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In Adwar, mourning is tinged with recriminations

Associated Press

ADWAR, Iraq – In the town where Saddam Hussein was captured, a 50-year-old woman named Bahija Asaad Taha gave voice to the morning-after feeling of grief and letdown.

“We have lost a father,” she said.

“I am in mourning,” said a weeping Dhahira Sarhan. “Saddam Hussein is the crown on our heads,” added a third woman, Naziha Awad.

Only after the first wave of sorrow and defiance had run its course did a different picture emerge – of recriminations over Saddam’s favoritism, unkept promises, and disappointment that he gave up without a fight.

In the markets, teahouses and private homes of Adwar, the town north of Baghdad where Saddam’s hiding place was uncovered by U.S. forces Saturday, people said they were uncertain about the future and feared worse to come.

Many said guerrilla attacks on U.S. forces would increase, while others maintained they would now dissipate.

“There’s an end to everything,” said a somber Safa Saber al-Douri, 36, a former air force pilot, now a grocer.

He said when he saw Saddam on television he became sure the former Iraqi dictator was never behind the resistance.

“He didn’t look like someone who was in charge, meeting with the resistance and directing it,” said al-Douri. “He was hiding all alone in a ditch with not even a bodyguard.”

Wazir Batan, 22, predicted more attacks, fueled by disappointment with the Americans.

“Look at the line,” he said, pointing to a long line of cars outside a gas station. “There is no gas, no electricity, no oil, no security. What’s there to be happy about?”

They also showed a touch of disappointment at seeing their hero looking aged and disheveled.

“He was always so elegant,” Bahija Taha recalled. Then, lest she sound too disrespectful, she hastily added that the captured Saddam in his long gray beard and shaggy hair reminded her of Omar al-Mukhtar, the great Libyan independence fighter. “There is no man like him.”

There were rumors that in the event of capture, Saddam would take poison, blow himself up, or fool the Americans into arresting one of the many doubles he reputedly maintained. “Everything they said about him turned out wrong,” said Taha.

Adwar is the heart of the Saddam heartland – a military town where practically every man is a military officer past or present. It is 15 miles from Saddam’s home town of Tikrit and is said to have a special place in Saddam’s sentiments because it was from here that he swam across the Tigris River when he was a dissident fleeing arrest in the 1960s.

Taha said that after her son died of an illness while serving in the army, his house was robbed. She said she went to Saddam, expecting him to order a robust search for the criminals, or give her compensation. But she said he told her that since her son died of illness, not in battle, she wasn’t entitled to special treatment, and he gave her a mere 250,000 dinars, which she said wouldn’t buy even a TV set.

“I left very angry and upset. He could have sent out his police to find the thief if he wanted to,” she said, speaking in her home.

Still none of these complaints overshadows the adulation people here still feel for Saddam.

“He is a Muslim, we lived a lifetime under him; for 35 years, we consider him our father,” said Taha. “And also, he is a brave man. He is the only person who wasn’t afraid of America.”