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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 17:17 GMT
Saddam capture stuns Arab world
BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy
By Roger Hardy
BBC Middle East Analyst

In the Arab world, the capture of the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been greeted with emotions ranging from jubilation to dejection.

While some Arabs see the removal of a threat, others see the downfall of a hero.

Saddam Hussein in video footage released by US forces
Saddam's hero-like image is destroyed
Ask Kuwaitis, and they will tell you Saddam Hussein was a monster who is now safely behind bars.

Ask Palestinians, and they will tell you he was a brave leader who defied the enemies of the Arabs.

But whether they love him or loathe him, Arabs are shocked by the images of Saddam in captivity.

The man who for a quarter of a century projected himself as an all-powerful Arab leader has been dragged, bearded and dishevelled, from a hole in the ground.

How are the mighty fallen.

Even those who bitterly opposed Saddam feel the indignity of his humiliation at American hands.

There is disbelief over the fact that he gave himself up without a fight.

Some believe the Americans must have somehow drugged him; others that, for all his bravado over the years, he turned out to be a coward.

An alternative view is that the Americans have engineered an elaborate hoax and the man in captivity is not Saddam Hussein at all.

Death of Arabism?

Some Arab commentators are arguing that the fall of Saddam Hussein signals the death of the ideology he espoused.

A Saudi columnist calls him a false hero.

The ousted Iraqi leader belonged to a generation of Arab rulers who came to power on the back of military coups, creating authoritarian republics committed to the ideal of pan-Arab unity.

Saddam's Arabism was more rhetoric than substance

He sought to burnish his Arabist credentials by championing the Palestinian cause.

Many Palestinians were thrilled when he launched Scud missiles against Israel during the Gulf war of 1990.

But in the end he damaged the Palestinian cause rather than helping it.

His Arabism was more rhetoric than substance.

Anti-Americanism

Dominating other emotions, as the Arabs digest Saddam's stunning demise, is a fierce anti-Americanism.

Whatever they think of Saddam Hussein, many begrudge George W Bush his moment of triumph over an Arab adversary.

At a moment of wounded Arab pride, many are consoling themselves with the thought that the attacks against Iraq's American occupiers are likely to go on

Looking ahead, Arab commentators are asking whether the Americans will stage a show trial in Baghdad.

And at a moment of wounded Arab pride, many are consoling themselves with the thought that, with or without Saddam, the attacks against Iraq's American occupiers are likely to go on.


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