After the fall

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.

About Joanne


  1. This is so uplifting. I hope these people get the representative government that they deserve.

    There’s a great column in the paper today by Thomas Friedman: “‘Reasonable unhappiness’ can help Iraq.” I can’t find it on the internet anywhere, but maybe it will turn up for those whose papers don’t carry it.

  2. Yes, It is very uplifting. But….These are a people who have learned to say what those in power want, or else! It will take time for them to see the real truth of their current/future situation…

  3. Oh, you are so right, Bill – especially since the Americans would spirit these people away in the dark of the night and fill massgraves with their bodies if they didn’t cheer for them – wouldn’t they, now?

  4. Shanti,

    Do they know that? Think about what they’ve been told about Americans over the last 10-15 years…

  5. Now, I thought there were demonstrations in the streets against the Americans. Didn’t Robert or somebody tell us that? If those people aren’t disappearing in the dark of night, then these people do know Americans don’t act that way.

  6. It still takes time to unlearn previously reinforced (via strongly negative means) behaviors…

  7. Richard Heddleson says:

    But not much time. Look at the cooperation we are getting from the Kurds, the continued violence amongst the Sunnis and the mass Shiite demonstrations being led by Sistani. Both California and Iraq had strongman leaders removed last year. It will be interesting to see which can elect a responsible legislature this year.

  8. Whit Abrams says:

    It really doesn’t matter what kind of government or representative is put in power over there. If we decide we don’t like him or her, we’ll just remove the leader and/or the government. Hell, we’ve been doing it for almost 90 years. Look at Iran, Lebanon, Zaire, Haiti, Nicaragua, Chile, etc.

  9. Only if the zionists or the oil companies tell us too……

  10. Actually, from my experiences with people coming out of Romania, I can say with certainty that most people in Iraq are not completely normal psychologically. They’re not crazy per se but they’ve all either been under tremendous strain not to be caught or they have been subjected to awful dehumanizing pressures as they were trained to be compassionless oppressors of their countrymen and others.

    Most of these people will eventually snap out of it (many of them have obviously already done so) but evil does leave its mark.

  11. Caffeinated Curmudgeon says:

    Richard Heddleson wrote:

    “Both California and Iraq had strongman leaders removed last year. It will be interesting to
    see which can elect a responsible legislature this year.”

    Gray Davis surrenders! Found hiding in a hole with a full beard and cash stash!

    Mass graves of Republicans and disloyal Democrats uncovered in Sacramento!

    Film at 11!

  12. Whit: Yeah. We removed the Ayatollahs we didn’t like in Iran back in 1980, right?

    No, wait…

    (Do you imagine that the Sandinistas and the Duvaliers were popular regimes, by the way? And do you actually believe that the US “removed” Allende from Chile’s presidency, rather than supporting a local popular uprising? Does supporting a local revolt count as “removing” a government? I guess that means France “removed” the government in the pre-independent US, then. But that’s different, right? It always is, in my experience, with anyone who gives the Laundry List Of Bad Things The US Did To Innocent Nations/Dictators/Aspiring Soviets. Maybe you’re different. If so, please say so.)

  13. Mark Odell says:

    It took two months after the fall of Saddam for the family to feel safe enough to tear up his picture.

    But the real question now is, do they also feel safe enough to tear up pictures of Ahmad “Saddam 2.0” Chalabi and the Iraqi “Governing Council”, let alone (shock, horror) vote against them in whatever election Viceroy Bremer gets around to? And, if so, for how much longer?

  14. infamouse says:

    Mark is just angry Iraqis are no longer being shoved in mass graves.

  15. Mark Odell says:

    Wrong, try again: this time with some substance.

    (Score:-1, Troll)

  16. Andy Freeman says:

    > “Both California and Iraq had strongman leaders removed last year. It will be interesting to
    see which can elect a responsible legislature this year.”

    CA will elect basically the same legislature that it elected two years ago.

    Has Iraq been gerrymandered?

  17. PJ/Maryland says:

    Has Iraq been gerrymandered?

    Unfortunately, with something like 80% of the population Shiite, it probably can’t be. (I mean the Shiites will dominate whatever elected government there is.) Though I suppose there are divisions within the Shiite community that are hard to see from half a world away.

    If you consider the origins of “gerrymander”, tho, there’ve certainly been attempts by the members of the current Iraqi Governing Council to arrange the new elections in such a way that they will still have some power afterwards. I don’t think there’s been much talk of election districts, so the usual use of the term doesn’t seem to apply, at least yet.

  18. PJ/Maryland says:

    The Friedman column Laura mentions above is now available through the Taipei (!) Times: `Reasonable unhappiness’ might be Iraq’s best hope. Oddly, it hasn’t appeared at the NY Times website yet.


  1. Nabil’s Blog

    This is from a young Iraqi high school student’s blog. It is great to know this kind of effort is being made in Iraq. “There is a scholarship program in Iraq now is going to take about 120 student from