Sunday, June 06, 2004

April 9, 2003: Peter Arnett's Perspective

On Wednesday afternoon, April 9, 2003, in the Saddam City neighborhood of Baghdad, a middle-aged journalist from New Zealand named Peter Arnett climbed out of a taxi with two Iraqi friends.

They were across the street from the Al-Ardalea Mosque, which had been closed down by the Ba’ath government for the previous five years. Arnett and the two Iraqis stood on the sidewalk, watching as a crowd began to gather.

At first there were around twenty, but soon the numbers swelled to easily over a hundred. They started chanting, “Allahu Akbar!” and “Down with Saddam Hussein!” One of the members of the crowd raised an Islamic flag and started marching up and down the sidewalk in front of the mosque.

Then someone in the crowd noticed the New Zealander and pointed him out to the mob and then suddenly they surged across the street, heading directly for Arnett.

Hey... this is it, Arnett would later write. Curtains.

But to Arnett’s surprise they lifted both himself and his two Iraqi friends into the air with smiles on their faces.

They picked me up and held me in the air along with my two Iraqi friends. They started marching us around the mosque. But they were not threatening.

Quite the opposite. They were all immensely friendly. I must have been kissed 1,000 times from my toes up to the top of my head by these men. They were feverish with excitement.

Screaming and embracing they began chanting “Freedom. Freedom. Thank you Bush. Thank you Bush”

There was a tremendous spirit. I was in the middle of a real revolution. It was contagious.

That night Arnett sat in his hotel room and typed out the end to his last newspaper article.

I will never forget the sheer joy of the crowd at the mosque, he told his readers at the Daily Mirror. They were free for the first time in 35 years. They wonder when the Americans will arrive. I think they’ll be there any minute – if not today, tomorrow.

So whatever happened to Peter Arnett? Does anyone out there have any information on Mr. Arnett?

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