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Iraq Journals

Glimpses of life in a war-torn country by GNS national security correspondent John Yaukey and photo director Jeff Franko.


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Friday, April 11

Iraqi government falls, but full control evades U.S., British forces

By Mike Madden | GNS

Updated 2:50 p.m., April 13, 2003

Saddam Hussein's 24-year rule over Iraq came to an end this week, as the U.S. military seized Baghdad and Iraqis celebrated by tearing down statues and ransacking government buildings.

But officials in Washington warned that the war was not yet over, and the long process of restoring order and rebuilding Iraq had just begun. Thousands of Iraqis looted Baghdad and other cities, causing humanitarian organizations that had begun delivering aid to pull back.

``It's going to take a while to stabilize the country,'' President Bush said Sunday, upon returning to the White House after a weekend at Camp David.

Bush also hailed Sunday's recovery of seven American prisoners who were held captive in the war, and warned Syria not to help any Iraqi officials who flee to that country.

By the end of the week, Saddam's whereabouts were unknown, and it was not certain whether he was even alive. But one thing was clear - he no longer ran Iraq. On Wednesday, a crowd in Baghdad pulled down a massive statue of Saddam that had loomed over a downtown park and dragged its head through the street, providing the most powerful symbol of the end of his reign.

``The regime of Saddam Hussein is being removed from power, and a long era of fear and cruelty is ending,'' Bush told Iraqis in a message broadcast over what had been the state television network.

Acting on an intelligence tip, a U.S. B-1 bomber dropped four huge bombs on a suburban Baghdad neighborhood Monday night in the hopes of killing Saddam, his sons and other top Iraqi officials.

That strike may not have succeeded, but it helped mark the end of organized Iraqi resistance. Around the country, Iraqi soldiers fled their positions and hundreds were shown walking home.

Another northern city, Mosul, fell Friday. Kurdish rebels captured Kirkuk, at the center of northern oil fields, but after protests from Turkey said they would withdraw if U.S. forces could secure the city.
But while Saddam's control vanished, the invading U.S. and British forces did not have total control.

On Thursday, a suicide bomber killed four U.S. soldiers in Baghdad and a Shiite mob hacked two clerics to death in Najaf. They had been meeting to discuss postwar power arrangements.

Echoing a cautious tone throughout the military, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said U.S. forces were still too busy clearing out pockets of resistance to police the country against lawlessness.

Quoting World War II British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Myers said, ``This is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it's perhaps the end of the beginning.``

Wounded troops:  Bush visited wounded soldiers at two military hospitals in suburban Washington, saying he was honored to spend time with those who made a ``worthwhile'' sacrifice.  Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who was rescued from an Iraqi hospital on April 1, and about four dozen other wounded soldiers arrived Saturday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Doctors said Lynch could be in the hospital for several weeks.

Diplomacy: The role of the United Nations in postwar Iraq was still unclear. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair met in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and announced that the United Nations would be a ``vital'' part of the reconstruction effort. Meanwhile, the leaders of France, Germany and Russia, who all opposed the war, announced plans for their own summit early next week to discuss how they think the postwar should go.

Congress: Lawmakers approved a $79 billion emergency spending measure to pay for the war and to begin the rebuilding process. The Senate passed the bill late Friday, and the House followed in a rare Saturday session.