War-weary Saddam victims miss his iron rule

Sat Oct 11, 2008 8:12pm EDT
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By Mohammed Abbas

DUJAIL, Iraq (Reuters) - Saddam Hussein was hanged for killing 148 Shi'ite men and boys in Dujail in 1982. But today, some people in this town on the Tigris say they miss life under the Iraqi dictator because they felt more secure.

Even some of those from Dujail whose family members were murdered and imprisoned during Saddam's iron-fisted rule seemed seduced by the idea of a strong leader after years of chaos, bloodshed and deprivation since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

"If someone like Saddam came back, I'd not only support him, I'd invite him to dinner. My uncle was killed in 1982 in the Dujail incident. Still, life then was a million times better than now," said Saad Mukhlif, a Shi'ite.

Nostalgia for Saddam and his Sunni-led government in this largely Shi'ite town mirrors a country-wide sense of frustration despite a drop in attacks and killings.

U.S. military officials say violence in Iraq is at four-year lows but militant groups stepped up attacks for the holy month of Ramadan, and the country still suffers chronic shortages of water, power and other basic services.

"(Prime Minister) Nuri al-Maliki is sitting in (Baghdad's fortified) Green Zone, what's he doing to protect us? What's the point of this government?" said Mohammed Mehdi, a Shi'ite, whose cousin was jailed in 1982 and whose brother was killed in a car bomb in Dujail last month.

"Saddam Hussein is the only noble leader we've had," he added, before shouting "God bless Saddam 1,000 times," within earshot of U.S. troops accompanying reporters visiting the town, 50 km (30 miles) north of Baghdad.

Mehdi and Mukhlif's views were echoed elsewhere as Reuters spoke to around 15 passers-by and shopkeepers in Dujail's high street.   Continued...

<p>A woman walks past the scene of a bomb attack in Baghdad, October 11, 2008. REUTERS/Bassim Shati</p>