On The Scene: Holy City Liberated
NAJAF, Iraq, April 3, 2003
Saddam's statue in Najaf's Saddam Square is gone, like the stranglehold that the Fedayeen, Saddam's paramilitaries, clamped on this town for years.
In the heart of Najaf, crowds celebrated outside the Tomb of Ali Mosque, a revered sanctuary for Shiite Muslims, Iraq's majority.
And here came a reminder that throughout Iraq, U.S. troops face a minefield of distrust, as suddenly, the mood grew angry.
U.S. troops were arranging a meeting with the mosque's cleric who had issued a decree urging Muslims to remain calm and not hinder U.S. forces.
He asked them for protection, and they moved toward his home.
But the crowd mistook that as U.S. troops about to storm the mosque, or target the cleric.
"City, okay ... mosque, no," said one Iraqi.
Commander Chris Hughes now faced a volatile standoff.
"Everybody smile. Don't point your weapons at them," he told his troops.
The biggest resentment for this crowd was the thought of U.S. soldiers carrying guns into the mosque. That's exactly what the Fedayeen had been doing for years.
To defuse a crisis, Hughes ordered his troops out.
"Withdraw from this situation straight back. All vehicles begin to move now. All the soldiers in 'no slack' begin to move now. Everybody back up. Turn back slowly and smile. These people don't understand he asked us to come in. Let them sort it out," he said.
Then Najaf's anti-Saddam insurgents came out, coaxed by U.S. commanders.
"We're here to support your efforts and provide you any support and protection you need," Hughes told them.
"Thank you very much," responded the leader.
This holy city feels liberated and likes that feeling. And the city wants the U.S. forces to stay.
"Yes, they want them to stay to protect them. But after that they want the government to be national. They want democracy," says Hussein Jasem, a Najaf resident.
This is a moment most of them have wanted for years: the chance to start again. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/...in547608.shtml
"Yes, they want them to stay to protect them. But after that they want the government to be national. They want democracy," says Hussein Jasem, a Najaf resident
"This is a moment most of them have wanted for years: the chance to start again. "
Brings joy to my heart