Troops see Saddam’s death as important milestone for Iraqi people
¶ Read more about the death of Saddam here, from The Associated Press.
Although most U.S. troops in Iraq asked about the hanging of Saddam Hussein were uncertain what the impact would be on coalition forces, they agreed that his death was an important milestone for the Iraqi people.
“It closes the chapter on 30-something years of dictatorship,” said Marine Sgt. Maj. Donovan White, of the 9th Engineer Support Battalion at Camp Taqaddum in Anbar Province.
Saddam’s execution is a final, tangible symbol for the Iraqi people that the tyranny and terror that ruled the country for so long has ended, many of the servicemembers deployed to Camp Taqaddum said Saturday. They expressed a sense that his death was necessary for the country to move on.
“It’s a start. It had to happen,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Frank King, 56, with 656th Transportation Company, 264th Command Support Battalion.
“Now [the Iraqi people] know he’s done,” added Sgt. 1st Class Tom Gerken, 41, also with 656th. Only with his death can the next generation grow up truly free from his grasp, he said.
White said he believes that Saddam’s trial and execution solidifies the impression that the power rests with the Iraqi people.
At Forward Operating Base Loyalty, located in Baghdad near Sadr City and the site of frequent mortar attacks, Lt. Col. Dean Dunham, 42, deputy commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, agreed.
“I think I’m in favor of the Iraqis having their own system of justice, because that’s who it’s got to answer to — the Iraqis. [The justice system] won’t answer to us. We’re not going to be here forever. A system of justice that is in-house, and addresses what the Iraqis think is just.”
He was among those wondering what the hanging would mean in terms of violence. For the most part, things were unusually quiet Saturday at both Camp Taqaddum, between Ramadi and Fallujah, and at FOB Liberty.
“Nobody I know is brave enough to predict whether it’s going to mitigate some of the violence on the battlefield, or expand some of the violence,” Dunham said.
“We’d all be willing to say we’d like to see the former — that it mitigates the violence — but I think that’s more of a hope than a prediction or any type of educated thesis.”
Capt. Maria Berger, 36, battalion personnel officer for the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division at Liberty called Saturday a “monumental day,” but she believes the Sunnis who support Saddam will be angry, and take it out on the Shiite population, which will increase the violence.
However, many troops said they believed Saddam was already a footnote, and his death probably wouldn’t affect their job over the long term.
During the next few days, Coalition Forces in Anbar Province will be keeping a respectful distance from the Iraqi communities, according to Capt. Adam Gilbertson, commanding officer of Company A, 2-136 Combined Arms Battalion, 34th Infantry, which does combat patrols in the province.
Lt. Col. Bob McCarthy, who is in charge of the Police Transition Team in the Habaniyah district of Anbar, said other than expecting peaceful demonstrations in the area, which is mostly Sunni, he thought the days ahead would be rather typical.
There were no increased Iraqi police patrols planned, he said.
As word of Saddam’s execution spread through the troops, many expressed surprise at how swiftly the sentence was carried out.
“Their executions are a lot faster here than in the U.S.,” Sgt. David Svinland, 27, with 9th ESB Camp Taqaddum, said after reading about the hanging on the Internet.
In fact, some wanted to see the process prolonged. Sgt. 1st Class Todd Baum, 36, with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division at Liberty said he thought Saddam got off too easily. “I think they should have tortured him. He needed to suffer like the millions of people he tortured.”
Said Pfc. Heaven Gallop, 27, Headquarters/Headquarters Brigade for the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division: “Justice was served. Rejoicing in the death of someone is wrong, but I see [Saddam] like Hitler.”
“It’s about time,” added Spec. Jonathan Ford, of the 2nd ID’s Headquarters/Headquarters Brigade.
And for many, there was a sense of excitement to be present for an important event in history.
“I will tell my kids I was down the street when Saddam got hanged,” said Staff Sgt. Oscar Camarena, 33, with the 9th ESB.
Added Svinland: “I can say, ‘I was there when Saddam was hanged.’ ”