World Welcomes Toppling Of Statue

The statue's head is dragged through Baghdad's streets with a noose wrapped around its neck, April 9, 2003.
U.S. Marines helped Iraqis topple a 40-foot statue of Saddam Hussein in a main square of the Iraqi capital Wednesday, and a crowd danced on the felled torso, tearing off the head to drag it by ropes through the streets.

The toppling of the statue was heavy with symbolism on a day when emboldened Iraqis cheered U.S. troops rolling through the city and celebrated what they saw as the end of Saddam's rule. The landmark event was seen on televisions around the world.

The video images Wednesday from Baghdad's Firdos Square recalled the jubilation of Germans who chipped away at the Berlin Wall in 1989, and they thrilled Iraqis living in the United States.

Bashir Mohsen couldn't believe what he was seeing on his television: Iraqis were climbing a huge statue of Saddam Hussein, tying ropes to it in order to pull it down and hacking at its base with a sledgehammer.

"This is great!" said Mohsen, an Iraqi-American who runs a computer business in Jersey City. "So far it seems to be going well. People were expecting a lot more fighting in Baghdad. I'm glad (Iraqi troops) gave up and realized he is not what he said he was. I can't wait for them to put a new government in."

Mohsen said he believed the television coverage proved Saddam's regime had fallen as of Wednesday.

"If he was still in power, no one would be on the streets," he said. "But look at all the people!"

Those crowds in Baghdad were mirrored in Dearborn, Mich., as members of the Iraqi community stood on car roofs, cheered and waved American and Iraqi flags.

"Today is my birthday," said Ali Al-Ghazali, 46, a native of southern Iraq. "But it's also the birthday for all Iraqis."

Polish TV also broadcasted footage of jubilant Iraqis swarming into Baghdad's streets, cheering at the toppling as U.S. officials declared that Hussein's government is no longer in control of the Iraqi capital and that coalition forces have secured "significant parts" of the city.

Polish leaders hailed the success in Baghdad of the U.S.-led allied coalition — supported by Poland.

"The coalition we are in has been realizing its goals," President Aleksander Kwasniewski told reporters at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Leszek Miller. "The war is nearing its end, the coalition troops have scored a success."

Meanwhile in Britain, the official spokesman of Tony Blair said the prime minister had watched television images of U.S. troops entering central Baghdad and toppling a statue of Saddam, and was "delighted" at the reaction of the Iraqi people.

"It shows what the ordinary people thought of Saddam and just how much of a burden his rule has placed on them," said the spokesman, briefing reporters on customary condition of anonymity. "We have seen today the scales of fear falling from the people of Iraq."

"This conflict is not over yet," Blair added. "There are still some very difficult things to do. As we speak, there is still intense resistance ... among those parts of Saddam's regime that want to cling onto power."

In France, however, there were repeated demands for a "central" United Nations role in rebuilding the country as it watched the symbolic fall of the Iraqi regime.

For Iraq's reconstruction, "it is important that the legitimacy of the international community be upheld, and for this the United Nations needs a central place," the French minister Dominique de Villepin said.

Not all Iraqis shared the same enthusiasm, however.

Hussein Al-Rikabi, a former Iraqi soldier who surrendered to U.S. forces in the 1991 Gulf War and now lives in Paterson, rooted for the liberation of his country at the start of the war, and encouraged U.S. troops to oust Saddam.

Two weeks later, however, he had soured on the war, and took no joy from the apparent disintegration of Saddam's government.

"They're killing everyone they see," he said Wednesday. "What kind of control is that? How can you be happy about killing children? They're killing for oil and for money. Where is the liberation?

"This is not the way to change a government, by bombing hotels and things that belong to the people."