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War on Iraq: War Crimes and Intrigue
By PAUL MCGEOUGH
The Age, Apr. 19, 2003
"Baghdad has become rumour city. Everyone has a view on whether Saddam Hussein is dead or alive, in the country or off and over the border, getting closer by the day to the billions of dollars he is said to have stashed away for a life on the lam. But in the absence of a corpse, the chances are that he is alive. And the detailed accounts of sightings in Baghdad during the war and on the day that the city fell are proof enough for some that he is on the run but still in the capital."
"We were at [Walid] Nadhme's [professor of political science at Baghdad University] home on the banks of the Tigris when he rounded off the discussion with a dramatic flourish: 'Saddam is still alive - I spoke to a person who was with him on the Tuesday night.' This is important. On the Monday, Mar. 31, U.S. B1-B bombers dropped four powerful bunker-buster bombs on a home in suburban Mansur - a favoured Baghdad locale for the family and a preferred presidential bolt hole during the 1991 Gulf War. A dozen civilians died and four homes were obliterated. But the Americans got the wrong house, and they knew it. Two houses away from the target is the house in which Saddam and/or some of his closest associates, including his younger son Qusay, were hiding."
"Majid Al Lazawi, 51, a senior protocol officer in the Tourism Ministry who claimed to have met the president several times, insisted he had seen Saddam on neighbourhood streets several times in the preceding days. . . . And how do we know the U.S. knew it was the wrong house? The Americans have been making a big deal of the fact they have samples of Saddam's D.N.A. and would be able to match it with samples from any bombsite. But the neighbours insist U.S. forces have not been near the site."
"Mansur is on the east side. But over on the west side, tucked into a sharp U-bend on the Tigris River, is Aadamiyah, where the roots of the Baath Party are deepest and where U.S. forces faced the last and most determined resistance in Baghdad. It was on the edge of the square, just outside the Abu Hanifa mosque, that Saddam put in another appearance just before noon prayers on Wednesday of last week. The marines had already entered his city and the looters were just beginning the week-long rampage that began on the east side. . . . Hours later the aerial bombardment started destroying the mosque's clock tower and causing severe damage to the cemetery nearby. And, though the locals denied it, when the U.S. soldiers arrived on foot they clearly believed Saddam or members of his entourage were hiding there, because they used what appeared to be a rocket-propelled grenade to force the door on the holiest part of the mosque containing the tomb of holy man Abu Hanifa."
"Mosque custodian Maythem Shihab said: 'It was a terrible offence to have these armed infidels in the mosque - they didn't even take off their shoes and they started a fire in the women's section.' . . . [R]umours persist that Saddam was spirited out of the country by the C.I.A. in exchange for the regime's capitulation or by the Russian ambassador who drove to Damascus in a convoy that came under attack. The U.S. believes many of Saddam's family and officials are hiding in Damascus, including Saddam's first and second wives, Sajida Khairallah Telfah and Samira Shahbandar, and two daughters."
"The president's top scientific adviser, Lieutenant-General Amir Hammoudi al-Saadi, turned himself in to U.S. forces in Baghdad last Saturday, insisting still - and supported by the U.S. failure, so far, to discover anything to the contrary - that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. He told the German T.V. station that facilitated his surrender: 'I was telling the truth, always telling the truth, never told anything but the truth, and time will bear me out, you will see. There will be no difference after this war.' Surprisingly, there is little recrimination in Baghdad at the failure of the country's military forces to defend the city. It seems that most Iraqis knew what U.S. intelligence and military planners did not know - the Republican Guard in particular was a paper tiger, perhaps a construct of the Western media more than anything else."
"[Nadhme] is perplexed: 'There is something dubious, something unclear, and something unexplainable about what happened that night.' The pieces are coming together - the leadership took fright, and as the men in the ranks looked over their shoulders and saw the fate of their colleagues in the south and on the outskirts of Baghdad, they decided to cut and run. They abandoned their uniforms, their weapons and their war machines. Some of the smarter among them observed that their officers were going home for dinner - insisting they would return before the Americans advanced further on Baghdad. They did not return. The haste with which the Republican Guard and the Saddam fedayeen abandoned the streets and bunkers of Baghdad made it one of the easiest military conquests of the war. Senior Baath officials have been quoted, insisting they were ordered to withdraw systematically, but none has said who gave the order, or why they did not pass it down the line as tidily as they might have."