4 Years After Hussein's Fall, Regret in Iraq
Monday, April 9, 2007
BAGHDAD, April 8 -- In a garage filled with classic motorcycles, Khadim al-Jubouri stared at the four-year-old magazines he usually keeps tucked inside a wooden desk. All of them contained photographs of a lone, burly man wearing a black tank top and swinging a sledgehammer into the base of a tall, bronze statue of Saddam Hussein. The man was Jubouri.
Just days earlier, he might have been executed for his actions.
But it was April 9, 2003.
Crowds of chanting Iraqis, some clutching stones and sandals, swarmed Firdaus Square to deliver blows to the statue. Then, with the help of an American tank and a winch, it toppled, creating one of the defining images of the U.S.-led invasion. Over one photo of Jubouri, a headline reads: "The Fall of Baghdad."
"It achieved nothing," he said, after he had put away the magazines.
Four years after that moment, with violence besieging the country, Jubouri is concerned with neither benchmarks nor timelines, troop strengths nor withdrawal dates. What he cares most about is security and order, of which, he said, he has seen very little. He blames Iraq's Shiite-led government and its security forces, and wishes for a return of the era led by the man whose statue he helped tear down.
"We got rid of a tyrant and tyranny. But we were surprised that after one thief had left, another 40 replaced him," said Jubouri, who is a Shiite Muslim. "Now, we regret that Saddam Hussein is gone, no matter how much we hated him."
His faith in the United States has also vanished, he said. But he still has a passion for one thing uniquely American: the Harley-Davidson. On the wall of his cluttered office, next to medals he won as a champion weightlifter, hangs a tapestry emblazoned with an American flag, a bald eagle, a Harley and the words: "Born in the USA."
On most days, however, he cannot afford to buy gas for his own Harley, a 1982 Fat Boy.
His country today is politically fractured and struggling to find direction. He has seen four Iraqi governments since the fall of Hussein. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died. At least 3,260 U.S. soldiers have been killed.
But the numbers that most directly affect Jubouri are these: Seven of his relatives and friends have been killed, kidnapped or driven from their homes. He gets four hours of electricity a day, if he's lucky. The cost of cooking gas and fuel have soared, but his income is a quarter of what he used to earn.
"It's gotten worse," said Jubouri, 50, a barrel-chested man with a thick neck and an oval, cleanshaven face. "We can hardly make both ends meet."