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Thread: Saddam Hangs
12-30-06, 12:52 PM #1
Just in time for Eid, the Iraqis decided Saddam Hussein was one old acquaintance who really should be forgot. Despite The New York Times’ protests that it’s all been too rushed, it’s three years since the mass murderer was pulled from his spider hole. Here’s what I wrote in The Spectator in December 2003, outlining the possible approaches to the trial:
In a nutshell:
A courtroom in Baghdad: good.
A courtroom in The Hague: bad.
Iraqi and coalition judges: good.
International jet-set judges: bad.
Swift execution: good.
Playing Scrabble with Slobo in the prison library for the next 20 years: bad.
Bet on Bush and the Iraqis to get their way. As for whether Iraq has a justice system under which Saddam can be tried, I suggest we look to the great King of Babylonia, Hammurabi, whose Code of Laws, the world's first written legal code circa 1780 BC, stands up pretty well. I'm not a Babylonian legal scholar but I note that Saddam's digging of a subterranean hiding place in his hut appears to be in clear breach of Law No. 21:
If any one break a hole into a house, he shall be put to death before that hole and be buried.
Well, it didn’t quite go that way, but it was close enough, and better than the Hague-Slobo model. And to have convicted, sentenced and executed the dictator is a signal accomplishment for the new Iraq. When I was in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, shortly after the war, a young boy showed me his schoolbook. It was like my textbooks at his age - full of doodles and squiggles and amusing additions to the illustrations. With one exception: the many pages bearing pictures of Saddam were in pristine condition. Even a bored schoolboy doesn't get so careless that he forgets where not to draw the line. When the cowardly thug emerged from his hole, it was a rare moment: in the fetid stability of the Middle East, how often do you get to see a big-time dictator looking like some boxcar hobo and meekly submitting to a lice inspection by an American soldier? Not everyone was happy about it. As I wrote in the Speccie:
Jihan Ajlouni, a 24-year-old Palestinian university student, reacted to Saddam’s capture by warning: “We say to all the traitors and collaborators: don’t rush to celebrate, because there are millions of Saddams in the Arab world.”
Really? Millions of smelly wimps with ratty hair living in holes in the ground? That could cause massive subsidence in the Tikrit area, particularly if they surrender all at once.
But, of course, Mr Ajlouni is wrong. The West Bank aside, his fellow Arabs aren’t that nuts. When the Western world’s Ajlouni Left reprimand the Americans for sticking Saddam on TV with a tongue depressor, they’re worried it will make the Arabs feel humiliated. “I feel extremely humiliated,” agreed the Egyptian writer Sayyid Nassar. “By shaving his beard, a symbol of virility in Iraq and in the Arab world, the Americans committed an act that symbolises humiliation in our region.”
You should feel humiliated. It is humiliating when you invest your pride in a total loser. For the Palestinians, who never met a loser they weren’t dumb enough to fall for (the Mufti, Nasser, Yasser), Saddam still has an honoured place in the Pantheon of Glorious Has-Beens. But for millions of Iraqis a monster has shrivelled away into a smelly bum too pathetic even to use his pistol to enjoy the martyrdom he urged on others.
That’s easy for me to say. The reality is that, as long as he was alive, there was always the possibility that he would return. When a dictator has exercised the total control over his subjects that Saddam did, his hold on them can only end with his death. A day after his capture, I wrote in the Telegraph:
Saddam, of course, attempted to reclaim his stature, but, in his current position, opportunities are few and far between. In his first interrogation at Baghdad Airport, he was asked if he’d like a glass of water, and replied: “If I drink water I will have to urinate and how can I urinate when my people are in bondage?” If there’s a statue left of him in Iraq, they should chisel that on the plinth.
That’s still a good idea. My old newspaper in London headlined its editorial “Justice For A Mass Murderer”. There can never be “justice” for murderous dictators – there’s simply too much blood. But there can be retribution, and a final line drawn under a dark chapter of history as he’s shovelled into his grave.
He was not without his style. He liked his Quality Street toffees and his Sinatra albums. In the early Nineties, when the Prince of Wales ventured some mild criticism of His Execellency, Saddam gave a soundbite to his son’s newspaper declaring that “we in Iraq do not pay any attention to the likes of the British Crown Prince” on the grounds that he’s “a notorious playboy well known in the cellars of the night and in *****houses throughout Europe”, which is pretty cute. In the oddest development of his career, he decided late in life he was a novelist and pumped out a bodice-ripper called Zabibah And The King, an allegory of Iraqi history in which he was the king and Zabibah was Iraq, and getting it night and day. It was, oddly enough, a bestseller in Iraq, and was subsequently turned into a musical – a real-life version of Larry Gelbart’s old joke that he hoped Hitler was alive and on the road with a musical in trouble. Saddam was very much alive and on the road with a musical, but it wasn’t in trouble. Au contraire, it did boffo biz. I would love to have seen it: the critics said it did for camels what Cats did for cats. After his third novel was published in 2002, I decided to have a go at writing a Saddam blockbuster myself. This is from Mark Steyn From Head To Toe , and seems oddly pertinent in the final hour of an evil man’s wretched life:
Following the best-selling Zabibah And The King, The Impregnable Castle, and Men And A City, we’re proud to present an exclusive sneak preview of Saddam Hussein’s fourth great allegorical romance!
Saddam is the winner of the 2002 Governor-General’s Award for Fiction for last week’s reply to the United Nations (“We hereby declare before you that Iraq is clear of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons”). An accomplished wordsmith in the tradition of Sheikh Spear, George bin Ard Shaw and Louisa May al-Cott, Saddam has given us exclusive rights to this excerpt from his forthcoming novel.
(As in his previous allegorical romance, the pliant female Zabibah represents Iraq and the stern King represents everyone’s favourite dictator.)
LAST CAMEL FROM BAGHDAD
The latest great allegorical novel by Saddam Hussein
“Aaaar-oooow! Aaaieeeeeeeeee! Neeeeeaauuueaauuuu!”
“Zabibah, baby, can you hold it down? The neighbours’ll think I’ve got a couple of Kurds clamped up to the electrodes again.”
The nubile Babylonian maiden rolled back on the pillow, shook her ebony tresses over her lush full breasts and gazed devotedly at her king. “You are a superb lover, Majesty,” she said. “The beads of sweat from your royal armpits are like nectar. The brush of your nasal hair is like cashmere. The stylish English trilby makes you look a little like Frank Sinatra on that LP you bring over when you’re not in such a hurry and the power for the Dansette is working…”
“What was that?” said the King nervously, jumping up and grabbing his pants.
“What was what, O merciless master?”
“That faint whirring sound overhead.”
“Oh, that’s just the new electric fan. Come back to bed, my savage sovereign. Unzip your merciless trousers. You’re in the no-fly zone, remember?”
“You’re right,” he said, slapping her around a little. “A woman is like a country. She needs a strong master to bend her to his will. You should be honoured that I do to you twice a week what I've been doing to Iraq for decades.”
“I had that dream again last night, master,” said Zabibah, peeling a green fig and playfully inserting it between the King’s cruel lips. “The one where I seem to be the very landscape. My proud breasts are the northern hills, my gently undulating belly is the desert, my legs are the opposing shores of the Persian Gulf, and the eternal mystery of my womanhood is the great port at Basra. And then I look up and see a strange metal bird looming over me. I feel his shadow on my hills and desert and then his undercarriage opens up and he unleashes his enormous missile to penetrate me to the very core of my being. Then I wake up drenched in perspiration. What can it mean, my lord?”
“It means American men are lousy lovers,” said the King. “They always explode on contact.” He spat the fig from his mouth and almost took her eye out.
“You know this allegory business?” she said. “You’re supposed to be Saddam and I’m supposed to be Iraq? What if that’s not right? What if I, the helpless, slightly overweight woman, am really Saddam and you, the mighty warrior, are really George W Bush? Ever thought of that, big boy?”
The King was getting that weird headache again. And anyway how come the electric fan was working? The Americans bombed the power plant last Tuesday. And Zabibah’s theory sounded awfully like that e-mail he got from Oliver Stone about the film version. Where was it again?
“Here it is,” said Zabibah, pulling it from among the rose petals floating in the shimmering ornamental pool. “I’ll read it to you:
Allegory, man! I LOVE IT!! What a book! I just read part of it all the way through. You’re Zabibah, right? You’ve been taking it from the Pentagon, the CIA, Reagan all these years? And waddaya got to show for it? See, here’s how we’ll open. It’s 1883, 1897, whatever, and Queen Victoria and Grover Cleveland are plotting how to control Mesopotamia for the entire 20th century, right? And first they figure, hey, let’s change the name to Iraq, cuz then it’ll sound like Iran, and no one’ll give a f--- what we do to it. And they’re totally out of their f---in’ heads on f---in’ opium and they go into this heavy trip where they see Dick Cheney shooting up a liquor store in Baghdad, and then he drops his pants and he’s got, like, this huge gas pump in there and he fills up his Cadillac with it, and he’s played by Gary Oldman, and you’re like his ***** and you’re whimpering, please, look, I did everything you wanted, I invaded Iran for you, please don’t hurt me more than you have to, and Queen Victoria and Grover F---in’ Cleveland are doing “Walk Like An Egyptian” by the Bangles…
“Stop it!” yelled the King, covering his ears and shattering the night silence with a piercing scream. In the hush that followed, he could just make out the loyal members of his faithful praetorian guard in the corridor saying, “Hear that? Someone’s put a knife in the old bastard” and breaking into a chorus of “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead”. “Look, Zabibah,” he said, calmly. “For the last time, this is how the allegory works: I’m Saddam and you’re Scott Ritter. No, wait…”
“Oh, it’s all coming out now,” she sneered.
“Shut up,” snapped the King. “You might be a right purdy l’il honey lyin’ there like - hang on, why am I suddenly talking in a Texan accent?” His headache was getting worse. This first draft was going nowhere. Maybe he should get some sleep, make a fresh start on Chapter One in the morning.
“Suit yourself,” said Zabibah. “Maybe you’re right. I’m a woman so I should be Iraq.” She stretched lazily on the cushions and pulled a Turkish cigarette from his hatband. “But I’m beginning to feel like a liberated woman… I am woman, hear me roar…”
“It’s not a musical!” shouted the King. But the more he covered his ears, the louder the orchestra got.
12-31-06, 06:56 AM #2
December 30, 2006
Saddam Hussein, Defiant Dictator Who Ruled Iraq With Violence and Fear, Dies
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 — 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 military’s High Value Detainee No. 1. But he heaped scorn on the Iraqi judge who referred to him as the “former” president after asking him to identify himself on the first day of his trial for crimes against humanity, which ultimately lead to his execution.
“I didn’t say ‘former president,’ I said ‘president,’ and I have rights according to the Constitution, among them immunity from prosecution,” 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 man’s life can be boiled down to one physical mark, Mr. Hussein’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. Hussein’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 Iraq’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 “Saddam, oh Saddam, you carry the nation’s dawn in your eyes.”
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, “We will stimulate ourselves by saying your name, Saddam Hussein, when we say Saddam Hussein, we stimulate ourselves.”
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 country’s population at 34 million — 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 10,000 more.
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 Iran’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 “just but firm” 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 “Zabibah and the King.”
At one point, the king asks the comely Zabibah whether the people needed strict measures from their leader. “Yes, Your Majesty,” Zabibah replies. “The people need strict measures so that they can feel protected by this strictness.”
Aside from his secret police, he held power by filling the government’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. Hussein’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 Iraq’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. Iraq’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 months later.
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 “the Mother of All Battles” his biggest victory and maintained that Iraq had actually repulsed an American attack.
“Iraq has punched a hole in the myth of American superiority and rubbed the nose of the United States in the dust,” 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 — including 20 percent Sunni Muslims, who dominated; 55 percent Shiite Muslims; 20 percent Kurds plus several tiny minorities including Christians — 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.)
“His birth was not a joyful occasion, and no roses or aromatic plants bedecked his cradle,” his official biographer, Amir Iskander, wrote in “Saddam Hussein, the Fighter, the Thinker and the Man,” published in 1981.
Mr. Hussein told his biographer that he did not miss his father growing up in an extended clan. But persistent stories suggest that Mr. Hussein’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. Hussein’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 region’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 Qusay’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 Hussein’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. Hussein’s main role while still in his early 30s was organizing the party’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 “renaissance” 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. Iraq’s state radio said the officials executed their colleagues while “cheering for the long life of the Party, the Revolution and the Leader, President, Struggler, Saddam Hussein.”
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. Hussein’s government called “The Republic of Fear,” 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. Hussein’s power.
Mr. Hussein’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 Iran’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 other’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 gruesome incident.
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 — 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. Hussein’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. Hussein’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 “burn half of Israel” if it ever acted against Iraq, even though the Israeli Air Force had humiliated the Iraqi leader by destroying his country’s nuclear research center at Osirik in June 1981.
Mr. Hussein’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 Iraq’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 “throne dwarfs” of the gulf must be overthrown so their wealth could finance the Arab cause.
His public aims resonated among many Arabs in Jordan, Yemen and elsewhere, particularly because the brutality of Mr. Hussein’s government had never been detailed by the state-controlled media of other Arab states. In addition, Mr. Hussein’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. Hussein’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 “100-hour war” made a good sound bite. Dick Cheney, then secretary of defense, warned that sending American forces to Baghdad would get them stuck in a “quagmire.”
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 crushed them.
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 Iraq’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 “full, final and complete” weapons disclosures, which the United Nations dismissed as incomplete. Some of the most extensive revelations emerged after the astonishing August 1995 defection of Mr. Hussein’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. Hussein’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 Rosť, 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. Hussein’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. Hussein’s speeches echoed Koranic texts. “In the Koran, Allah says, ‘If you thank me, I will give you more,’ ” Mr. Bazzaz said. “In the early ’90s, Saddam was on TV, presenting awards to military officers, and he said, ‘If you thank me, I will give you more.’ ”
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 — even foreign newspapers were banned — 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 minister’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. Hussein’s blood.
Evidence from inside Iraq after the invasion confirmed what United Nations weapons inspectors anticipated before — 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. Hussein’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 “Against All Enemies” 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 Laden’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 “Saddam’s Delusions: The View From the Inside.”
By 2003, Iraq’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. Hussein’s personal interpreter as saying that the president thought that his “superior” forces would put up a “heroic resistance and inflict such enormous losses on the Americans that they would stop their advance.”
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 “Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq” 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. “There are no priorities greater than expelling the infidel, criminal, cowardly occupier,” he wrote.
A Leader’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 — no Iraqis were involved — 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, “I am Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq, and I am willing to negotiate,” in halting English.
A Special Operations soldier there shot back, “President Bush sends his regards,” 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 display.
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 — 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 — “neither too smart nor too dumb, not too old nor too young” — 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. Hussein’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, “The lion does not care about a monkey laughing at him from a tree.”
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, “In 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.”
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