Saddam Hussein (1937-2006)

s\Saddam Hussein

Saddam began his political career seeing himself as a social revolutionary and a modernizer, similar to Egypt's secular leader Gamul Abdul Nasser, and with a touch of Stalin, whom he is said to have admired. Saddam was a Baathist. Baathists were socialists of a sort who were opposed to communists. Baathists were Pan Arab socialists or national socialists. Nasser was a Pan Arab. He didn't want unity with Syria's Baathists, which would have meant a loss of power.

Islamic conservatives had disliked Nasser's secularism, and they disliked Hussein's. Saddam's government offered women more freedoms that conservatives liked, and he offered them high-level government and industry jobs. Saddam created a Western-style legal system, making Iraq the only country in the Persian Gulf region not ruled according to traditional Islamic law (Sharia). Saddam abolished the Sharia law courts, except for personal injury.

Saddam Hussein went to war against Iran, a war that lasted eight years. It was not a war he had to fight, and his war bankrupted his country. Then, to pay the country's debts and acquire more wealth, he acted on an old Iraqi claim to oil rich Kuwait. He conquered Kuwait. This was followed by a war between Iraq and a coalition of nations, including the United States. He was driven from Kuwait and many died, but he presented it to the Iraqi people as a victory. The war ended with his agreeing to conditions set by the United Nations,among which was the destruction of certain kinds of weapons. Apparently he destroyed those weapons, but rather than do it with United Nations observers he did it surreptitiously. He did not want his old enemy Iran to see him militarily weak. He failed to choose well between unpleasant alternatives. He chose to continue his posturing of military strength vis-à-vis Iran. He chose not to rely on membership in a community of nations for defense against Iran's military.

Saddam Hussein believed that brutality was a necessary ingredient in the exercise of political power. He made vehement enemies and to survive he had to keep his enemies in mind.

A bad gambler is overly optimistic and poor at evaluating opportunities. Saddam had been overly optimistic and insufficient in his calculations, beginning with his war against Iran, including his claim that he would be in Teheran in three days. He miscalculated in believing that the world would let him expand into Kuwait.

In 2003 he expected not a ground-force invasion againsts him. He expected a few days of aerial attack similar to Operation Desert Fox in 1998, which his regime could survive. When it became clear that the US was going to invade he hoped for a successful guerrilla war.

While a prisoner he wrote poetry.

He told FBI agent George Piro that he considered Osama bin Laden a fanatic and that bin Laden had been a threat to him and his regime.

He told Piro (who was interviewed on Sixty Minutes) that he was going to his death satisfied that he had had a long and good life. Along with this satisfaction he went to his death cursing his old enemy Iran, cursing "traitors" and the power foremost responsible for his demise: the United States. 

Copyright © 2007-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.