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Gary Younge
American families wake up to hope that troops will return home soon

Clutching newspapers that were already out of date, people stopped and listened in on the conversations of the better-informed and then went home to turn on the television.

"He's looking crazy," said James DuPrez, buying cigarettes while he described the video footage of Saddam on television to those waiting in the queue behind him. "Hair's crazy, beard's crazy, eyes crazy. Just plain crazy."

"Everybody is so happy," beamed the laundry woman on Brooklyn's De Kalb Avenue. And while it is true that you could not find anyone who believed that catching Saddam was a bad idea, views differed across the country on just how much of a good thing it was and what should happen now.

Mike Harden, 20, who was working out at a 24 Hour Fitness centre in Dallas, had a different idea. "I think they should kill him or torture him like he tortured all the people over there," he said.

"They found him where he belongs: in a hole," said a regular at Tillies coffee shop in Brooklyn. "They should take him into central Baghdad and let the people loose on him."

Michael Gonzales, 48, of Miami Beach, said: "It's great they found him, but I would rather have seen him found dead. He can still instigate trouble for the Iraqis."

"I would like to say 'eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth' but that's not right," said Rachel Quarshie, 37, of Dallas.

"I'd like to just see him break bricks for the rest of his life."

Few were in any doubt that it would make a difference on the home front, where support for the war had started to climb last week after a steep decline through the autumn.

"I'm not a Republican, you know, but I would applaud George Bush for going out of his way to make sure the country can feel more safe," said Dewayne Bryant, a front-desk clerk at Fairfield Inn in Dallas.

On the phone-ins and talkboards, contributions swung from one end of the spectrum to the other. Some demanded apologies from France and Germany, while others called for Mr Bush to be next. "Take that! all you Saddam-loving liberals," wrote one respondent when the Chicago Tri bune asked readers to write in with their thoughts. "And it only cost the lives of 200+ more soldiers since April, too!" wrote the next.

On army bases there was a feeling that the news might result in loved ones coming home sooner rather that later.

Adrienne Pittard, the wife of a 4th Infantry Division soldier, Zeke, was woken by her mother with the information. "I was just really excited because now that they got him maybe my husband will be coming home a little sooner," she said.

But peppered among the tub thumping ("Way to go, America! Our soldiers are the best," wrote one contributor to the Tribune's message board) others were reminded of unfinished business.

"I don't think he could have been fighting much of a war from that hole so I don't know if it's going to make much difference with the war," said Mr DuPrez.

"I hope it does. But they still got to find that other guy who started this whole thing right here," he added, referring to Osama bin Laden and flicking his head in the vague direction of a depleted Manhattan skyline hidden by a thick blanket of snow.

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