Published December 14, 2003
CHICAGO – Cab driver James John was jarred from his early morning doldrums Sunday by the news on the radio: Saddam Hussein (search) had been captured.
"Oh my God," he said to himself as he drove through the snowy streets of Chicago. It was shortly after 4 a.m. CST and the 21-year-old was among the first Americans to hear the news.
"It's a good thing," John said as he filled his cab's tank at a gas station. "He was a bad man."
In Dearborn, Mich., (search) a heavily Arab Detroit suburb, residents took to the streets in celebration Sunday, banging drums and waving Iraqi and American flags, as they did eight months earlier when a statue of Saddam was toppled in Baghdad.
"I'm anxious to see what's next. What do we do with him? He has a lot of stories we need to hear," said Nahla Salem, 40, a Michigan dentist who left Iraq over a decade ago. "I pray for the Iraqis, and I pray for him."
Some Americans were skeptical that the prisoner really is Saddam, despite word from U.S. officials that DNA confirmed the deposed Iraqi leader's identity.
"It's a great bit of publicity," said Rasel Pervez, 26, a graduate student from Storrs, Conn. "But I think there's a 50-50 chance that it will be proven wrong."
Michael Gonzales, 48, of Miami Beach, absorbed the news over coffee. "I think it's great they found him, but I would have rather have seen him found dead," Gonzales said. "He can still instigate a lot of trouble for the Iraqis."
For Alan Zangana, a Kurd who fled Iraq in 1981, the phone started ringing at his Chula Vista, Calif., home early Sunday with people sharing the reports of the capture.
"I have been waiting for this for the last 35 years," said Zangana, director of Kurdish Human Rights Watch in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon.
Saddam's arrest could alter the violent resistance to the U.S. presence in Iraq since some insurgents were acting against the coalition "because they thought Saddam was alive and would come back and cut their throats," Zangana said.
Still others had thoughts about how Saddam should be punished.
"I would like to say 'eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth' but that's not right," said Rachel Quarshie, 37, of Dallas. "I'd like to just see him break bricks for the rest of his life."
But Pika Patel, a 24-year-old Chicagoan, was less forgiving.
"Just kill him," Patel said. "No trial."
Saddam was captured in his hometown of Tikrit by soldiers from the 4th Infantry and special forces troops.
Adrienne Pittard, the wife of a 4th Infantry Division soldier, said her husband, Zeke Pittard, had told her there was going to be "some big operation" over the weekend.
She was roused from sleep Sunday morning by her mother who repeated, "They got Saddam! They got Saddam!"
"I was just really excited because now that they got him maybe my husband will be coming home a little sooner," said Pittard, who has been living with her parents in Southport, N.C.
"This is what they've been working for," she said. "Finally the real work in Iraq can begin."