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Syrian fighter says Hussein's Iraq betrayed him

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Paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by American soldiers in the battle for Baghdad, Fahd lies in a hospital bed here contemplating a bleak future. But any bitterness harbored by the 18-year-old Syrian student is reserved solely for the Iraqi Republican Guards, "traitors," he says, who yielded the Iraqi capital without a fight.

All across the Arab world, young men who rallied to defend Iraq from the Anglo-American invasion are returning home, many of them disillusioned and embittered by the swift collapse of Iraqi resistance and the sometimes hostile reception they received from ordinary Iraqis.

"I went to Baghdad and was not expecting to come back. I was prepared to be a martyr, to die for God and victory," Fahd says, his voice little more than a whisper. "But I was shocked how easily Baghdad fell because I thought that Saddam Hussein could resist. The treason of the Republican Guard led to the collapse. I saw no Iraqi soldiers, except for the officers who told us where to go. All the fighting in Baghdad was by volunteers like me."

Like millions of Arabs at the start of the war, Fahd, who asked that his family name be withheld, tuned into Arabic-language satellite channels and was roused by the graphic footage of Iraqi civilian casualties. "It made us furious to see so much suffering. As a Muslim, I felt that I had to help," he says.

Ten days into the war, Fahd and three school friends agreed they would run away to Iraq and join the volunteer fighters.

"None of us told our parents. I was afraid my father would stop me from going," he says.


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