Arab newspapers minimize arrest, focus on occupation

In Israel, humiliation of Hussein is viewed as a warning to others

The Capture Of Saddam Hussein

December 16, 2003|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

Arab newspapers, responding to the images of a bearded, disheveled and captive Saddam Hussein beamed around the world, noted his humiliation but focused on the continued occupation of Iraq by the United States.

The resounding conclusion was that Hussein's arrest would not stem the tide of violence being waged by resistance forces and might even cause it to intensify. Some called Hussein a tyrant who deserved to be deposed, but not at the hands of an occupation army.

Arab papers played down the importance of the capture even as they played it big on their front pages, noting that weapons of mass destruction have yet to be found and that U.S. officials must prove they invaded Iraq to liberate its people.

Palestinians regarded the news with particular dismay, because Hussein had emerged as a staunch supporter in their fight against Israel, matching his rhetoric with large checks to the families of suicide bombers.

News media in Israel took a far different view, calling Hussein's capture a warning to Arab leaders who refuse to embrace democratic reforms and crack down on terrorist groups operating from or being financed within their borders.

Israeli newspapers concentrated on the videotape of Hussein being given a medical checkup, calling it the ultimate humiliation that should send a clear message to Arab leaders, especially Yasser Arafat, that they must forsake violence or face the same degrading treatment.

Here are some samples of reports from the Middle East:

Editorial from al-Quds, a Palestinian newspaper based in Jerusalem:

The event shows the fragility of Arab regimes if large sectors of its people desert it. The scene of the Iraqi president captured is one of the painful historical scenes which testify how deteriorated and humiliated the Arab nation is due to disputes and fighting and searching for national interests. ...

No one outside of Iraq has the right to issue decisions condemning Saddam Hussein's regime or his person. The sad or embarrassing matter is that the fall of Saddam Hussein and his regime was done by the occupation forces. ...

There are questions the occupation coalition in Iraq should answer regarding the justification of invading Iraq and the proclaimed weapons of mass destruction. The head of regime is now in their hands and there is no reason to say that information on these weapons are not available. This is when the fig leaf will fall and reveal the true reasons for occupying Iraq: interest in petroleum.

Columnist Yaser Zaatreh in Al-Dustour, Jordan:

We had no illusions on Saddam's role in the resistance. He is not a leader of a faction or a fighting group. At best he was a financial source for a number of groups fighting the Americans, and that is something easy to overcome. The problem of finance is not a big problem for the Iraqi resistance.

Considering the military and the security dimensions, arresting the many will have no big impact. Some forces, which were embarrassed of being linked to him can now rid themselves of this complex and go ahead. Saddam was a political, popular, psychological burden on the resistance, even if it benefited from him in some aspects.

Editorial in the newspaper al-Abram, Egypt:

This occupation necessarily will lead to resistance whether Saddam Hussein was free or detained. His arrest, however, may also encourage the Shiites who form some 60 percent of the population to join the resistance against the occupation without fearing the return of Saddam Hussein to power. It is most probable that the resistance will continue so long as there is an American-British occupation in Iraq.

Editorial in al-Bayan, United Arab Emirates:

The surprising and astounding fall of the Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein was an unexpected gift to the American president George Bush at a time when the crisis of his administration became so difficult and threatened his electoral campaign. ...

Now, after the fall of Saddam, there can be no justification for not restoring the structure, army, constitution, freedom, democracy and institutions of Iraq. Now the Iraqi people can wake up to the war atrocities and restore their national unity.

Columnist Abdel Rahman al-Rashid in Al-Sharq al-Awsat, in London:

The eve of arresting Saddam was another night in the defeat of the Arab propaganda which has been accustomed to disseminating illusions, believing that no one will discover the fact. At seven o'clock in the dawn, the myth of Saddam Hussein has practically come to an end, and his heroic radio statements he was broadcasting while he was an escapee, calling people to sacrifice themselves at a time when he himself never shot one bullet in his life except at prisoners and weak, unarmed people of his own country. With his silence, the Arab pockets of exaggeration and falsification will temporarily shut up.

Editorial, Jerusalem Post:

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