Big mouth prised open, ears poked into - An unfamiliar face of Saddam flashes on TV

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 15.12.03

Dubai, Dec. 14 (Reuters): He was grubby, dishevelled and appeared compliant.

Those who loved or hated Saddam Hussein could not believe that the man who for decades terrorised his people and neighbours could surrender to US troops without a shot fired.

On the contrary, the Iraqi dictator appeared submissive and obedient in a videotape showing his capture by US soldiers.

They combed fingers through his hair and beard, prised open his mouth, poked into his ears and took swabs from his cheek.

The once ruthless ruler did what he was told. He opened his mouth wide for medical checks and moved his head accordingly.

To Arabs across the world, the image of the once smartly dressed Arab leader puffing arrogantly on his cigar and presiding over his commanders was shattered beyond recognition.

He was shown on television today as a grubby and bearded prisoner, exhausted and resigned to his fate.

“It is ironic that in the last days before his capture he got a taste of the same fate he had handed down to thousands of others. He is now a prisoner,” said Jamil Kadi, 40, a Lebanese engineer.

“He lived in a hole underground, isolated from the world, without light and air. He looked barbaric like a beast. They humiliated him the same way he humiliated others,” added Fouad Saleh, 50, a financial consultant.

“The tyrant got his punishment in the end.”

The fugitive dictator was dug out by US troops from a narrow, man-sized pit, some two to three-metres deep during a raid on a farm late on Saturday.

US headquarters in Baghdad played the video of the 66-year-old ousted leader, in a heavy black and grey beard, undergoing medical examination. They also showed a still photograph, apparently taken later, of a shaven Saddam.

“After the fall of Baghdad (without resistance) this is another disgrace to the Arab nation. Who could believe that the man who fought the world did not fight for his own dignity? But he has no honour,” said an Arab woman, who regarded Saddam as a hero who stood up to the US and Israel.

His captors said the former Iraqi President, who had a revolver and automatic rifles on his side, did not put up resistance after eight months on the run.

Saddam’s sons Uday and Qusay, killed by US troops in July, went down, guns blazing, against overwhelming force, including missiles and aircraft to resist being captured.

“What a coward. I wish he had killed himself...that would have been more honourable than seeing him like this,” said Nahla Zaher, 60, a Palestinian housewife.

Many Arabs who saw Saddam as a champion of Arab rights did not want to believe it was really him in custody.

“If it were really Saddam, he would have resisted capture. But if in the end, it is proven that it is really him then these pictures are humiliating for every Arab and Muslim,” said Yemeni salesman Ali al-Zebaidi. “I still think the pictures are of a Saddam look-alike. They don’t prove it’s really him,” added fellow Yemeni Badr Obadi.

Others were appalled that US forces used the footage to humiliate Saddam.

“The cheap manner in which they showed Saddam made me pity him when I once thought he was the lowest of the low. But I now think America is lower,” said Saudi national Sultan Mahmoud.