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Shock & shame at Baghdad walkover

Cairo, April 10 (Reuters): Shock and denial swept the Arab world today after Baghdad fell almost without a fight, bringing to an end President Saddam Hussein’s 24-year rule.

Many felt let down by the demise of a figure who had shown a rare Arab defiance to American power, others were more shocked that his own people did not defend or mourn him, and saw it as a warning to other unelected Arab rulers.

“I am very sad. All of Egypt is sad. My wife was weeping this morning,” said Adel Farouq, a 45-year-old Egyptian taxi driver.

Semari Ahmed, a Tunis history teacher, said: “I hear people asking angrily why Saddam’s forces ‘crumbled like a biscuit under US troops’. That outcome is logical. Saddam’s artificial support was a result of a culture of hypocrisy, not conviction.”

From the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf, television images of crowds rejoicing at cheering US Marines toppling a Saddam statue in central Baghdad, broadcast repeatedly since yesterday afternoon, caused consternation and a sense of shame.

The fact that there was little resistance to the US troops as they pushed through Baghdad sparked Arab speculation that senior leaders might have struck a deal with the Americans.

“If Baghdad had fallen heroically and had resisted then women would have ululated and rejoiced,” Taher Adwan, an editor in the daily al Arab al-Yawn wrote.

“But Baghdad fell without resistance, without fighters confronting American tanks, and with even some Baghdadis rejoicing, chasing others to take revenge or to loot.”

Yahya Kahla, a teacher in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, said: “I still cannot believe that the Americans entered Baghdad this easily. If a deal was struck with Saddam, then that proves that he staked his people and the hopes of all Arabs in order to survive.

“He is one of the traitors we have known throughout history and he will not be the last.”

Morocco’s Le Matin newspaper described the toppling of Saddam’s statue as “a highly theatrical, orchestrated gallows scene, backed up by plenty of images”. Some Moroccans doubted the war was over. “A street war will probably erupt between the Baathists and US forces,” retired civil servant Abdelkamel Chaoui said.

Samia, a Syrian housewife, broke down in tears when asked how she felt at the sight of US tanks rolling down Baghdad streets. “It is humiliating. They (Arabs) let Iraq down.”

Palestinians watching the al Jazeera and Abu Dhabi satellite stations were stunned to see the giant statue of Saddam tumble in a Baghdad square after the rapid collapse of Iraq’s military.

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