Saddam's capture brings local reaction

December 15, 2003|HERB BROCK

Saddam Hussein has been called a lot of things by Americans over the years. Mass murderer, tyrant and bully are among the favorites. A 10-year-old Perryville area boy has added another, perhaps slightly gentler word to the lexicon of epithets for the toppled Iraqi dictator.

"He's a very, very selfish man," said Travis Stivers, a student at Perryville Elementary School. "He wanted everything in his country for himself and left nothing for his people."

Now Saddam has nothing left, and the man who once kept billions in oil revenue to himself and used a lot of that money to build palaces for himself looked like a penniless pauper when he was captured over the weekend.

"He deserves to be punished," said Travis in a manner that suggested he should be sent to his room for at least a week.


While they might be more harsh in both their description of Saddam and the punishment they would apply to him, the vast majority of the two dozen adults interviewed Sunday outside Wal-Mart SuperCenter in Danville shared Travis' delight that the former ruler had been captured. They would be a little more severe in the punishment, believing Saddam should at least be put away for life if not put to death.

However, not everyone agreed that the war that has produced Saddam's capture is worth continuing, especially considering the almost daily body counts of American troops that have been reported over the last few months since "major hostilities" were declared over. A few even continue to believe that the U.S. should never have invaded Iraq in the first place.

Here is a sample of opinions expressed during random interviews Sunday:

"Getting Saddam was key to the whole operation over there," said Don Stivers, Travis' father. "We needed desperately to capture him, and now that we have, that has to help the morale of our troops and perhaps deflate the morale of the former Saddam forces that are continuing to fight us over there."

While Stivers said he still "supports the overall cause" of President Bush's war and its efforts to "free the Iraqi people" and "curb terrorism in the world," he is concerned about the continued attacks on American soldiers from insurgents and former Saddam troops.

"I don't know if efforts to control the situation over there have been carried out in the most effective way," he said. "Sometimes, it looks like there isn't a plan, or wasn't one formulated a few months ago when it should have been."

Paul Reynolds of Washington County said he was "elated" over the news of Saddam's capture and "totally behind" the war in Iraq, calling it a "good and just cause" and agreeing with Bush that it "not only will bring democracy to Iraq but also will help win the war on terrorism."

However, he is concerned about the seemingly daily attacks on U.S. soldiers.

"Our men seem like sitting ducks. Maybe with the capture of Saddam, some of the attacks will stop," Reynolds said.

Brian Richey of McKinney said Saddam's capture means something to him personally.

"I have a cousin in the Air Force over in Iraq, and I hope capturing Saddam will mean fewer attacks on U.S. servicemen and that will mean my cousin's safer," said Richey.

"I just wish they had gotten Saddam earlier. I have to think him being on the loose so long gave heart to his former troops and they kept attacking us hoping they could put him back in power," he said.

Richey supported Bush's decision to go to war but he is starting to lose patience with what appears to him to be a "lack of planning" for the occupation.

"I'm still for the cause but I'm concerned about our troops," he said. "I know something like this isn't easy but it seems there was a lack of planning by us. There have just been too many attacks for far too long. Like I said, maybe Saddam being out of the picture now will cut back on some of the attacks."

Earl Adams of Danville said he was "tickled to death" that Saddam has been taken into custody and hopes the capture will "settle things down over there." But he still has the same reservations about the war he had when it started.

"I believe something had to be done about Iraq, but I wish we had done it with more countries involved," said Adams. "I realize we have England with us and some other nations in this so-called coalition, but essentially we have gone it alone, both in the war and the occupation.

"I have no sympathy for Saddam and am glad for the Iraqi people he mistreated for so long that he has been taken out of power and now captured, but this effort has placed too heavy a burden on America, both in terms of troops and finances. It's a burden that should have been shared among many countries."

Delores Miller of Stanford said Saddam's capture doesn't affect her feelings about the war in the least.

"He's a bad leader but the world is full of bad leaders," she said. "I've been opposed to this war ever since Bush started threatening to send troops and I'm still opposed to it."

"There is no guarantee that democracy will occur in Iraq. But one thing is for sure. We've lost more than 400 men and women and will continue to lose more until we're out of there."

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