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2003-07-25

Robert Fisk: "The Publication of the Uday and Qusay Photographs will Prove to be Either a Stroke of Genius or a Historic Mistake of Catastrophic Consequences"

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As the U.S. releases the bloody and grisly photos of two men identified as the sons of Saddam Hussein we go to Baghdad to hear from London Independent reporter Robert Fisk about the reaction in Iraq.

Robert Fisk of the London Independent writes in his latest article:

"The publication of the Uday and Qusay photographs will prove to be either a stroke of genius or a historic mistake of catastrophic consequences….The occupation authorities are pondering the idea of plastering the pictures around Baghdad. But be sure, they will soon be used as martyrs’ photographs on posters with a somewhat different message. The work of the Americans. The work of the occupiers."

Fisk continues to say:

"In Iraq, I suspect, there will be a growing number of young men who will see the need in these pictures not to content themselves with regime change, with the realisation that they can believe in a new future, but to revenge themselves upon the foreigners in Iraq, to avoid the further humiliation of occupation. They may not have been Ba’athists. They may have hated the sons of Saddam. But after death can come a remarkable reversal of fortunes for the dead."

  • Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for the London Independent speaking from Baghdad.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez, Robert Fisk back on the line with us from Baghdad. In his latest London Independent article, he talks about the release of the photographs of Uday and Qusay Hussein. Robert, can you talk about the effect they’ve had and your thoughts about it — both the killings and the photos?

ROBERT FISK: Yeah, well, you just caught me as I’ve come back from doing a series of house hold trips around Baghdad to buy a plug for my bath and other things which you can’t get in hotels here. Every shop I went into, I made a point of asking both people buying the products and the people behind the counter, what they thought of the pictures. There’s a very interesting response —- partly because it lined up pretty much with what I thought it would be in this morning’s paper, and partly because it’s a kind of a lose-lose situation for the Americans. More than 60% of the I guess 42, 43, 44 people I spoke to, believe that the picture of Uday was Uday, but they believed—-only a minority believed the picture of Qusay was genuine because Qusay never had a beard and he does in the photograph. Several Iraqis asked why didn’t they shave his beard off before taking a picture of him. The majority who do believe in the Uday picture, unfortunately for the Americans, a majority of them believe he should have been captured and put before a court so justice could be done and civil society could see real justice taking place, not a kind of drum head court whereby you yell for the guy to surrender on a bull horn and then storm the place with missiles and rocket-firing helicopters. An awful lot of Iraqis, by far the greater majority of those I spoke to today, complained bitterly there was no justice in this. That if the Americans had wanted to take these two men alive, they would have done so. A couple of them mentioned Manuel Noriega who was, of course, sieged in the embassy and was eventually got hold of. And I must say, I put this question to General Ricardo Sanchez, the American commander in Iraq in a press conference he gave three days ago when he was boasting about the brilliance of his troops in Mosul. And I said Hold on a second General, we have a problem here. These guys…should have been put on a war crimes trial. There should be justice here. Surely, the American military, the most powerful in the world, could have surrounded that house —- you only had four men with kalasnikovs, and one of them in fact, which is not being talked about very much in the United States, was not a man, he was a 14-year-old boy, he was Qusay’s son, Mustapha—-you couldn’t even capture them? What went wrong? And he said, it was an operational decision. I said this is an operational question, General. And he said that was a question that had to be answered by men on the ground and they did that and I agree. And that was that. But there were an awful lot of people including quite a few American officers here, take the same view as I do. And a Colonel came up to me after the General was finished being rather snotty with me and said, that’s a good question and he didn’t give you a proper reply. Well of course I noticed that too. It seems to many Iraqis that the intention was to kill them, not to capture them. That the attempt to make them—the four people —- individuals I know Sanchez called them, they didn’t want to mention the child, of course—- the attempt to make them surrender was pretty much a formality. And it does suggest that no …is going to be given if Saddam Hussein is surrounded. The Americans want him dead. The strange thing even for those people who have no reason to love Saddam Hussein, people —- I met one young man who would have liked to have personally shot Uday in the face, they both started saying things like at least they didn’t die as cowards. And I said it looks like Uday may have shot himself, because of the wounds, the injuries to the teeth and the nose, his response was, well at least he left the last bullet for himself. And in a society like this, which is a tribal society rather than a Ba’athist society or a religious or a secular one, the idea of going down fighting against a foreigner and leaving the last bullet for yourself is not an unheroic one. And the real fear I think here—-I don’t think the Americans or the British have spotted this in their marble palace in which they organized their occupation here—the real fear, I think, is in death Uday and Qusay will be relieved of their brutalities in the national memory and will become among the first fighters to struggle and die against the American occupation force — I mean after the war was over. And everybody I spoke to today — without exception, including the most mild-mannered middle class people, including the father of my own driver who is a friend of mine, all said the Americans must go — they must go now. We don’t accept occupational forces in this country. I noticed out at Dora yesterday, which is a long main highway near the power station that runs along the Tigris river, a new graffiti had gone up in red paint — very close to the scene of an ambush of an American humvee a little earlier on in the day. And it said on it, There are 27,000 warriors from the al-Jabura tribe — a tribe close to the clan of Saddam Hussein who are ready to threaten and throw the Americans out of Iraq. If you go down to places like Falluja and others, Ramadi, for example, places that have been characterized by the United States to have been die hard loyalists, Ba’athists, remnant areas. Many of the people didn’t like Saddam Hussein and say they didn’t like him, but they are adamant the Americans must leave and are beginning to truly hate the Americans. It was very interesting, a young American soldier was blown up by a mine in his humvee in a place called Ham dari, which was six miles from Falluja. And I went down there. Unfortunately, I was the only reporter to show up because I was confronted by a very hostile crowd afterwards, it’s seems to be my fate to be confronted by hostile crowds. And the Americans were still there clearing up the damage and taking away their ruined vehicle. They’d got the young soldier away with terrible wound his side and, of course, he sadly died. And when I spoke to the crowd there, there appeared to be Wahabi Sunnis who had no love for Saddam, but were enraged by the presence of the Americans. I think there’s a whole series of reasons why this happened. One of them was the shooting dead of 16 demonstrators by, I think it was the 82nd airborne, in the very early days of the occupation once the bombardment of Iraq was over. And following from that various tribal demands for revenge against the Americans to make up for the death of Iraqis. And children for example, regularly storm the U.S. troops now in the whole Ramadi/Falluja area. I went down a few weeks ago actually to Falluja, where there was a house-to-house search going on after the death of a 101st airborne soldier, who was killed with a rocket-propelled grenade. And there was a very nice New York police officer who was serving the military police, who started chatting to me and said you can come and — he’s OK, he kept shouting to the other soldiers, and I was allowed to go across the line and go around the houses as the American soldiers kicked in the doors, and no one was very grateful for the feelings of freedom the Americans had for the press

AMY GOODMAN: Robert, we have 30 seconds.-

ROBERT FISK: What I saw—Hello, there?

AMY GOODMAN: We have 30 seconds.

ROBERT FISK: OK. What I saw gave me the impression that they were losing hearts and minds, not winning hearts and minds. At the end of the day, that is what the Americans are going to deal with — a hostile population. It’s not about Saddam anymore.

AMY GOODMAN: Robert Fisk, I want to thank you very much for being with us of the Independent, now in Baghdad. One of his latest pieces says The publication of the Uday and Qusay photographs will prove to be either a stroke of genius or a historic mistake of catastrophic consequences.


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