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Home > War On Terror

First thoughts on the "we got him" press conference

By Charlie Skelton, reporting LIVE! from near his television.

14 December 2003

"Ladies and Gentlemen," said Paul Bremer, pausing and looking around the conference hall - just like he'd been practising backstage... "we got him."

Then he rocked back on his heels, and waited for the wave of cheers and applause to wash over him.

But he'd managed to deliver the line so weakly that for about two seconds there was only a gentle, slightly confused smattering of applause, until these four Iraqi (?) gentlemen right in the middle of the conference - front and centre, about 3 rows back - stood up, as one, and started whooping and cheering and shouting oaths and curses - and though my Arabic is a bit rubbish, I'd guess that they were yelling stuff like: "string up that evil goat by his hairy balls and press glowing firebrands into his face and eyes." And the mood in the room lifted and the cheers rang out.

When the applause died down, Bremer carried on with his statement and to be honest, it all went a bit flat. We weren't interested in measured words of diplomacy, and the need to "work together for the future of a democratic Iraq" - we wanted to know what the SAS did, and whether Saddam had tried to bite down on a poison tooth.

Finally Bremer shut up, and the old Iraqi bloke who's head of the Iraqi Governing Council said some untranslated words which got a fair bit of applause, and then General Sanchez was introduced, and he was much better value, and he said things like "roll the video!" and it rolled and we saw the hole that Saddam was buried in, and then suddenly (this was brilliantly shocking because Sanchez hadn't given it a build-up) there was Saddam Hussein in captivity. And our four Iraqi friends, front and centre, went absolutely ape-shit.

They were shouting and shouting and shouting and pointing at the screen and - okay, I have to confess - from the very first moment they stood up in a block after Bremer said "we got him" I thought: that's a bit odd. They look as though they've been planted there. And I honestly think they were, because Sanchez just stood back and let them yell - and it was the perfect soundtrack to the images we were seeing. And Sanchez let them yell well beyond the point where it all got a bit embarrassing; after a while there was a definite sense that people in the room were thinking: "yes, yes, I know your country has suffered decades of crippling dictatorship, and yes, I'm sure you're delighted to see that genocidal maniac in custody, but pleeease - can we have a little decorum?"

That said, all in all it was an impressive display. It was incredible to see Saddam having his teeth checked, and images of the hole in the ground where he hid like a Womble near Tikrit. And Sanchez was great. He prowled the stage like a tiger, and had that laconic, easy air of authority that military folk sometimes have but Iain Duncan Smith never did.

But they were wrong to lead off with Bremer, who, I'm sorry to say, is a bit of a flat performer. I mean come on: "Ladies and Gentlemen... we got him!" - how can you fail to nail that one? George Bush would have done it better.

Harrison Ford, of course, would have done it best.


More on the capture: Ace in the hole.

More on Saddam: The TFT Saddam Archive.



Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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