February 23, 2003

WHY WAR:

Why Saddam will never disarm: the Iraqi leader is prepared to go to any lengths to hold on to his deadly weapons (William Shawcross, February 23, 2003, The Observer)
Saddam's obsession with his WMD has deep roots at home as well as abroad. First, he sees the threat of such weapons as a means of internal control over the 60 per cent of Iraqis who are Shia. The use of chemical weapons against the Kurds in 1998 taught the Shia the dangers of revolt. In 1999 a Shia revolt in the town of Najaf was crushed by Saddam's security forces accompanied by troops in white uniforms wearing gas masks. People were terrified that Saddam was about to gas them - with the weapons that Saddam denies having and for which the UN is still vainly searching. The Shia have been mostly cowed since.

WMD also helps to keep the regular armed forces in line, according to Amatzia Baram, of the Saban Centre at the Brookings Institution in Washington. They are controlled by the Special Security Organisation, which is loyal to Saddam. This serves as a counterweight to the regular army, whose officers Saddam does not trust. The army knows his ultimate power lies elsewhere.

Abroad, the benefits seem even more obvious. Saddam believes that Iraq's victory over Iran in 19[8]8 was largely to do with Iraq's massive use of chemical weapons. He also believes that that was one of the principal reasons the Allies did not march on Baghdad in 1991. Watching the stand-off with North Korea he may have concluded that only nuclear weapons provide an unassailable deterrent.

His third incentive is his desire to become the unquestioned leader of the Arab world. His failure to seize Kuwait's oil resources in 1991 convinced him that nuclear weapons were essential. With nuclear weapons he would feel able to confront Israel in a spectacular way.


Saddam apologists here in the West tend to make a big production out of the idea that he's a secularist, a Ba'Athist, rather than an Islamicist, and so can not ever work with the likes of al Qaeda and should not be considered part and parcel of the war on terror. In his excellent profile of Saddam, Mark Bowden demonstrated why this logic is faulty, and dangerous, Tales of the Tyrant:
What does Saddam want? By all accounts, he is not interested in money. This is not the case with other members of his family. His wife, Sajida, is known to have gone on million-dollar shopping sprees in New York and London, back in the days of Saddam's good relations with the West. Uday drives expensive cars and wears custom-tailored suits of his own design. Saddam himself isn't a hedonist; he lives a well-regulated, somewhat abstemious existence. He seems far more interested in fame than in money, desiring above all to be admired, remembered, and revered. A nineteen-volume official biography is mandatory reading for Iraqi government officials, and Saddam has also commissioned a six-hour film about his life, called The Long Days, which was edited by Terence Young, best known for directing three James Bond films. Saddam told his official biographer that he isn't interested in what people think of him today, only in what they will think of him in five hundred years. The root of Saddam's bloody, single-minded pursuit of power appears to be simple vanity. [...]

Each time Saddam has escaped death-when he survived, with a minor wound to his leg, a failed attempt in 1959 to assassinate Iraqi President Abd al-Karim Qasim; when he avoided the ultimate punishment in 1964 for his part in a failed Baath Party uprising; when he survived being trapped behind Iranian lines in the Iran-Iraq war; when he survived attempted coups d'etat; when he survived America's smart-bombing campaign against Baghdad, in 1991; when he survived the nationwide revolt after the Gulf War-it has strengthened his conviction that his path is divinely inspired and that greatness is his destiny. Because his world view is essentially tribal and patriarchal, destiny means blood. So he has ordered genealogists to construct a plausible family tree linking him to Fatima, the daughter of the prophet Muhammad. Saddam sees the prophet less as the bearer of divine revelation than as a political precursor-a great leader who unified the Arab peoples and inspired a flowering of Arab power and culture. The concocted link of bloodlines to Muhammad is symbolized by a 600-page hand-lettered copy of the Koran that was written with Saddam's own blood, which he donated a pint at a time over three years. It is now on display in a Baghdad museum.

If Saddam has a religion, it is a belief in the superiority of Arab history and culture, a tradition that he is convinced will rise up again and rattle the world. His imperial view of the grandeur that was Arabia is romantic, replete with fanciful visions of great palaces and wise and powerful sultans and caliphs. His notion of history has nothing to do with progress, with the advance of knowledge, with the evolution of individual rights and liberties, with any of the things that matter most to Western civilization. It has to do simply with power. To Saddam, the present global domination by the West, particularly the United States, is just a phase. America is infidel and inferior. It lacks the rich ancient heritage of Iraq and other Arab states. Its place at the summit of the world powers is just a historical quirk, an aberration, a consequence of its having acquired technological advantages. It cannot endure.

In a speech this past January 17, the eleventh anniversary of the start of the Gulf War, Saddam explained, "The Americans have not yet established a civilization, in the deep and comprehensive sense we give to civilization. What they have established is a metropolis of force ... Some people, perhaps including Arabs and plenty of Muslims and more than these in the wide world ... considered the ascent of the U.S. to the summit as the last scene in the world picture, after which there will be no more summits and no one will try to ascend and sit comfortably there. They considered it the end of the world as they hoped for, or as their scared souls suggested it to them."

Arabia, which Saddam sees as the wellspring of civilization, will one day own that summit again. When that day comes, whether in his lifetime or a century or even five centuries hence, his name will rank with those of the great men in history. Saddam sees himself as an established member of the pantheon of great men-conquerors, prophets, kings and presidents, scholars, poets, scientists. It doesn't matter if he understands their contributions and ideas. It matters only that they are the ones history has remembered and honored for their accomplishments.


This derangement makes it obvious that Saddam need not be a believing Muslim in order to be one of the most dangerous men in the Islamic world and a de facto ally of Islamicism.

MORE:
Saddam Hussein breathes fear, lives in fear, deals in fear (RICK MONTGOMERY, 2/23/03, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 23, 2003 10:06 AM
Comments

In between their warmongering, those crazy guys in DoD have actually convinced the American intelligence community
that perhaps, just maybe, they should reconsider some of their prior assumptions on this matter. I word that as I do because so few people in the mainstream media credit this incredibly talented group working under Rumsfeld in senior positions in DoD. It is perhaps the most impressive, coherent department ever assembled. That they've managed to change another institution's thinking on intelligence simply underscores the intellectual firepower (heh) they bring to the table.



But I suppose it's okay if the NYTimes prefers to focus on Colin Powell. Keeps the spotlight of the real, important work being done.

Posted by: Kevin Whited at February 25, 2003 12:14 AM
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