Local News

N.C. Civilians, Politicians, Military Families Share Joyous Reaction To Saddam's Capture

Posted December 15, 2003 1:40 a.m. EST

— Sunday's news that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was captured brought joyful cheers from civilians and politicians as well as military families in North Carolina, which is home to four major bases.

Desiree Adkins of Raleigh said her husband is headed to Iraq in February. But she hopes he will be able to return home sooner now that Hussein was captured Saturday night, Iraq time, in a hole near a Tikrit farmhouse.

Meanwhile, the wife of an IBM employee who became commander of a Bradley fighting vehicle when his Army National Guard unit was deployed believes Saddam loyalists could increase their attacks on U.S. forces for the next few months.

Kathy Foley of Fayetteville said the capture will be great for the morale of troops in neighboring Fort Bragg as well as Iraq.

The wife of one Fourth Infantry Division soldier had planned to spend Sunday watching for news of what her husband told her could be a big development. Adrienne Pittard is living with her parents in Southport, while 1st Lt. Zeke Pittard is in Iraq.

Zeke Pittard told his wife in a telephone call Friday to watch the news because a big operation was coming over the weekend.

About 600 Fourth Infantry Division soldiers, along with Special Forces, captured Hussein.

Adrienne Pittman said she did not know if the tip to watch the news Sunday meant her husband knew Saddam was in the Army's sights.

Soldiers' families were not the only ones pleased with the news. A former Iraqi resident who is now a doctor in Chapel Hill, rejoiced at news she thought she never would hear.

Dr. Maha Allatar said Sunday felt like a dream. She said the news of Saddam's capture gave her high hopes for Iraq's future.

Allatar had been waiting a lifetime for Sunday to come.

"My cousin was saying: 'Wake up, wake up. They caught him. Get up and watch TV.'"

Allatar fled Hussein's Iraq with her family in 1982, when she was 13.

"You always felt threatened," she said. "They deported my uncles and my aunts, and they took away my cousins, and we found recently they were executed."

Allatar lives in Durham and works as a neurologist at UNC Hospitals. She said Saddam's capture will mean a smoother recovery for Iraq.

"I think now they will be able to feel safe," she said. "I think business will be booming, and that will help the poverty that is very prevalent in Iraq."

Allatar has not been back to Iraq since she fled 21 years ago. But she will return in February as part of a group of American doctors on a mission to help revive Iraq's medical system.

WRAL's military expert, retired Lt. Gen. Robert Springer, agreed with Allatar about the significance of Sunday. He also said the capture will slow or stop the attacks on American troops.

"These people who are resisting no longer have that father figure that they know is going to come back to rule the country," Springer said. "He's done."

Springer said Sunday's development could reveal the truth about the reasons America went after Saddam in the first place.

"Hopefully, he will cooperate and provide some information," Springer said, "Really, were there weapons of mass destruction? If there were, what happened to them? Where are they?"

Gen. Springer and Dr. Allattar said Iraq should have the right to put the former dictator on trial.

"I think trying Saddam Hussein is part of the healing process for the Iraqis and also for the other countries affected, too, like Iran and Kuwait," Allatar said.

It is a healing process Allatar also hopes extends to Americans whose sons and daughters gave their lives for this outcome.

North Carolina Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole also praised the capture, adding that U.S. troops are to be commended for what they have done.

"Today is a great day for the Iraqi people," Dole said. "The Iraqi Foreign Minister said this morning: 'No one is happier than the Iraqi people, from the North to the South.' I am so proud of our men and women in uniform who have liberated Iraq and captured a dictator that is evil personified -- I offer them my deepest appreciation for all they have done and continue to do in the war on terror.

"It is my hope that the capture of Saddam Hussein will send a message to the pockets of terror that still exist in Iraq that their efforts to derail a free and peaceful Iraq are in vain -- thus making Iraq a safer place for our troops to complete their mission."

Senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, meanwhile, said U.S. military leaders have accomplished a great success. A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Edwards said he hopes President George W. Bush will use the opportunity to bring allies into building a democratic and peaceful Iraq.

Edwards was planning to say more during a campaign stop in Chicago on Monday.

Congressman Richard Burr of Winston-Salem, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, called the capture the true liberation for the Iraqi people.

Congressman Bob Etheridge of Lillington was in Israel Sunday as part of a tour of the Middle East. The Homeland Security Committee member said he prays Hussein's capture will end the daily attacks on American soldiers.