Originally created 12/15/03

Americans celebrate capture of Saddam, wonder about continued U.S. presence in Iraq



CHICAGO -- First, Americans watched as his statue fell in Baghdad. On Sunday, many celebrated again as news that U.S. forces had captured Saddam Hussein spread across the country.

In Dearborn, Mich., a heavily Arab suburb of Detroit, people danced in the snowy streets, banging drums and waving Iraqi and American flags. Signs near Fort Hood, Texas, thanked the base's troops for making the capture. A cheer went up at the New York Jets-Pittsburgh Steelers football game after part of President Bush's announcement was broadcast over the stadium loudspeakers.

"Merry Christmas. This is a nice Christmas - we got him," said Naomi Jipping, a teacher in Columbus, Ohio, who digested the news over coffee at a 24-hour diner. "A lot of people aren't going to be in fear anymore."

In homes and stores across the country, people gathered around televisions, shaking their heads and smiling as they watched footage of the scruffy, bearded man some thought would never be caught.

Kristin Williams, who lives in suburban New Albany, Ohio, said she found it fitting that a man she considers a coward was found hiding in a hole.

"Still, it's sad to see someone in that state of affairs. He looked like a caged animal," said Williams, 36. "Going to church, he was one of the people I prayed for, too."

The news was particularly sweet for Iraqi Americans.

"You know what they should do? Put a statue of Bush," said Habib Iradily, a 37-year-old truck driver from Detroit who fled Iraq to Saudi Arabia in 1991.

Fifth-grader Haneen Jelami, 10, lives across from a mosque in Dearborn, and awoke Sunday to the sound of drums. Her father came upstairs to give her the news of Saddam's capture.

"I think he was a bad person," said Haneen, born in a Saudi refugee camp after her family fled Iraq. "He killed some people in my family."

For Alan Zangana, a Kurd who fled Iraq in 1981, the phone started ringing at his Chula Vista, Calif., home early Sunday with people sharing the news of the capture.

"I have been waiting for this for the last 35 years," said Zangana, director of Kurdish Human Rights Watch in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon.

Saddam's arrest could alter the violent resistance to the U.S. presence in Iraq since some insurgents were acting against the coalition "because they thought Saddam was alive and would come back and cut their throats," Zangana said.

Adrienne Pittard said she had a hunch something was up. Her husband, a member of the Fort Hood-based 4th Infantry Division, whose soldiers captured Saddam at an Iraqi farmhouse, had told her there was going to be "some big operation" during the weekend.

"I was just really excited because now that they got him maybe my husband will be coming home a little sooner," said Pittard, who has been living with her parents in Southport, N.C., while her husband, Zeke Pittard, is overseas.

"Finally, the real work in Iraq can begin," she said.

Some, though, were wondering how successful that work will be.

"He's caught, but what do we do now?" asked Lamont Frazier, a 30-year-old from Boston who speculated that the capture would win President Bush "an extra million votes."

Others doubted the capture would end the violent opposition that has led to the deaths of at least 315 U.S. soldiers since Bush declared major combat over on May 1.

"They're in a war," Diane Rice, a 37-year-old Chicagoan, said of the Iraqi insurgents. "They're fighting for something. His capture isn't going to keep them from fighting."

Still, even some who had opposed the war expressed relief at Saddam's capture.

At All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., a politically active liberal church with many members who oppose the war, the Rev. J. Edwin Bacon Jr. told parishioners he hoped the capture would speed the end of the U.S. occupation - a view shared by others.

"Our whole excuse for staying over there was (Saddam)," Julian Collins, 25, from Tallahassee, Fla.

Others were more interested in talking about how Saddam should be punished.

"I would like to say 'eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth' but that's not right," said Rachel Quarshie, 37, of Dallas. "I'd like to just see him break bricks for the rest of his life."

Pika Patel, a 24-year-old Chicagoan, was less forgiving: "Just kill him - no trial."

Kelly Wright, a 35-year-old saleswoman from Sacramento, Calif., had one more person on her mind. "Capture of Osama would be a nice conclusion," she said, referring to the leader of the al-Qaida terrorist network.