down the university- it was huge. I was surprised
the CNN wasn't covering it. The troops broke it up by
firing above the crowd and bringing in the
helicopters. The demonstration in Samirreh had a
similar ending, except the firing was *in* the crowd
and several people were wounded severely.

The question that everyone seems to be asking is the
effect it will have on the resistance/ insurgence/
attacks. Most people seem to think that Saddam's
capture isn't going to have a big effect. Saddam's
role was over since April, many of the guerilla groups
and resistance parties haven't been fighting to bring
him back to power and I think very few people actually
feared that.

Political analysts and professors in Iraq think that
Saddam's capture is going to unite resistance efforts,
as one of them put it, "People are now free to fight
for their country's sovereignty and not Saddam."

The rumors have been endless ever since yesterday- and
they all seem to be filtering in from Tikrit. Some of
the rumors include people claiming that Saddam was
actually caught a week ago, but the whole thing was
kept quiet. Another rumor is that some sort of nerve
gas was used in a limited sort of way on the area he
was hiding in. Another rumor goes on about how he was
'drugged'- something was added to his food… Others say
he's being interrogated in Qatar… and on and on.

The GC seem equally confused with the commotion.
Talabani claims it was a combined effort between the
Bayshmarga (the Kurdish militia) and the troops,
Chalabi, on the other hand, insisted the whole thing
was completely an American effort. It's hard to tell
who has the story right and who's getting it wrong…

People have differing opinions on where he should be
tried and by whom- in Iraq or an international court?
Others are wondering about the legitimacy of a court
under occupation. The one thing everyone seems to
agree upon is that it should be an open court and
*everything* should be discussed. The question is,
will the US allow that? Won't it bring forward certain
political dealings with America in the '80s? Only time
will tell…

Things are very frightening these days in Baghdad.
Going from one area to another is like going from one
city to another- the feelings and emotions vary so
drastically it feels like only a matter of time before
we may see clashes...

- posted by river @ 9:58 PM

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