Iraqis said on Saturday they were grateful to the United States for ridding them of Saddam Hussein’s dreaded sons but now wanted their occupiers to provide the power, water and security they really crave.
HORDES OF IRAQIS crowded round newspaper stalls in Baghdad for a first look at gruesome pictures of Odai and Qusai Hussein under banner headlines proclaiming their death.
But hardly anyone bought a paper, a testament to the poverty of most Iraqis after years of war, dictatorship and sanctions.
“We’ve got to thank the Americans for killing Odai and Qusai, but where is the electricity and water they promised us?” taxi driver Abdel Latif Fazzaa asked.
“Getting Saddam and his sons is good for them, but it’s done little to better our lives.”
On Baghdad’s busy Saadoun Street, Iraqis swapped tales of atrocities wrought by the hated sons while gazing at the pictures of their battered faces with morbid fascination.
One man recounted to a rapt audience how Odai, a notorious rapist, had drunkenly snatched a bride on her wedding night to return her to her groom three days later.
But talk soon turned to the power, water and security lapses that frustrate Iraqis living under a U.S.-led administration.
The mass-circulation Azzaman daily, in a front-page report, said Iraqis had celebrated the deaths of the two brothers after seeing their pictures in the press and on television.
But newspaper seller Zeidan Hatem said he only caught a few minutes of the footage of Odai and Qusai’s reconstructed faces on an Arabic satellite channel in a nearby cafe before the electricity cut.
Satellite television, banned under Saddam, remains a luxury to most Iraqis dogged by unemployment and meager wages.
“It’s them for sure, but it would have been nice if we could have been able to see them for a bit longer,” he said. “We’ve not had power in my house for days now and the food in the fridge has already gone bad.”
Iraq’s infrastructure, which was already failing under 12 years of U.N. sanctions and neglect, was damaged during the U.S.-led war and the rampant looting that followed.
Gunbattles still ring out in the capital at night and rare is the Iraqi who does not have a horror story to tell about life after Saddam. Some say the Americans are doing such a shoddy job that they long for their deposed leader to return.
Two men shoveling sand at a building site said they had only heard about Odai and Qusai’s death in a U.S. raid on Tuesday from their friends, but did not have the time or the resources to read newspapers of watch the news.
“Some people say the bodies look like Odai and Qusai and others say they don’t,” one sweat-drenched laborer said. “If they really are dead, God will deal with them, but who will deal with us?”
IMAGES SHOCK ARAB WORLD
Televised images of the bodies of Saddam Hussein’s sons shocked many Arabs, who said Friday that it was un-Islamic to exhibit corpses, however much the brothers were loathed.
Arab and other international networks showed the bodies identified as those of Odai and Qusai Hussein laid out at the makeshift airport morgue, their faces partly rebuilt to repair wounds.
“Although Odai and Qusai are criminals, displaying their corpses like this is disgusting and repulsive,” Saudi civil servant Saad Brikan, 42, said in Riyadh. “America claims it is civilized but is behaving like a thug.”
Another civil servant, Hasan Hammoud, 35, said: “America always spoils its own image by doing something like this. What is the advantage of showing these bodies? Didn’t they think about the humanitarian aspect? About their mother and the rest of their family when they see these images?”
The brothers died Tuesday after U.S. forces laid siege to the villa in northern Iraq where they were hiding.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he ordered their bodies to be shown to convince frightened Iraqis that Saddam’s reign was truly over.
But prominent Saudi cleric Mohsen al-Awajy said: “This has been a dirty war from the beginning, and it is difficult for us to find any morals or dignity in the middle of this.
“The Americans want to show the Iraqis that they are achieving their goals. ... There was no need to show the bodies.”
He said that while under Islam the bodies should be treated with sanctity, Iraqis would not forget that Odai and Qusai had committed vicious crimes against them.
“We shouldn’t forget the pain of the Iraqis. These are just two casualties, and it would be better if their graves were kept secret. Otherwise, the Iraqis will attack their graves.”
Mohammad Emara, an Egyptian Islamist scholar, told al-Jazeera television that displaying the bodies publicly was against Islamic Sharia law.
“Under Islamic law, this is rejected. America wanted to boost the morale of its soldiers, so it resorted to this illegal act, which is denounced by all religions.
“America said during its war on Iraq that displaying pictures of its soldiers who were alive was against the Geneva Convention, so what about pictures showing disfigured bodies?”
SOME KUWAITIS VOICE APPROVAL
A U.S. military official said “facial reconstruction” had been carried out, particularly on the elder son, Odai, whose face had been more disfigured by his wounds. The retouching was intended to make the men more readily identifiable.
In Kuwait, Saddam’s arch-enemy over Iraq’s 1990-91 occupation of the tiny Persian Gulf state, some people found that the video did help convince them that the two brothers were dead.
“I’m not sure about Odai, but Qusai’s pictures were very clear. I’m happy they are dead, and that will make it easier for the Americans to restore stability to the country,” said Abdullah al-Shimari, 26.
“The videos were very clear, and even independent international reporters who have seen the bodies have confirmed it was them. People who have objected to showing the pictures are loyal to the Iraqi regime,” said Mohammed al-Rashidi, 27.
But Egyptian analyst Diaa Rashwan said Washington had an uphill battle in winning credibility among Arabs.
“American credibility has been questioned for a long time in the Arab world, as well as other parts of the world. This is making a lot of Arabs doubt the authenticity of what the photos or the video show,” Rashwan said.
U.S. officials believe the deaths of Saddam’s sons will help stanch attacks on U.S. forces, which they blame on his sympathizers and which have already killed 44 troops.
But Iraqi analysts warn that other groups with no loyalty to Saddam may be behind some of the attacks, including Islamic militants and nationalists who resent the takeover of their oil-rich country.
At Friday prayers in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, angry Muslims said the bloodshed would go on until the Americans left.
“I don’t understand why the Americans say it is the former Baath Party people who are killing their soldiers. All Iraqis want to kill the Americans because of the way they act,” said Muhammad Abbas, a shopkeeper.
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