The regrets of the man who brought down Saddam
Monday March 19, 2007
His hands were bleeding and his eyes filled with tears as, four years ago, he slammed a sledgehammer into the tiled plinth that held a 20ft bronze statue of Saddam Hussein. Then Kadhim al-Jubouri spoke of his joy at being the leader of the crowd that toppled the statue in Baghdad’s Firdous Square. Now, he is filled with nothing but regret.
The moment became symbolic across the world as it signalled the fall of the dictator. Wearing a black vest, Mr al-Jubouri, an Iraqi weightlifting champion, pounded through the concrete in an attempt to smash the statue and all it meant to him. Now, on the fourth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, he says: “I really regret bringing down the statue. The Americans are worse than the dictatorship. Every day is worse than the previous day.”
The weightlifter had also been a mechanic and had felt the full weight of Saddam’s regime when he was sent to Abu Ghraib prison by the Iraqi leader’s son, Uday, after complaining that he had not been paid for fixing his motorcycle.
He explained: “There were lots of people from my tribe who were also put in prison or hanged. It became my dream ever since I saw them building that statue to one day topple it.”
Yet he now says he would prefer to be living under Saddam than under US occupation. He said: “The devil you know [is] better than the devil you don’t. We no longer know friend from foe. The situation is becoming more dangerous. It’s not getting better at all. People are poor and the prices are going higher and higher.”
Saddam, he says, “was like Stalin. But the occupation is proving to be worse”.
According to an opinion poll of 5,000 Iraqis carried out over the past month, 49% say they are better off now than under Saddam, and 26% say life was better under Saddam. More than one in four said they had had a close relative murdered in the past three years.
· Regrets of the Statue Man, the first of three films by Guardian Films to mark the fourth anniversary of the invasion, will be broadcast on ITV news at 6.30pm and 10.30pm tonight.