December 17, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 629

The Arab Media Reaction to Saddam's Arrest: Part II

December 17, 2003
Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestinians, Syria, The Gulf | Special Dispatch No. 629

The following is Part II of MEMRI's report on Arab media reactions to the capture of Saddam Hussein. This includes additional items from the Iraqi media, as well as reports from the broader Arabic press:

The Iraqi Press

The independent Iraqi daily Al-Zaman published two articles on the capture of Saddam; the first was titled "The Mother of All Arrests" by Iraqi writer Abd Al-Hamid Al-Sa'ih, and the second was titled "The Mother of All Defeats" by Tunisian liberal author Lafif Lakhdar. The following are excerpts from the first article. Excerpts from the article by Lafif Lakhdar will appear in a later report.

'The Mother of All Arrests'

"… What has happened a day before yesterday, in the history of Iraq as well as the entire human history, transcends all that we have read in plays, poetry, and history books that dealt with kings and the human spirit… The arrest of Saddam Hussein points to a wretched fact which was the last thing that would have been imagined by enemies and friends alike. The enemies believed that he was cheap because of his love of life… His friends believed that he would resist like the knights until the last poisonous bullet in his conscience. But nothing of this sort has happened. The nation's courageous knight appeared obedient and submissive to instructions for a handful of air to breath during what has remained of his life… before he faces his final destiny after his arrest, which is the mother and father of all arrests in Iraq.

"The joy which has spread in the streets of Iraq and lit the homes of the Iraqis is the largest free plebiscite held in Iraq since its establishment. But it is joy tinged with sorrow… The scenes of the day before are a message to humanity from Iraq, the country which was the center of progress and action on the human level. It is also an enduring message to every official, Arab or foreign, that peoples are patient but not forgetful, and that life is a passing trip regardless of the billions Saddam has spent on his palaces and the protection of his person, which could not save him forever from punishment." [1]

Resisting Saddam is Iraqi Patriotism

In an editorial titled, " The Ghost has Departed - What Now?" the Iraqi daily Baghdad writes : "If we look carefully at the miserable end of Saddam Hussein we will find that it started the moment the Iraqis decided that they would not fight [against the U.S. invasion]. It is not easy for an entire people to decide against fighting side by side with its leadership. Even more difficult is the decision of the armed forces whose goal is to fight for the nation and protect its sovereignty. This difficult decision was not treason, but was a reaction to treason; it was not cowardice, but was a reaction to cowardice. Iraqis, military as well as civilians, fought under the leadership of Saddam's wrongful, tyrannical, and suspicious battles from which they gained nothing but destruction, death, and waste. Saddam was cold-hearted and without conscience when he allowed the flower of our youth to perish in useless wars, and he contradicted the spirit of nationalism, Islam, and Arabism when he killed hundred of thousands of the sons of our nation without mercy in prisons and mass graves… Who is the traitor then? It is he who appeared on television disgraced and humiliated, he who has not fired a single bullet, he who has surrendered himself after he has surrendered all of Iraq to the occupiers." [2]

Another Article on Saddam's Surrender

The newspaper of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Al-Adala reported: "Saddam has persisted during the last eight months in urging the Iraqis in audio messages to resist the Americans and fight them and never surrender to them. But he has contradicted himself - as he is wont of doing - by raising his hands to be handcuffed, and surrendering his head to have his hair searched carefully and opening his mouth so that an American soldier could search for an unknown object." [3]

Related Items from Iraq's Press

Iraqi Criticism of Egypt's Foreign Minister

Al-Adala also reported: "The Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher demanded that the despot Saddam Hussein ought to have a fair trial. One official commented on this strange statement: 'Where was Mr. Maher when Saddam was executing thousands of innocent Iraqis every day without a trial?' He added, 'We the Iraqis, who have written the first laws in the world, don't need advice from anyone.'" [4]

Al-Sahhaf's Astonishment

Muhammad Saeed Al-Sahhaf, the minister of information during Saddam's regime who is currently employed by Abu Dhabi TV, expressed his astonishment "about the manner in which Saddam Hussein has surrendered, because he had always insisted that he preferred fighting and death over surrender." [5]

A Statement by the Palestinian Arab Liberation Front

The Palestinian Arab Liberation Front, which belongs to the dissolved Ba'ath Party, condemned the arrest of Saddam Hussein by American forces, and called on the entire world to condemn the arrest. Al-Mada reports that Ibrahim al-Za-'anain, an official of the Front, said: "The path chosen by comrade Saddam Hussein as the secretary general of the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party is the party's position, not his [Saddam's] personal position." He added it was expected that Saddam would be arrested or killed, which is "the path of the loyal Ba'athists." [6]

London-Based Arabic Media

Al-Hayat columnist Hazem Saghiyeh , known for his liberal views, wrote: "… Blessings to the Iraqi people. Great congratulations. Saddam has been arrested. The symbol of humiliation, repression, and [mass] graves has come to his end. Ultimately, he 'cooperated' with his captors. He was pulled out of a hole in the ground; his beard was shaved before the camera; his mouth and throat were examined, and his hair was checked for lice. He didn't shoot a single bullet. He didn't commit suicide. As one pundit said, even his little nephew [grandson] was braver than he… [7]

"Perhaps this arrest will begin a new grace period for the Americans in Iraq, and their image as liberators will once again overcome their image as occupiers… But the most important question regarding the future of Iraq concerns the Shi'ites and their decision. Will some of the radicals among [them] begin to resist themselves, after Saddam's arrest delivered a blow to the backbone of Sunni resistance? This is a question that will be asked in the months to come…" [8]

In "Saddam in a Cage," Al-Hayat columnist Abd Al-Wahhab Badrakhan wrote: "… Many, primarily in the Arab world, hoped to see him as a corpse, as they saw his two sons Uday and Qusay several months ago. Many wondered how it was possible that he did not resist, did not fire a single bullet… There is nothing in Saddam Hussein's fate to sadden the Arab world. He… made mistakes, had adventures, and perpetrated crimes that did the Arabs no good. The only regrettable thing is that the dictator's end did not come at the hands of the Iraqis themselves, because the American forces that came to their aid was an occupying force before Saddam's capture, and will continue to be an occupying force afterwards…" [9]

Although most of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat columnists celebrated Saddam's capture, the paper also gave two Saddam supporters from the Egpytian media a chance to express their opinions. The editor of the Egyptian opposition weekly Al-Usbu', Mustafa Bakri, known for his support of pan-Arab nationalism, wrote in "The Game's Not Over Yet:" "… I don't want to get into the period of Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq, because if we do we must open the files of everyone, without exception. But the question arising in every Arab home is whether it is permissible for a foreign power, whoever it may be, to interfere in the matters of another state, cross its borders, occupy its lands, plunder its resources, and then arrest its leaders?!

"If we accept this, we must ask by what law and what authority the U.S. perpetrates these criminal acts against an independent Arab state… Capturing the legitimate president of an independent sovereign Arab state is more like an act of piracy carried out by pirates in broad daylight.

"Saddam Hussein is an Arab president. We can agree or disagree about him, but until the final moment he continued to resist the logic of surrender to the U.S., and refused to agree to its demands - the first of which was the demand to sign a peace agreement with the Zionist enemy… Saddam Hussein's arrest is an insult to Arab honor and additional proof that the U.S. uses a policy of cowboy hooliganism…

"All that remains to ask is when the world conscience will awaken, to prosecute Bush, Blair, Berlusconi, and Sharon as war criminals." [10]

Egyptian journalist Sayed Nassar, who was the last journalist to see Saddam before the war, wrote: "… Saddam turned Baghdad from a primitive village into one of the most important capitals in the Arab homeland. Likewise, he established many universities, and a powerful army with which he defended his country… Describing Saddam as a dictator requires another examination. Every people deserves the leader it gets… " [11]

The Egyptian Press

In Egypt, only a few newspaper editors wrote about Saddam's arrest, while the other columnists discussed other matters. The editor of the government daily Al-Akhbar, Galal Dwidar, wrote: "Although I am by nature opposed to schadenfreude over anyone who loses power or to attacking anyone who cannot defend himself for his decisions and his crimes, I think the situation is different regarding the deposed Iraqi president whom the American occupation succeeded in capturing. It is no secret that his arrest was only a matter of time, and that it came about with the help of his treacherous cronies, who were behind Baghdad's surrender to the occupation forces. By Allah, there is no schadenfreude, and it is our great hope that this event will be end of the tragedy of colonialism against the Iraqi people.

"As the tyrant Saddam Hussein is drinking from that cup of humiliation, suffering, torture, terror, and murder from which he [forced] hundreds of his victims from among the Iraqi people to drink, we cannot forget the destruction and loss that this dictator caused Iraq and the entire Arab nation. All evidence shows that the setting of what remains of the sun of the Arab nation was his doing, since he pressured the Arab governments to cut off relations with Egypt, the heart of the Arab nation since 1979, in punishment for its success in liberating a precious part of its land from the dark Israeli occupation…

"Pursuant to his insane policy, lacking all wisdom and logic, Saddam brought Iraq into the war against Iran, which lasted for eight years… The same madness led him, after the curtain fell on this war, into the ambush set for him by the U.S., which gave him a green light to invade Kuwait so that it would be possible to strike at the unity of the Arab nation and destroy its solidarity…" [12]

The Editor-in-Chief of the Egyptian government sponsored daily Al-Gumhuriya, Samir Ragab, wrote: "As much as I respect the Iraqi people, instead of cheering and shooting in the air in celebration of Saddam's dramatic and humiliating downfall, they should have blamed themselves, slapped their cheeks, and shed blood instead of tears because they had lived for 30 years terrified and horrified of the oppression of a 'paper cat,' a submissive coward, who doesn't have a single characteristic of leadership…"

The Syrian and Lebanese Press

The Syrian papers almost completely ignored Saddam's arrest, and published only news agency reports and a statement by Syrian Information Minister Ahmad Al-Hassan, who said that Syria did not base its position on Iraq on individuals. [13]

However, in Lebanon, Talal Salman, editor of the pro-Syrian Lebanese daily Al-Safir, wrote: "It was a fitting end for a tyrant: a hero against his people, helpless in the face of the foreign occupation. But this was an end that opened the door to the Iraq of tomorrow, different from the past of the tyrant and the present of the American occupation.

"This is moment of truth for the Iraqis' national loyalty, and the condition is the unity of the homeland. Regarding the regime [that must be established], an open discussion can be held, but always within the borders of the unity of the homeland, the land, the people, identity, and fate…" [14]

The Palestinian Press

Columnist Muhammad Al-Nubani wrote in Al-Quds:"The way in which Saddam was arrested must sound a warning bell, even to rulers who believe that their friendship with Washington, London, and Tel Aviv will stand in their favor in the face of a similar fate. With regard to Washington, everything [is in the realm of the] permitted and possible, as long as the interests of America precede anything else…" [15]

The Kuwaiti Press

Ahmad Al-Jarallah, Editor-in-Chief of the Arab Times and Al-Seyasah, wrote in an editorial: "While a lot of noise is being created in the world over and while all the Americans - from the highest level to the last soldier standing by the spider hole - are busy discussing the issue, in the midst of mixed feelings in the Arab street and while leaders of other similar regimes are shaking with fear, we say this to the Americans: 'Don't kill Saddam. Let him live.' This call is not motivated by any misplaced kindness towards Saddam - who doesn't deserve any such feelings. It is based on the strategy adopted by the U.S. in Iraq - to bring under control similar regimes in the Middle East.

"Saddam is the showpiece of corruption and his end will awaken the Arabs and make them see the real truth behind the patriotic slogans raised by this type of leaders. It will also help the Arab people realize they will be naive if they choose to follow such leaders. We ask the United States to keep their valuable catch, for he knows and has the list of all corrupt leaders in the region. Saddam should be tried in an open court." [16]

[1] Al-Zaman (Iraq), December 16, 2003.

[2] Baghdad (Iraq), December 16, 2003.

[3] Al-'Adala (Iraq), December 16, 2003.

[4] Al-'Adala (Iraq), December 16, 2003.

[5] Baghdad (Iraq), December 16, 2003.

[6] Al-Mada (Iraq), December 16, 2003.

[7] Saddam's grandson was killed by U.S. soldiers along with his sons Uday and Qusay.

[8] Al-Hayat (London), December 15, 2003.

[9] Al-Hayat (London), December 15, 2003.

[10] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 15, 2003.

[11] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 15, 2003.

[12] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), December 12, 2003.

[13] Teshreen (Syria), December 15, 2003.

[14] Al-Safir (Lebanon), December 15, 2003.

[15] Al-Quds (PA), December 15, 2003.

[16] Arab Times (Kuwait), December 16, 2003.

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