The papers run massive banner headlines announcing the fall of Saddam’s regime—all with photos of the already-famous Saddam statue in mid-topple. “You must bring these words to the American people,” one Baghdad resident told the Los Angeles Times. “Thank you, thank you very, very much.”
The New York Times’ John Burns describes how his minder, a “burly 39-year old,” looked over at the burning Olympic Committee building, used by Saddam’s son Odai as a torture center, and asked Burns to hold his hand. “Touch me, touch me, tell me that this is real, tell me that the nightmare is really over,” he said with “tears running down his face.”
U.S. forces are not in control of the whole city, and have been meeting scattered resistance. (The NYT, alone among the papers, mentions that in its banner headline.) According to early morning reports from the BBC, Marines were attacked by Iraqi units near a mosque in Baghdad. One Marine was killed and eight were wounded. The commander of Marine forces in the capital told the Washington Post,”I don’t think that Baghdad has by any means fallen. I still think we’re some days, I hope not weeks, away from Baghdad being secure.”
Looting also continued apace. The LAT notices that some entrepreneurs made their way into the Olympic Committee building where they took off with Odai’s racehorses.
Basra also appears to getting a bit Mad Max-ian. “We have no medicine, no hospitals, no police,” one resident told the LAT. The Wall Street Journal describes “gangland”-type violence. One worker at a maternity hospital recounted how he was shot as armed men came to steal the hospital’s electricity generator. As the NYT mentions, the Red Cross, citing a lack of security, suspended its operations across Iraq yesterday.
The Post says that U.S. intel can’t figure what the heck happened to Saddam’s inner circle. “All of a sudden, all communications ceased and the regime didn’t come to work. There is no sign of any leaders, anywhere,” said one U.S. official. That may well be because the regime hit its tipping point and shattered, but U.S. commanders also suspect that some of Saddam’s loyalists are keeping radio silence and have moved to Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit “for a final bloody showdown.” The Post says that the Pentagon sees evidence that Iraqi reinforcements have just deployed there.
The LAT says that the U.S. is planning to propose a U.N. resolution that would bless a U.S.-led interim government in Iraq, rather than one overseen by the U.N. As the LAT notes, that’s sure to tick-off France, Germany, et al. The paper also says the U.S. is going to host a meeting next week in Nasiriyah for Iraqi exiles and some other potential leaders. “The idea is to let them brainstorm and see how they interact,” said one “senior State Dept” official. “We’ll throw them in the pot and see how it comes out.” The LAT says six exile groups will be there, but doesn’t say which ones or whether any are being left out. That’s too bad, because it might have been telling. According to Reuters, the main Shiite opposition group is planning to boycott the talks, arguing that the U.S. needs to get out of Iraq stat.
Everybody picks up on what was the last official pronouncement from, more or less, Saddam’s government. Iraq’s U.N. ambassador, Mohammed al-Douri, told reporters yesterday, “The game is over. I hope the Iraqi people will have a happy life.” He added, “I have no relationship with Saddam.”