He was the best dictator in the Middle East. I can't believe he's gone. Oh, Saddam, the world was never made for one as beautiful as you.
Arabs Watch Saddam's Demise in Disbelief
Wed April 9, 2003 01:11 PM ET
By Lucy Fielder
CAIRO (Reuters) - Arabs watched in disbelief on Wednesday as Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, described by one Moroccan as the Arab world's "best dictator," lost Baghdad to U.S.-led forces without a fight.
"It's like a movie. I can't believe what I'm seeing," said Adel, a lawyer in Beirut. "Why didn't he just give up to start with if this was all the resistance he could muster? Instead of wasting all those lives for nothing."
In Cairo, people gathered around television sets in shops and coffee houses watching U.S. troops toppling a huge statue of Saddam in the heart of Baghdad and Iraqis dancing on it.
"It seemed that Iraqis were all with Saddam, now it looks like many didn't like him. Maybe those destroying the statue are rebels against Saddam's rule," engineer Magdy Tawfiq said as he watched Saddam's statue being toppled by a U.S. tank.
But security guard Waleed Tawfiq said he still did not believe Saddam was out. "I will be upset if it turns out Saddam has lost power. He tried to defend his land. If he is dead he will be a martyr."
Most Arabs have no love for Saddam. But his defiance toward the United States has been met with approval in a region angry at Washington's support for Israel and perceived interference in Arab affairs, and the presence of U.S. forces in Arab countries.
Three weeks of war in Iraq have sparked anger across the Arab world, and the anger grew as civilian casualties mounted. Protesters at hundreds of rallies have chanted praise for "beloved" Saddam and held his picture aloft.
Rabat perfume shop owner Lahoucine Lanait described Saddam as the Arab world's "best dictator."
But few Arabs had a kind word for him as his 24-year rule collapsed on Wednesday.
"Saddam is not an Arab champion. The war is practically over, did he win? No, and Iraq is destroyed," said Ayman Abdel Rahim, a Cairo butcher.
"Saddam Hussein is proving for the thousandth time that he is stubborn, stupid, idiotic and a terrorist. He is more like the head of a gang and not the president of a respectable state like Iraq," said Sultan Nasser, 49-year-old Saudi bank employee.
STANDING UP TO THE UNITED STATES
Many Arabs liken the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In Oman, some said Saddam, whose fate is unknown after he was targeted by U.S. planes, symbolized resistance.
"It is irrelevant whether Saddam is dead or not. His memory will live on to inspire many Arabs to stand up against all the injustices committed by the U.S. and its friends in Israel," Belqees Hamood, a university student, said.
"Saddam was not an angel to his own people but he will be missed since many Arabs see him as a leader who was not afraid to challenge the American and Israeli aggressions over Palestinians," said Juma Backer, a businessman.
In Saudi Arabia, Mohsen al-Awajy, a reformist sheik who has been jailed by the country's pro-Western monarchy, said: "No one wanted to fight under Saddam's banner."
"But resistance to occupation has nothing to do with Saddam and just part of the battle is about to end now."
Adel in Beirut disagreed. "So he was the only Arab leader to stand up to the Americans. Look what happened, no one else will dare try that again."
Some said his death at the hands of U.S.-led invaders would make him a martyr. It was a question of honor.
"My hope is that Saddam falls fighting with his own gun. If he flees or surrenders, as many people believe, then he is like other Arab leaders who do not care about honor, it would be a total shame," said Sellami Hidoussi, a Tunis car garage guard.
Fahd Saleh of Saudi Arabia expressed equal dislike for President Bush and Saddam.
"Saddam is a terrorist but he's not alone. Bush too is a terrorist but Saddam is weak and Bush is strong. That's why he has won, because no one opposes a strong person," said the 33-year-old Saudi government employee.
"How wonderful the world would be without Saddam and without Bush!" (Contributions from Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia)