Cover Story

MIGHT AND MERCY

History's most-photographed war shows victorious coalition military forces both projecting power and showing compassion

Issue: "Baghdad set free," April 19, 2003

Army Specialist Aaron Wight didn't touch down in Iraq feeling much compassion for the natives. An air-assault specialist with the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne, 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry, Mr. Wight had in his mind lumped all Iraqis together with Saddam Hussein. He said he just wanted to go over there, do his job, and make sure these people weren't going to hurt anyone anymore.

Mr. Wight's perspective changed after he landed in the desert and met Iraqi villagers. He said they were excited that the United States had come to liberate them. Although many were hungry and sick, some brought food and fresh bread to the soldiers of the 502nd.

Before long Mr. Wight found himself sharing with Iraqi mothers pictures of his own kids. He discovered that most Iraqis are peaceful people who really needed help. And he was glad he could be there to help them.

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So by Week 3, that help had reached Baghdad-and it gave residents of the Iraqi capital enough sense of security that they took to the streets to show coalition soldiers like Mr. Wight how different from Saddam they were.

On April 9, a crowd gathered at the base of a large bronze statue of Saddam on what's known as Paradise Square. Several men climbed up a ladder, threw a thick noose around the statue, and pulled.

Just as they needed coalition forces to help liberate their country, Baghdad citizens needed the Marines to help yank down the statue of their hated former dictator. The Marines used an M88 tank and chains to fell the monument. Cheering Iraqis swarmed the downed icon and stomped it. Shortly after, several men were seen dragging its severed head through the streets, and Iraqis used a sledgehammer to attack the pedestal where it once stood.

The liberation was carried live to a worldwide television audience that included President Bush.

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