|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] On to the next problem ....
|December 30, 2006 Saddam Hussein Had Oppressed Iraq for More Than 30
Years By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
The hanging of Saddam Hussein ended the life of one of the most brutal
tyrants in recent history and negated the fiction that he himself
maintained even as the gallows loomed â€” that he remained president of
Iraq despite being toppled by the United States military and that his
power and his palaces would be restored to him in time.
The despot, known as Saddam, had oppressed Iraq for more than 30 years,
unleashing devastating regional wars and reducing his once promising,
oil-rich nation to a claustrophobic police state.
For decades, it had seemed that his unflinching hold on Iraq would endure,
particularly after he lasted through disastrous military adventures
against first Iran and then Kuwait, where an American-led coalition
routed his unexpectedly timid military in 1991.
His own conviction that he was destined by God to rule Iraq forever was
such that he refused to accept that he would be overthrown in April 2003,
even as American tanks penetrated the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, in a war
that has become a bitterly contentious, bloody occupation.
After eluding capture for eight months, Mr. Hussein became the American
militaryâ€™s High Value Detainee No. 1. But he heaped scorn on the Iraqi
judge who referred to him as the â€œformerâ€ president after asking
him to identify himself on the first day of his trial for crimes against
humanity, which ultimately lead to his execution.
â€œI didnâ€™t say â€˜former president,â€™ I said â€˜president,â€™ and
I have rights according to the Constitution, among them immunity from
prosecution,â€ he growled from the docket. The outburst underscored the
boundless egotism and self-delusion of a man who fostered such a fierce
personality cult during the decades that he ran the Middle Eastern
nation that joking about him or criticizing him in public could bring
a death sentence.
If a manâ€™s life can be boiled down to one physical mark, Mr. Husseinâ€™s
right wrist was tattooed with a line of three dark blue dots, commonly
given to children in rural, tribal areas. Some urbanized Iraqis removed
or at least bleached theirs, but Mr. Husseinâ€™s former confidants told
The Atlantic Monthly that he never disguised his.
Ultimately, underneath all the socialist oratory, underneath the Koranic
references, the tailored suits and the invocations of Iraqâ€™s glorious
history, Mr. Hussein held onto the ethos of a village peasant who believed
that the strongman was everything. He was trying to be a tribal leader
on a grand scale. His rule was paramount, and sustaining it was his main
goal behind all the talk of developing Iraq by harnessing its considerable
wealth and manpower.
Mosques, airports, neighborhoods and entire cities were named after him. A
military arch erected in Baghdad in 1989 was modeled on his forearms
and then enlarged 40 times to hold two giant crossed swords. In school,
pupils learned songs with lyrics like â€œSaddam, oh Saddam, you carry
the nationâ€™s dawn in your eyes.â€
The entertainment at public events often consisted of outpourings
of praise for Mr. Hussein. At the January 2003 inauguration of a
recreational lake in Baghdad, poets spouted spontaneous verse and the
official translators struggled to keep up with lines like, â€œWe will
stimulate ourselves by saying your name, Saddam Hussein, when we say
Saddam Hussein, we stimulate ourselves.â€
While Mr. Hussein was in power, his statue guarded the entrance to
every village, his portrait watched over each government office and he
peered down from at least one wall in every home. His picture was so
widespread that a joke quietly circulating among his detractors in 1988
put the countryâ€™s population at 34 million â€” 17 million people and
17 million portraits of Saddam.
Battles and Bloodshed
Throughout his rule, he unsettled the ranks of the Baath Party with bloody
purges and packed his jails with political prisoners to defuse real or
imagined plots. In one of his most brutal acts, he rained poison gas on
the northern Kurdish village of Halabja in 1988, killing an estimated
5,000 of his own citizens suspected of being disloyal and wounding
Even at the end, he showed no remorse. When four Iraqi politicians visited
him after his capture in December 2003, they asked about his more brutal
acts. He called the Halabja attack Iranâ€™s handiwork; he said that Kuwait
was rightfully part of Iraq and that the mass graves were filled with
thieves who fled the battlefields, according to Adnan Pachachi, a former
Iraqi foreign minister. Mr. Hussein declared that he had been â€œjust
but firmâ€ because Iraqis needed a tough ruler, Mr. Pachachi said.
It was a favorite theme, one even espoused in a novel attributed to
Mr. Hussein called â€œZabibah and the King.â€
At one point, the king asks the comely Zabibah whether the people
needed strict measures from their leader. â€œYes, Your Majesty,â€
Zabibah replies. â€œThe people need strict measures so that they can
feel protected by this strictness.â€
Aside from his secret police, he held power by filling the governmentâ€™s
upper ranks with members of his extended clan. Their Corleone-like feuds
became the stuff of gory public soap operas. Mr. Hussein once sentenced
his elder son, Uday, to be executed after he beat Mr. Husseinâ€™s food
taster to death in front of scores of horrified party guests, but later
rescinded the order. The husbands of his two eldest daughters, whom he
had promoted to important military positions, were gunned down after
they defected and then inexplicably returned to Iraq.
Continual wars sapped Iraqâ€™s wealth and decimated its people. In 1980,
Mr. Hussein dragged his country into a disastrous attempt to overthrow
the new Islamic government in neighboring Iran. By the time the war ended
in stalemate in 1988, more than 200,000 Iraqis were dead and hundreds of
thousands more wounded. Iran suffered a similar toll. Iraqâ€™s staggering
war debt, pegged around $70 billion, soon had wealthy Arab neighbors
demanding repayment. Enraged, he invaded Kuwait in August 1990, only to
be expelled by an American-led coalition in the Persian Gulf war seven
Yet in the language of his Orwellian government, Mr. Hussein never
suffered a setback. After the gulf war ended with the deaths of an
estimated 150,000 Iraqis, he called â€œthe Mother of All Battlesâ€
his biggest victory and maintained that Iraq had actually repulsed an
â€œIraq has punched a hole in the myth of American superiority and rubbed
the nose of the United States in the dust,â€ Mr. Hussein said.
His defeat in Kuwait, followed by more than a decade of tense
confrontations with the West over his suspected weapons programs,
ultimately led to his overthrow. The extended bloodbath that followed
the invasion, with the monthly death toll of Iraqi civilians estimated
roughly at 3,000 by the end of 2006, made some nostalgic for even the
oppressive days of Mr. Hussein, when public security was not an issue. His
repressive ways were credited with keeping the fractious population of
26 million â€” including 20 percent Sunni Muslims, who dominated; 55
percent Shiite Muslims; 20 percent Kurds plus several tiny minorities
including Christians â€” from shattering along ethnic lines.
The Pathway to Politics
Saddam Hussein was born on April 28, 1937, in a mud hut on stilts near
the banks of the Tigris River near the village of Tikrit, 100 miles
northwest of Baghdad. He was raised by a clan of landless peasants,
his father apparently deserting his mother before his birth. (Government
accounts said the father died.)
â€œHis birth was not a joyful occasion, and no roses or aromatic plants
bedecked his cradle,â€ his official biographer, Amir Iskander, wrote
in â€œSaddam Hussein, the Fighter, the Thinker and the Man,â€ published
Mr. Hussein told his biographer that he did not miss his father growing up
in an extended clan. But persistent stories suggest that Mr. Husseinâ€™s
stepfather delighted in humiliating the boy and forced him to tend
sheep. Eventually, he ran away to live with relatives who would let him
go to school.
Mr. Husseinâ€™s first role in the rough world of Iraqi politics came in
1959, at age 22, when the Baath Party assigned him and nine others to
assassinate Abdul Karim Kassem, the despotic general ruling Iraq. Violence
was a quick way for a young man who grew up fatherless in an impoverished
village to get ahead; bloodshed became the major theme of his life.
During the failed assassination, Mr. Hussein suffered a bullet wound
to the leg. The official version portrayed him as a hero who dug the
bullet out with a penknife, while the other version suggests that the
plot failed because he opened fire prematurely.
He sought asylum in Egypt, where President Gamal Abdel Nasser nurtured
the regionâ€™s revolutionary movements. Soon after returning to Iraq,
Mr. Hussein married his first cousin and the daughter of his political
mentor, Sajida Khairallah Tulfah, on May 5, 1963. The couple had two
sons, Uday and Qusay, and three daughters, Raghad, Rana and Hala. He
had mistresses, including prominent Iraqi women, but never flaunted them.
His wife, three daughters and roughly a dozen grandchildren survive
him. Uday and Qusay, along with Qusayâ€™s teenage son, Mustapha, died
in July 2003 during a gun battle with American forces in a villa in the
northern city of Mosul. Denounced by an informant, they had been the
two most wanted men in Iraq after their father.
The first years of Saddam Husseinâ€™s marriage coincided with political
tumult in Iraq, with at least six coups or attempted revolts erupting
between the assassination of King Faisal II in 1958 and the July 1968
putsch that brought the Baath Party to power.
Mr. Husseinâ€™s main role while still in his early 30s was organizing
the partyâ€™s militia, the seed of the dreaded security apparatus. By
November 1969, he had eliminated rivals and dissidents to the extent
that President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr appointed him vice president and
deputy chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, as the cabinet
was known. Mr. Hussein remained head of the intelligence and internal
security agencies, in effect controlling Iraq.
The Arab Baath Socialist Party, whose name means â€œrenaissanceâ€ in
Arabic, had been formed in the 1930s to push a secular, socialist creed as
the ideal path to achieving Arab unity. But that dogma proved a sinister
excuse for the imprisonment, exile or execution of all potential rivals.
No other Arab despot matched the savagery of Mr. Hussein as he went about
bending all state institutions to his whim. His opening act, in January
1969, was hanging around 17 so-called spies for Israel in a downtown
Baghdad square. Hundreds of arrests and executions followed as the
civilian wing of the Baath Party gradually eclipsed the Iraqi military.
Mr. Hussein staged perhaps his most macabre purge in 1979, when at age
42 he consolidated his hold on Iraq. Having pushed aside President Bakr,
he called a gathering of several hundred top Baathists.
One senior official stepped forward to confess to having been part of
a widespread plot to allow a Syrian takeover. After guards dragged the
man away, Mr. Hussein took to the podium, weeping at first as he began
reading a list of dozens implicated. Guards dragged away each of the
accused. Mr. Hussein paused from reading occasionally to light his cigar,
while the room erupted in almost hysterical chanting demanding death to
traitors. The entire dark spectacle, designed to leave no doubt as to
who controlled Iraq, was filmed and copies distributed around the country.
Firing squads consisting of cabinet members and other top officials
initially gunned down 21 men, including five ministers. Iraqâ€™s state
radio said the officials executed their colleagues while â€œcheering for
the long life of the Party, the Revolution and the Leader, President,
Struggler, Saddam Hussein.â€
Mr. Hussein invariably ensured that those around him were complicit in
his bloody acts, which he masqueraded as patriotism, making certain that
there would be no guiltless figure to rally opposition.
In an authoritative account of Mr. Husseinâ€™s government called â€œThe
Republic of Fear,â€ the self-exiled Iraqi architect Kenaan Makiya
(writing under the pseudonym Samir al-Khalil) estimated that at least
500 people died in the purge that consolidated Mr. Husseinâ€™s power.
Mr. Husseinâ€™s titles reflected his status as an absolute ruler modeled
after one of his heroes, Josef Stalin of the former Soviet Union. They
included president of the republic, commander in chief of the armed
forces, field marshal and prime minister. In addition, the state-owned
news media referred to him repeatedly as the Struggler, the Standard
Bearer, the Knight of the Arab Nation and the Sword of the Arabs.
Mr. Hussein saw his first opportunity for Iraq to dominate the region in
the turmoil that swept neighboring Iran immediately after its 1979 Islamic
revolution. In September 1980, Mr. Hussein believed that by invading
Iran he could both seize a disputed waterway along the border and inspire
Iranians of Arab origin to revolt against their Persian rulers. Instead,
they resisted fanatically. Mr. Hussein never acknowledged making a gross
miscalculation; rather, he vilified the Iranian Arabs as traitors to
the Arab cause.
Iraq fared badly in the war, not least because Mr. Hussein interfered
in the battle plans despite a complete lack of military training, even
issuing orders based on dreams. When strategies urged by Mr. Hussein
failed, he often accused the commanders of betrayal, cowardice and
incompetence and had them executed.
The Field Marshal
Mr. Hussein adored the macho trappings of the armed forces, appointing
himself field marshal and dressing his ministers in olive-green
fatigues. If he was a poor military strategist, he was fortunate in
his first choice of enemy. The fear that an Islamic revolution would
spread to an oil producer with estimated reserves second only to Saudi
Arabia tipped the United States and its allies toward Baghdad and they
provided weapons, technology and, most important, secret satellite images
of Iranâ€™s military positions and intercepted communications.
The war lasted for eight years until Iran accepted a cease-fire in July
1988, with both sides terrorizing each otherâ€™s civilian populations
by rocketing major cities. But the March 1988 mustard gas attack on
the Iraqi village of Halabja by its own government was perhaps the most
Mr. Hussein waged war while investing in massive development that markedly
improved daily life. Rural villages were electrified and linked by modern
highways. Iraq boasted some of the best universities and hospitals in
the Arab world â€” all free. Its painters, musicians and other artists,
helped by government subsidies, were also the most accomplished in the
region. Mr. Hussein had his own development methods. Anyone who avoided
mandatory adult literacy classes in rural areas faced three years in jail.
Official corruption was unknown in Iraq in the 1980s, and religious
worship somewhat free. Mr. Hussein occasionally took populist measures
to underscore the importance of the public welfare. Once, for example,
he decided that his ministers were too fat and he demanded that they
diet, publishing their real weights and their target weights in the
news media. Mr. Husseinâ€™s own weight could fluctuate from chubby to
relatively trim, although well tailored suits hid his paunch. Around
six feet tall, he was stocky and wore a trademark moustache.
In keeping with a ruler who used violence to achieve and sustain power,
Mr. Husseinâ€™s most widespread investments were in his military. He
ended the Iran-Iraq war with one million men under arms.
By then Iraq had embarked on extensive projects to acquire a homegrown
arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Iraq had also become
a regional power, and Mr. Hussein expected to dominate the Arab world. In
March 1990, he threatened to â€œburn half of Israelâ€ if it ever acted
against Iraq, even though the Israeli Air Force had humiliated the Iraqi
leader by destroying his countryâ€™s nuclear research center at Osirik
in June 1981.
Mr. Husseinâ€™s next target was another neighbor, Kuwait, which Iraq had
long considered part of Iraq and coveted for its deep-water port. On
Aug. 2, 1990, his army swiftly occupied the tiny, immensely wealthy
emirate, provoking an international crisis. Mr. Hussein declared the
country Iraqâ€™s 19th province, installing a puppet government. Saudi
Arabia and other conservative Arab states were shaken and outraged,
while the United States and other Western countries feared for the oil
fields ringing the Persian Gulf. The United Nations imposed a trade
embargo and economic sanctions.
The United States and eventually 33 other nations deployed forces to
the region and warned of a wider war if Mr. Hussein did not withdraw. He
held onto Kuwait despite repeated threats from the United States, which
dominated the military coalition by dispatching some 500,000 American
soldiers. Mr. Hussein portrayed the invasion as the start of an Islamic
holy war to liberate Jerusalem. He declared that the â€œthrone dwarfsâ€
of the gulf must be overthrown so their wealth could finance the Arab
His public aims resonated among many Arabs in Jordan, Yemen and elsewhere,
particularly because the brutality of Mr. Husseinâ€™s government had
never been detailed by the state-controlled media of other Arab states. In
addition, Mr. Husseinâ€™s Scud missiles crashing into Tel Aviv, however
ineffective, created a stir in the Arab world.
Washington and its coalition allies hoped that the war would bring
Mr. Husseinâ€™s downfall. Even before the war ended, President George
H. W. Bush encouraged the Iraqi people to overthrow him, but there was no
coherent plan. The ground offensive against Iraq ended after 100 hours,
partly out of concern that American troops not occupy an Arab capital,
partly because Arab allies feared the disintegration of Iraq and partly
because a â€œ100-hour warâ€ made a good sound bite. Dick Cheney, then
secretary of defense, warned that sending American forces to Baghdad
would get them stuck in a â€œquagmire.â€
This decision enabled much of the elite Republican Guard to escape with
minimal losses. The first Bush administration did little to support Shiite
and Kurdish uprisings that erupted immediately after the war. Mr. Hussein
Oil, Food and Weapons
For the next decade, Mr. Hussein repeatedly brought Iraq to the brink
of renewed warfare by refusing United Nations weapons inspectors the
access required to catalog and destroy Iraqâ€™s arsenal of unconventional
weapons, as specified in the cease-fire agreement.
The United Nations maintained strict economic sanctions against Iraq until
1996, when some oil exports were allowed to pay for food, medicine and
war reparations. The sanctions, devastating to Iraqis, proved a boon to
Mr. Hussein and his subordinates. The Government Accountability Office
in the United States Congress estimated that the Iraqi leader siphoned
at least $10 billion from the program by making oil trades off the books
and demanding kickbacks.
Still, in an effort to end sanctions, Baghdad over the years offered
at least five â€œfull, final and completeâ€ weapons disclosures,
which the United Nations dismissed as incomplete. Some of the most
extensive revelations emerged after the astonishing August 1995
defection of Mr. Husseinâ€™s two sons-in-law and his two eldest
daughters to Jordan. The Iraqi government was apparently worried that
Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel al-Majid, a son-in-law and the minister in charge
of weapons development, would disclose all that he knew. Six months later,
the general and his brother abruptly declared they had accepted amnesty
and returned. Within days, Mr. Husseinâ€™s daughters divorced them,
and they died in a violent shootout.
Although family feuds often descended into bloodshed, Mr. Hussein tried
to maintain strict control of his own image. He dyed his hair black and
refused to wear his reading glasses in public, according to interviews
with exiles published in The Atlantic Monthly in March 2002. Because a
slipped disc caused him to limp slightly, he was never filmed walking
more than a few steps. Each of his 20 palaces was kept fully staffed,
with meals prepared daily as if he were in residence to disguise his
whereabouts. Delicacies like imported lobster were first dispatched to
nuclear scientists to be tested for radiation and poison.
His wine of choice was Portuguese, Mateus RosÃ©, but he never drank in
public to maintain the conceit that he was a strict Muslim. He even had
genealogists draw a family tree that linked him to Fatima, the daughter
of the Prophet Muhammad.
He kept an immaculate desk, with reports from all the ministries
neatly stacked. He usually read only the executive summaries,
but would occasionally dig deeper and always complained that he was
being deceived. He often was, with even his son Qusay telling military
commanders to lie if Mr. Hussein thought something had been accomplished
that was not.
He was particularly phobic about germs. Even top generals summoned to meet
him were often ordered to strip to their underwear and their clothes
were then washed, ironed and X-rayed before they could get dressed
to see him. Mr. Husseinâ€™s American jailers reported that he tried
to maintain those precautions, using baby wipes to clean meal trays,
his table and utensils before eating.
Rarely traveling abroad, and surrounded by often uneducated cousins, he
had a limited worldview. He once reacted with wonder when an American
reporter told him that the United States had no law against insulting
the president. Former officials portrayed him as a vain, paranoid loner
who no longer believed he was a normal person and considered compromise
a sign of weakness.
Saad al-Bazzaz, an Iraqi writer and editor, said that Mr. Hussein,
having risen so far beyond the village and cheated death so often,
believed that God anointed him.
Mr. Bazzaz told The Atlantic that even Mr. Husseinâ€™s speeches echoed
Koranic texts. â€œIn the Koran, Allah says, â€˜If you thank me, I will
give you more,â€™ â€ Mr. Bazzaz said. â€œIn the early â€™90s, Saddam
was on TV, presenting awards to military officers, and he said, â€˜If
you thank me, I will give you more.â€™ â€
Controlling a Nation
Iraq under Mr. Hussein had a stifled quality. Imprisonment, torture,
mutilation and execution were frequent occurrences, at least for those
who chose to dabble in anything vaguely political. Simple information like
the weather report was classified. There was no freedom of expression â€”
even foreign newspapers were banned â€” and no freedom to travel. Contact
with foreigners was proscribed.
There were widespread reports that Mr. Hussein himself periodically
carried out the torture or even execution of those he felt had crossed
him. In the summer of 1982, for example, Riyadh Ibrahim Hussein, the
health minister, suggested during a cabinet meeting that Mr. Hussein step
down to ease the negotiation of a cease-fire with Iran. Mr. Hussein
recommended that the two retire to another room to discuss the
proposal. When they did, a shot rang out. Mr. Hussein returned to the
cabinet meeting alone, although in later interviews he denied killing
anyone. The ministerâ€™s widow was sent his dismembered corpse.
While assassinating Shiite Muslim religious leaders who opposed him,
Mr. Hussein ordered mosques constructed around Baghdad on a scale not seen
since it was the medieval capital of the Muslim caliphate. Perhaps the
most striking was the Mother of All Battles mosque completed in 2001,
the 10th anniversary of the Persian Gulf war. The minarets resembled
Scud missiles, and the mosque held a Koran written with 28 gradually
donated liters of Mr. Husseinâ€™s blood.
Evidence from inside Iraq after the invasion confirmed what United Nations
weapons inspectors anticipated before â€” that Mr. Hussein abandoned
the attempt to develop nuclear, biological and chemical weapons after
his 1991 defeat. Orders from Mr. Hussein to destroy vestiges of the
program, interpreted before the 2003 invasion as an attempt to hide
their development, turned out to be an effort to comply with the ban.
The fatal controversy over whether Iraq was still developing
unconventional weapons stemmed in part from Mr. Husseinâ€™s desire to
convince different audiences of different things, a postwar study by
the Defense Department concluded. He wanted the West to believe that he
had abandoned the program, which he had. Yet he also wanted to instill
fear in enemies like Iran and Israel, plus maintain the esteem of Arabs,
by claiming that he possessed the weapons.
Some Bush administration critics argued that the accusations over
unconventional weapons were a smoke screen, that government hawks were
determined to topple Mr. Hussein as a way of reasserting American
power. Richard Clarke, a former national security adviser to three
presidents, described in his 2004 book â€œAgainst All Enemiesâ€ the
scene in the White House in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11,
2001, attacks against the United States, with President Bush and other
senior officials trying to link Mr. Hussein directly to Al Qaeda, Osama
bin Ladenâ€™s organization. No such link was ever established.
Just before the invasion, Mr. Hussein, cigar in hand, appeared on
television almost nightly, belittling American forces to small groups
of Republican Guard commanders.
Yet his main concern was preserving his government, which the United
States military discovered in interviews with his captured aides. Some
of the unclassified results were published in a 2006 article in Foreign
Affairs titled â€œSaddamâ€™s Delusions: The View From the Inside.â€
By 2003, Iraqâ€™s military was anemic, weakened by sanctions and constant
changes in command, not to mention the fact that Mr. Hussein, suspicious
of coup attempts, barred any rigorous maneuvers and repeatedly created new
popular militias. Commanders also constantly lied to him about their state
of preparedness. The United States report quoted Mr. Husseinâ€™s personal
interpreter as saying that the president thought that his â€œsuperiorâ€
forces would put up a â€œheroic resistance and inflict such enormous
losses on the Americans that they would stop their advance.â€
Mr. Hussein cited both Vietnam and the hasty American withdrawal from
Somalia in 1994 as evidence, and did not take the threat of regime change
seriously. He so much believed his own publicity about his success
in fighting the first gulf war that he used it as a blueprint for the
second. Hence, his main worry during the invasion was to avoid repeating
the Shiite and Kurdish internal rebellions of 1991. He did not blow up
the bridges over the Tigris and Euphrates to slow the American advance,
for example, out of concern that he would need to rush troops south to
quell any uprising.
The war plan as described in the 2006 book â€œCobra II: The Inside Story
of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraqâ€ states that while Republican
Guard troops were supposed to seal off the approaches to Baghdad, only
the Special Republican Guard was permitted inside the capital, again as
insurance against a coup. The collapse came so quickly that Mr. Hussein
was still issuing orders to units that had ceased to exist.
After an April 9 sighting in public, he disappeared, apparently using
up to 30 hiding places and the aid of loyal tribesmen to escape capture
despite a $25 million reward. He often traveled as he had during the
first gulf war, in a battered orange and white Baghdad taxi. He issued
periodic messages encouraging the insurgency.
In a letter dated April 28 that was faxed to Al Quds al Arabi, an Arabic
newspaper published in London, he blamed traitors for his ouster and
urged Iraqis to rebel. â€œThere are no priorities greater than expelling
the infidel, criminal, cowardly occupier,â€ he wrote.
A Leaderâ€™s Legacy
In December 2003, his location was divulged by a clan member captured in a
raid on a Baghdad house. Less than 11 hours later, 600 American soldiers
and Special Operations forces supported by tanks, artillery and Apache
helicopter gunships surrounded two farmhouses near the banks of the Tigris
in Ad Dwar, a village about nine miles southeast of Tikrit, the tribal
seat. The soldiers â€” no Iraqis were involved â€” found nothing on the
first sweep. But on the second, more intensive search, under a trap door,
Mr. Hussein was discovered lying at the bottom of an eight-foot-deep hole.
His first words when he emerged, nervous and disoriented, were, â€œI am
Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq, and I am willing to negotiate,â€ in
A Special Operations soldier there shot back, â€œPresident Bush sends
his regards,â€ the military said later. The main indication that the
filthy, dilapidated concrete hut close by had been used by the former
Iraqi president was a battered green metal suitcase holding $750,000 in
neatly bundled bills.
Mr. Hussein, sporting a bushy salt-and-pepper beard, was first shown
on television undergoing a medical exam for head lice. The pictures
electrified and shocked Iraqis and the larger Arab world, with some
cheering and some appalled to see a captive Arab leader put on undignified
He was imprisoned at Camp Cropper, near the international airport some
10 miles from Baghdad, on the grounds of a former palace complex that
the United States military turned into a prison for senior members of the
government. The prison consisted of three rows of single-story buildings
surrounded by a double ring of razor wire.
Mr. Hussein was kept in solitary confinement â€” letters and care packages
including cigars sent via the Red Cross from his wife and daughters living
in Qatar or Jordan were his main contact with the outside world. He lived
in a relatively spartan cell consisting of a bed, a toilet, a chair,
a towel, some books and a prayer rug.
Some of his former American guards, interviewed for a July 2005 story in
GQ magazine, said he acted in a fatherly way, offering advice on finding
a good wife â€” â€œneither too smart nor too dumb, not too old nor too
youngâ€ â€” and invited them to hang out in one of his palaces after he
was restored to power. He claimed that President Bush had always known
he had no unconventional weapons. His favorite snack was Doritos corn
chips, his guards said.
Mr. Hussein was combative throughout his trial, using it as a platform
to encourage the insurgents. The proceedings frequently seemed to slide
toward chaos, with the star defendant and the judges shouting at each
other. The trial, held in one of the grandiose buildings erected not
far from Mr. Husseinâ€™s former presidential palace, proved something
of a security nightmare, with three defense lawyers assassinated.
At one point, something he said prompted guffaws from a spectator in
an overhead gallery. Mr. Hussein turned and pointed a finger, saying,
â€œThe lion does not care about a monkey laughing at him from a tree.â€
Mr. Hussein often tried to draw parallels between himself and the
famous leaders of Mesopotamia, the earliest civilization in the region,
as well as Saladin, the 12th-century Kurdish Muslim military commander
who expelled the crusaders from Jerusalem.
What preoccupied him, he said, was what people would be thinking about
him in 500 years. To the horror of historic preservationists, he had the
ancient walls of the former capital, Babylon, completely reconstructed
using tens of thousands of newly fired bricks. An archaeologist had
shown him bricks stamped with the name of Nebuchadnezzar II in 605 B.C.
After the reconstruction, the small Arabic script on thousands of bricks
read in part, â€œIn the reign of the victorious Saddam Hussein, the
president of the Republic, may God keep him, the guardian of the great
Iraq and the renovator of its renaissance and the builder of its great
civilization, the rebuilding of the great city of Babylon was done.â€
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to our own cultural heritage -- we need the ability to participate in
our own society."
"> I'm an engineer. I choose the best tool for the job, politics be
You must be a stupid engineer then, because politcs and technology have
been attacted at the hip since the 1st dynasty in Ancient Egypt.
I guess you missed that one."