Baghdad surrendered. It happened quickly, shamefully and practically without showing any resistance. The world's TV channels are savoring reports from Baghdad streets with exultant citizens happily greeting U.S. columns, trampling Saddam's portraits and plundering abandoned government buildings. The coalition is celebrating a triumph that seems to have come as a surprise for them as well.
Analysts all over the world are at a loss trying to guess how people who vowed fidelity to Saddam earlier and were ready to defend the native city could change so suddenly. Those who predicted that America would face another Vietnam War in Iraq are disheartened, and others are hastily blaming the Iraqis for parricide. Can the whole of the nation be a traitor? Today, it is possible only to comment upon what can be objectively assessed.
Exultant Citizens of Baghdad
The shocking reports about the nation-wide Iraqi love of the U.S. president and American "liberators" were shot by cameramen of several TV companies in so-called "Saddam City," the most unreliable district in spite of its name and the poorest, southern part of Baghdad. Almost a majority of its population are Shi'ites, the branch of Islam that has been oppressed by the mainly Sunni leadership since the war with Iran in the 1980s. Shi'ites suffered a great deal physically, morally and materially under Saddam. The downfall of the regime is actually liberation for them; this is at least some kind of relief, as the situation at least won't be worse for them than under Saddam. They have every reason to be happy with what is going on in Iraq now.
The tradition in Arab cultures is to show all emotions flamboyantly, even more loudly than they are experienced in fact, which is the reason why we are witnessing such violent exultation. In addition, Saddam City was only slightly bombed by coalition troops, as there are no important objects in that area, only miserable shack and a poor and poverty-stricken people. The poverty of the population is the explanation for the plundering that has burst out in the area: People are making off with old refrigerators, furniture, curtains and heaps of paper from abandoned administrative buildings. They will use the things at home or simply sell them. As for parts of the city where life is better, food stores and warehouses are plundered most of all; the plunderers there are not whoever happens to be in the area, but armed criminals who grew bolder in conditions of anarchy.
Other parts of Baghdad are not so exultant about the coming of the occupiers. Let's have a look at reports from the scene in the central square of Baghdad where the statue of Saddam was brought down: Only a few dozen Baghdad citizens took part in the outrage. Shi'ites were not present, as it was not their part of the city. It would accordingly have been a problem for U.S. troops to find more fanatical opponents of the regime in that area for participation in the destruction of the monument. The story that a majority of Baghdad citizens are happily greeting their liberators is just a propaganda canard spread by the coalition political leadership. It is wonderfully done, but still a canard.
However, this does not mean that the rest of the city's inhabitants are continuing to struggle. Yes, they are sitting at home, waiting and not participating in humiliating scenes of greeting their occupiers. But, on the whole, they have already reconciled themselves to the coming of U.S. troops and will not continue senseless resistance. On the whole, people have reconciled themselves to Saddam’s downfall and probably even feel relieved.
Why Did Baghdad Surrender?
It wasn't exultation and plundering that came to the streets of Baghdad, but collapse of the city's defenses. Baghdad surrendered, the defenders gave up their positions and Saddam's regime was overthrown. Only afterward did the population dare to plunge into exultation and plundering. Things could not be otherwise: Saddam's regime was based on a constant fear of repression, and if some signs of the previous authority had been seen in the country, there would have been no street protests in Baghdad, just demonstration of love for Saddam.
Consequently, must have been Baghdad citizens were perfectly sure that the city would surrender even before U.S. tanks entered it. Why did the city, the defenders of which were estimated by coalition intelligence at about 30,000 people, surrender? The moral readiness for desperate defense of the city persistently demonstrated by the Iraqi leadership is another thing to ask about. Some analysts say that Saddam's sudden death or escape could be the reason. The answer is not yet clear. One thing is obvious: Baghdad was not seized by the U.S. armed forces, but rather was yielded by the Iraqi authorities.
Why didn't the citizens organize a nationwide defense? First of all, we should remember that we are dealing with Arabs. Their mentality is traditionally loyal to the incumbent ruler (and they energetically demonstrate their love for him), but their mentality is not very active from a political point of view. It is easy for Arabs to become reconciled to the replacement of governmental authority and ideology, and they accept new authorities as easily as they say goodbye to the old ones.
In addition, the population of Iraq had no economic reasons, which are very important, to hold on to Saddam. Saddam Hussein took care of for the well-being of the country as a whole, but, like any authoritarian ruler, he cared about the welfare of each member of society only slightly. Under the conditions of the 12-year economic blockade introduced after Saddam's incursion in Kuwait, the living standards of Iraqis were on the decline, and this was the fault of the dictator himself.
There are few people who can preserve ideological steadfastness regardless of problems connected with their living conditions, and the number of such people among Arabs is even smaller than average. They are committed in their religious creed, but the state Saddam created in Iraq was in essence based on secular principles.
In a word, the reaction of Baghdad citizens to Saddam's departure is quite easy to explain. The city would have been turned into an area of cruel fighting if he had retained power. Iraqis would have been fighting either out of fear of the dictator or because of devotion to his ideas. But, for some reason, Saddam and his people gave up Baghdad, and the population had no reason to defend the city further. Everything is clear. And it is not the fault of the people because they are Arabs; such people usually act in such a way.
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