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U.S. brass orders troops to stop destroying Saddam's image

BAGHDAD, Iraq—Military commanders ordered troops on Thursday to quit helping civilians destroy images of Saddam Hussein after many in the Arab world were incensed by images of a Marine draping a U.S. flag over a statue of the ousted Iraqi leader before dragging it down.

The order to stay out of future demonstrations, from the Coalition Forces Land Combined Command, ran counter to earlier allied strategy to tear down statues and posters as a psychological message to the Iraqi people that they are rid of the man and his regime.

A picture of the flag over the statue's face appeared on the front page of Arab newspapers Thursday and video was shown repeatedly on Arab TV networks, sparking new suspicion in some quarters that the coalition had colonial motives for the war.

Some U.S. military commanders cringed at the televised image of the U.S. flag covering the statue's head on Wednesday, saying it undermined the message that Americans are in Iraq not to conquer the Iraqis but to liberate them.

In Doha, Qatar, Air Force Maj. Gen. Gene Renuart said the flag incident came during a moment of "enthusiasm and jubilation."

"The guidance from headquarters," Renuart said, "is you have to understand, this is the country of Iraq."


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.