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When Even Saddam Was Better Than This
Longing for Pre-Invasion Days

Leila Fadel for McClatchy newspapers: “Four years ago, Iraqi poet Abbas Chaychan, a Shiite Muslim who'd been forced into exile during the predominantly Sunni Muslim regime of Saddam Hussein, hailed the American presence here in a poem that praised the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer. "We have breakfasts of kabab and qaymar," he wrote, describing the new Iraq with a reference to a rich cream that's considered a sign of wealth. "We put, in your stead, Mr. Bremer / Better than a tyrant of our own flesh and blood, and his torture." Last January, shortly after Saddam was hanged, Chaychan again put words to paper. But his outlook had changed. "History is proud to write about him," he said of Saddam. "It wasn't a rope that wrapped around the neck / It was the neck that wrapped around the rope. ... "From his childhood he was a leader, stubborn and against the occupation." As the anniversary of the March 20, 2003, U.S.-led invasion of Iraq nears, many Iraqis, like Chaychan, are expressing nostalgia for the time more than 1,000 days ago when Saddam's statue stood proudly in Baghdad's Fardos Square. Chaychan's reading of his most recent work, in which he calls Saddam the Arab world's "knight" and compares his death to the eclipsing of the sun, has become a popular Iraqi destination on video-sharing services such as YouTube, where his pained voice rings out over a montage of shots of the Iraqi dictator: clenching his fist in the air, sporting his signature beret, at trial holding a Quran, with a noose around his neck. In a January interview with CBS News' "60 Minutes," President Bush told correspondent Scott Paley that the American invasion had taken "care of a source of instability in Iraq." [...] In interviews across Baghdad, few Iraqis agreed, however. Instead, they displayed a collective fatigue, even as another plan to bring about security got under way. They're tired of waiting for better days when each morning brings new terrorism. Trapped in their homes, afraid that death will knock, they're worn down, they said. Law and order - even under a bloody dictator who killed thousands and tortured many others - was better than this, many said. Even those who are glad to see Saddam dead expressed a longing for more orderly times.” See the full story...

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