Hussein caught, but public's safety questionable, locals say

By Julie Fann
STAR STAFF
jfann@starhq.com

  
Saddam Hussein may be a defeated despot, but some local residents feel his capture won't ensure that Americans now live in a safer world. Though most believe the snatching of Saddam was a moral victory for the U.S., they also fear his followers may seek revenge.
   "Of course I'm glad he's captured ... I don't think we're safer now. I think he had too much of an influence, and there were just too many people that were siding with him. If he'd been stopped when he first became leader, maybe - but not now," said Elizbethtonian Brenda Bennett, one of 16 whom the Star spoke with outside the U.S. Post Office on Broad Street Monday afternoon.
   While scouting out the location for the new Super Wal-Mart slated for construction, Uriel Soto, a college student who lives in Jackson, Tenn., lowered his map and pondered the fallen dictator's fate.
   "I feel really good because he was being a really bad person, so I feel good. I think we're safer. Well, actually, I don't think we're safer because there are still other people who are going to follow him," he said.
   John Elliott, who said he "most definitely" believes Saddam's fall was necessary, said he's most concerned about American troops. "I do believe good things are going to come from it. I hope it's going to bring our troops home really. And the 776 is a good start," he said.
   On Sunday, Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge raised the country's terror alert to "high" and warned governors and mayors to be vigilant in using increased security measures. Immanuel Elliott, a 17-year-old student at Mars Hill College in Mars Hill, N.C., said he believes terrorist activity and Saddam Hussein don't bear much relationship to one another.
   "Quite frankly, I don't think we're any safer than we were before, and I never felt that there was a danger in the first place. I guess I kind of felt that the government was using Saddam as a scapegoat and basically blaming all of our nation's problems on someone because we just needed someone to blame. So, I don't really feel like much has changed," Elliott said.
   Gene Shell said he was more fascinated by the sheer strangeness of Hussein's capture by U.S. troops. "I always wondered what a spider hole looked like. I'm glad we caught him. I can't say we're safer, because Osama bin Laden is still out there," he said.
   Willett Ericson, a local teacher, said that, in the long run, she believes Hussein's capture will be good for the Iraqi people. However, as far as ensuring the safety of Americans, she said his downfall didn't do much.
   Comparing Hussein to Hitler, Randy Grindstaff also said benevolent concern for the fate of the Iraqi people justified Hussein's ousting. "What's the difference between him and Hitler? They killed their own people. Murdered their own kind. President Bush did a great thing. I wouldn't care if he was a Democrat or a Republican ... Any man that stands up for his country and defends his people, what can you say? Can you argue with him?," he said.
   And one elderly gentleman, who chose to remain anonymous, had an interesting answer to the question, "How do you feel about Saddam Hussein's capture?"
   "Saddam Hussein? He's my brother," he said.