During “major combat operations,” the Christian Science Monitor published extracts from the diary of a 14-year-old Baghdad girl who criticized the American invasion. Now the ex-Baathist youth group member has changed her view.
“I realized everything after the fall of Saddam,” says Amal, sitting barefoot in a living room devoid of furniture that was sold to pay bills. “Saddam betrayed the love of the people. He only cared about keeping power. If he put half the oil resources into this country, it would be better than America itself. But he built his palaces and bought weapons, while hospitals were short of medicine.”
Those are strong words for a 14-year-old, who before the war was a member of her school’s Baath Youth Party, and warned that “if God wants America to be burned, it will be burned.”
Now Amal’s diary describes her viewing of CDs showing mass graves and lavish palaces.
While Amal was in the Baath Youth, younger sister Zeinab learned to march and use weapons during training with Hussein’s Al Quds “Jerusalem” militia. A year ago, the youngest children – twin girls Duha and Hibba, now 12 – and their youngest brother Mahmoud, often broke into pro-Hussein chants when they heard the president’s name, as they had been taught at school.
. . . “The headmaster told us: ‘This is the Saddam that everyone used to fear. He didn’t even [have courage to] kill himself. He’s trash,’ ” says Duha, fighting to get a word in among the rush of comments of her older siblings. “Before the war, the same headmaster used to hang up Saddam’s picture!”
The headmaster now has a photo of an apprehended, bearded Hussein on his office wall that was circulated among students.
. . . In the cramped apartment, Hibba draws a picture for a visitor of Hussein with a beard, and writes: “Saddam the tyrant. The one who killed half of Iraq.” Then she added the words to a song: “Welcome, welcome Americans; You honor us and brought light to Baghdad, and liberated us from Saddam.”
“Yeah, they brought light, but still no electricity,” jokes Amal, prompting a surge of laughter.
It took two months after the fall of Saddam for the family to feel safe enough to tear up his picture.