From around the country:
Brian MacQuarrie and Scott Bernard Nelson of the Boston Globe reported from Baghdad: "Discarded Baath Party uniforms littered the streets. Abandoned weapons lay piled on sidewalks. Static filled the screen on Iraqi television. Checkpoints and machine gun posts sat empty. The regime that ruled Iraq for 23 years, residents of this city realized yesterday morning, was apparently gone. So they took to the streets, shredding Saddam Hussein posters, toppling Hussein statues, looting Hussein offices. Jubilant Iraqis greeted U.S. troops with cheers, victory signs, and flowers. Weeping Iraqi elders kissed grinning U.S. soldiers. A few Iraqi men, apparently caught up in the moment, rushed into the street clad only in underwear to greet passing U.S. troops. There was the image beamed around the world: Iraqis and U.S. Marines, side by side, tearing a 40-foot-high Hussein statue to the ground. And there were the incongruous sounds of Arabs offering praise for a U.S. president, chanting 'Bush number one! Bush number one!' It was liberation day in Baghdad. U.S. soldiers patrolling another part of the capital broke open a children's prison, sending more than 100 bedraggled boys and girls into the arms of weeping parents. Baghdad's streets filled with people carrying loads of loot — furniture, computers, appliances — in cars, wheelbarrows, and on their backs. Not everyone in Baghdad was swept up in the euphoria. Hundreds gathered at overburdened hospitals to check on loved ones wounded in coalition bombing runs. Others mourned the dead — many hospital morgues reportedly were filled with dozens of bodies. Some Iraqis, under their breath, expressed discomfort, even disgust, over a Western power occupying a Muslim nation."
William Cole of the Honolulu Advertiser filed this bit of good news: "More than 650 Pearl Harbor sailors on two ships are on their way home from the Persian Gulf — the first local service members to return from Operation Iraqi Freedom. The destroyer Paul Hamilton and frigate Reuben James, both part of the U.S.S Abraham Lincoln carrier battle group, are expected home in about 18 days. 'As of today, (the battle group ships) have departed the Gulf,' Pacific Fleet spokesman Ensign Mike Morley said yesterday. It will be the first homecoming for a large unit involved in the war. Another 40 to 50 crew members on the Lincoln, based out of Everett, Wash., have hometown ties to the Islands. Navy officials said they were not sure if the carrier would stop in Hawaii on its way to San Diego and Washington state. For the Lincoln and its escorts, the deployment was one for the record books. The battle group was at the tail end of a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf, and had stopped in Australia when it received orders to turn around and head back, tacking on almost three more months of duty.'"
John Daniszweski of the Los Angeles Times filed this from Baghdad: "When U.S. Marines drove into downtown Wednesday, the Republic of Fear began to crumble. Iraqis who had spent their lives under the brooding shadow of Saddam Hussein — afraid that even a whisper to the wrong person could land them in prison or worse — suddenly were not only talking, they were shouting. 'Victory!' yelled a man in a long white shirt, as if he had won a war. And perhaps he had. Now, the people of Baghdad could state openly what frequent visitors to Iraq had always assumed — that they detested the regime, that they were forced to lie and that they felt that they had wasted their lives because of the megalomaniacal whims of Saddam Hussein. Ayad William, 30, a Christian who works at the Hotel Petra, said that 'people are very happy that Saddam is gone.' Reminded that a few weeks earlier people in this same neighborhood had been chanting 'Yes, Yes Saddam,' a pained look crossed his face. 'It was dangerous, it was impossible, to say, "Down with Saddam." But we have lived 35 years with the Baath Party. Today I am very free and I can talk. And I say, "Thank you, Mr. Bush." Those were words I had never expected to hear in Baghdad. So for me too, Wednesday was a day of awe.'"
Dennis O'Brien of the (Hampton Roads) Virginia Pilot filed this from southeastern Iraq: "The Marines of Charlie Company are just now discovering what this conflict is being called, and with all due respect to their commander in chief, they don't think much of the name. Operation Iraqi Freedom is not going to find its way into many tattoos on the bodies of Charlie Company. '"Desert Storm" sounded cool, and it wasn't even a war,' said Pvt. Stephen Vasko, 21, of Charlotte, N.C. 'Then we come in here and get in a real war with these people, and they call it "Operation Iraqi Freedom?"' And just why do the Marines care so much about the war's official name? Before hearing that President Bush had labeled it Operation Iraqi Freedom, many had planned to get tattoos or other reminders glorifying the conflict. The Marines also weren't too crazy about the name for the post-9/11 operation — 'Enduring Freedom.' That label hasn't found its way onto many mementos — let alone tattoos — and has little popularity among the men who fought in it. The Marines of Charlie Company say they don't expect to be telling their grandchildren or bar buddies about serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some are convinced the name will be short-lived — at least among the soldiers. 'Regardless of what they're calling it now, they're still going to call it "Gulf War II" when we get back,' said 2nd Lt. Greg Goober, 24, of Boston. 'And there will still be a few good T-shirts, like "Ambush Alley" and "I survived An Nas."'"
And from around the world:
The United Arab Emirates' Gulf Times reported on Kuwait's perspective on a new Iraqi government: "Kuwait said yesterday it would not rush to forge a new relationship with a post-Saddam regime in Iraq after its bitter experience with Baghdad and stressed any new government must demonstrate its good intentions towards Kuwaitis. Jassim Al Khoraffi, Speaker of the National Assembly (Parliament), said the post-war period in Iraq would be more difficult than the war itself and warned that any internal strife would undermine the war achievements and disintegrate the Arab country. In an interview with Gulf News at his parliament office in Kuwait City, Khoraffi also dismissed Arab calls for halting the war as unrealistic and said Saddam missed a good chance of saving his people when he ignored a peace initiative by UAE President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. 'I am not telling you a secret that we were among the strongest supporters of Saddam Hussein and now we admit that we were completely wrong,' he said, referring to billions of dollars extended to Iraq by Kuwait and other Gulf states to finance its 1980-1988 war against Iran. 'That is why we hope that what Saddam did to us will not be repeated by the new regime...There is no doubt that this time we will not rush to any regime as we did to Saddam's regime before we make sure that the new regime is serious and keen about our mutual interests and good neighborliness...It is our duty to get assurances so the new relationship will not be an emotional one...We have learned a lesson and I believe that we have to be logical and reasonable this time.'"
Saudi Arabia's Arab News focused upon local reaction: "The images on all major satellite channels were crystal clear. Millions of viewers were watching live as American troops entered the center of Baghdad and saw Iraqis cheering the American forces as they went in. They watched as the statue of Saddam Hussein, a symbol of his iron control of the city, fell to the cheers of onlookers. Since the war in Iraq broke out 20 days ago, Saudis have been watching images on Arab satellite channels that many viewers in the West have not seen. Footage of innocent Iraqis being killed; corpses being removed from the rubble of homes destroyed by U.S. bombs; the humiliation of starving Iraqi crowds who came for water and food; citizens being prevented from returning to the cities where their families were. All of this led to a strong anti-American sentiment and anger among the public. Many Saudis believe that Saddam was a dictator and will not be missed. Others say that despite all his flaws he was keeping all the different ethnic groups in Iraq together. Despite those differences in opinion, all Saudis are concerned about the Iraqi people and their welfare. One of the signs of that were the Qunoot prayers for the Iraqi people performed daily by imams in mosques all over the Kingdom. However, the fall of Baghdad to the American forces was met with a mixture of feelings in the streets of the Kingdom. Hakeem Al-Sagri, project manager at a banking and investment corporation, has been following the war through both Western and Arab media. He says that since the war broke out he has been feeling uncomfortable with events. 'I still do not think they have the capital. I think the Iraqis are using the Taliban strategy of striking and then pulling out.' As for the people cheering the fall of the statue, Al-Sagri said: 'I think they were brought in from the north to cheer. I know they are not real Iraqis. I think it's all made up. That is how Americans wanted it from day one, but they did not get it.'"
The Times of Oman had this for a sidebar to the "fall of Saddam" story: "The Arab press accused the United States yesterday of 'liquidating' reporters, whom the Americans were said to view as 'annoying witnesses to the carnage' committed against Iraqi civilians. The denunciation came a day after television reporters from Reuters and Spain's Telecinco were killed by a tank round fired into an upper floor of Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, and an Al Jazeera correspondent was killed in a separate missile attack on the Arabic news network's offices in downtown Baghdad. The dead were identified as Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman with Reuters, Jose Couso from Spanish network Telecinco and Al Jazeera's Tareq Ayub. Egyptian government weekly Al Mussawar said 'the crushing and premeditated deaths of the journalists, victims of the coalition forces, is shown to be an "Operation Pull Out the Eyes" of the Arab and Western media so that they cannot witness the events Baghdad is about to experience.' The magazine said U.S. forces had 'begun the assault on Baghdad with the slaughter of journalists.' Al Hayat daily said 'it is a war crime to fire in a premeditated fashion against journalists on the battlefield. They fired on the soldiers of truth because they did not want witnesses to their crimes.' Government daily Al Akhbar said 'whoever fired knew what his deadly shots were aimed at. It was impossible to mistake the hotel, because millions of people knew that it was swarming with hundreds of journalists,' the newspaper said. 'The invasion forces killed journalists to cover up their barbarous slaughter in Iraq.' That view was echoed by the opposition daily Al Wafd, which said 'the invaders liquidate journalists in order to impose a blackout on their butchery.'"
A columnist at the Tehran Times offered this conspiracy theory: "Almost 10 days ago, there was a halt in U.S.-British operations in Iraq. However, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the chief of the U.S. Central Command, General Tommy Franks, in their interviews with the media never elaborated on the issue, but instead tried to mislead world public opinion in order to hide a greater secret decision from them. Suspicions rose on the same day when U.S. troops that had been stopped at the Euphrates immediately were able to advance toward the heart of Baghdad without any significant resistance by Iraqi forces. Nobody asked why Tikrit, that was once called the ideological heart of Saddam's government and the last possible trench of the Iraqi army, was never targeted by U.S. and British bombs and missiles. Or why when the elite Iraqi forces arrived in eastern Iraq from Tikrit, the pace of the invaders advancing toward central Baghdad immediately increased. Also, it has been reported that over the past 24 hours, a plane was authorized to leave Iraq bound for Russia. Who was aboard this plane? All these ambiguities, the contradictory reports about Saddam's situation, and the fact that the highest-ranking Iraqi officials were all represented by a single individual — Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed al-Sahhaf — and the easy fall of Baghdad shows that the center of collusion had been Tikrit, where Saddam, his aides, and lieutenants from the Baath Party had been waiting for al-Sahhaf to join them so that they could receive the required guarantees to leave the country in a secret compromise with coalition forces. This possibility was confirmed by the Al Jazeera network, which quoted a Russian intelligence official as saying that the Iraqi forces and the invaders had made a deal. The Russian official told Al Jazeera that the Iraqi leaders had agreed to show no serious resistance against the U.S.-British troops in return for a guarantee that Saddam and his close relatives could leave Iraq unharmed."
Compiled by Andrew Cohen