Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams
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Anti-Saddam slogans chalked up on walls and school buildings have sparked fears in Baghdad that U.S. threats to topple President Saddam Hussein have emboldened dissidents at home. Walls of several school buildings and homes are splashed with slogans and graffiti demanding Saddam to step down and spare the country another devastating war.
The regime does not tolerate the slightest form of dissent. The slogans, residents said, prompted the security services to mount a campaign to hunt down the perpetrators, particularly in the low-income district of Naairiya in Baghdad. The residents said security agents have already put behind bars retailers and homeowners with spray paint.
They have orders to shoot and kill anyone voicing any form of discontent with the regime or undertaking what the authorities call "subversive actions."
They also reported that day that many were somewhat let down by Bush's spech to the UN.
"There are so many 'ifs' in the speech. Saddam seems to have a chance, albeit slight, to save his neck. As the Middle East's greatest survivor he is certain to exploit the loophole," a Mosul University's professor told Iraq Press on the strict condition of anonymity. The professor said he and his colleagues were anxiously waiting for Bush to make his case. "We listened to every word he (Bush) said. A careful reading makes us believe it is highly likely Saddam will seize on the remote opportunity (Bush has) offered to him."
"Right now we cannot rise against Saddam. Right now we have no firm indication that Washington will never come to terms with our tormentor. In circumstances like these we have to be seen as loyal to the regime. We have no option," said a merchant from Baghdad, also requesting his identity be kept secret.
"Bush should know no one here loves Saddam. The kind of backing he gets at home, though mostly orchestrated, is because the Iraqis still feel America is not serious and could let them down again," said a schoolteacher.
"I am glad that Bush reminds the world of Saddam's much neglected obligations regarding the human rights resolution. But we the Iraqis are skeptical whether the world's only superpower will ever be able to force Saddam to behave in a civilized manner regarding our treatment," another Iraqi intellectual told Iraq Press.
"And then we will be back to square number one: cat and mouse games with inspectors. The standoffs will distract attention from the regime's appalling human rights violations and its hijack of Iraq as a nation," said an Iraqi writer.
Residents tell Iraq Press that the decision has cast a pall of gloom over ordinary Iraqis while Saddam's cronies, associates and senior members of his ruling Baath party received the news with glee. They said Saddam only changed course when it appeared to him that loyalty to his rule was receding. Iraq Press correspondents inside areas under Baghdad government control noted that Saddam's control over his armed forces and security services was on the verge of collapse.
The correspondents say the first to celebrate his decision to have the inspectors back unconditionally were members of the Special Security Organization charged with his personal protection. Even his special guards were among the happiest in Iraq. They were reported to be in festive move, and many of them started shooting in the air on hearing the news. For them, it meant a new lease of life after they had almost given hope their leader will ever survive.
But it is not the same with the mainstream in the army and security forces that are now openly criticizing Saddam's policies. Members of the security and armed forces privately abhor Saddam and accuse him of compromising Iraq's wealth, future and independence for the sake of his personal survival.
The U.S. displeasure with his weapons inspections offer has even strengthened the opposition to his rule. President George W. Bush is pressing ahead with his plans to bring him down. Residents say there has been an increase in slogans and leaflets in Baghdad urging Saddam to relinquish power and leave.
Most concerned about the future are members of Saddam's extended family and close associates. They have warmly received Saddam's change of heart. Residents said grand festivities were held in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown.
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