The last days of Saddam Hussein

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Are the Iraqi opponents warmongers? How could they be, if they used to be the first victims of Saddam’s thirst for absolute power? Are they advocating what is called in the press “an invasion” of their country by foreign powers? This is quite dubious. I heard on the BBC one of them saying that he knew absolutely not of any “invasion”. Are they ready to fight Saddam in the streets if necessary? The answer is yes; they are, if they get assistance and help. Can they hold the struggle long enough to bring the collapse of the regime? They do, if they are supported. Who may support them and how? The West can do with weapons and training and logistic assistance. What about their own compatriots inside Iraq? They may give them support too, if they are convinced. What may convince them? Maybe their own pains and desire to get rid of the regime. Are the opponents credible? They may be: the Baath party has not always ruled their country. Before that, there used to be numerous political parties in Iraq, under the monarchy. What if the opposition fails? That would not be worse than the current situation. What if Saddam succeeds in gathering a huge popular support if attacked? Then the Iraqi people would deserve their ruler. Then what? Twenty other years of blockade and U.N. inspections and all the following restrictions.

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There is certainly a wide, deep, obvious divergence between the viewpoint of the Iraqi opposition, which naturally and comprehensively appeals to ending the plight of the Iraqi people in overthrowing the dictator and thus getting rid once and for all of his horrid regime, and those in the West who naturally and comprehensively reject the foreign military intervention out of fear for their own safety. We do not need to be fervent admirers of Mr. Bush to see that his radical “medicine” é if it is to be carried out- would fit definitely the first party (the Iraqi opposition, that is) while increasing the security apprehensions of some of his fellow-citizens as regards the possible terrorist retaliations against America and its allies. But “you cannot make an omelette without breaking some eggs”, says the old dictum.

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Everybody would concede anyway that these are well the last days of Saddam Hussein. When we look at the situation in Iraq, which can only be depicted as catastrophic at all levels; we wonder just how has he been able to survive so far? And the only possibly logical answer that looms in this dark horizon may be summarized in a single word: Fear.

I do not mean the fear he suggests to his people; this is obvious, for he would not have lasted in power without the horror architecture he had built in his country. I mean rather the fear that is nourishing him, the fear that is fuelling him and acting onto his mind and body like a veritable drug. That kind of fear is not known to everybody. It is something special to which the dictator grew, day in day out, addicted. It is that idiosyncratic element of his own character that is now trapping Saddam and making of him the hostage of his mistakes. It is what the psychoanalysts call: paranoia.

Without his deeply anchored paranoia, would Saddam have slaughtered his political opponents, gassed his people, triggered an 8 years-long war with Iran, invaded Kuwait, then backed down, accepted the UN resolutions, and bowed to his enemies?

His paranoia evolved from the simple fear to lose power for the profit of his rival comrades of the Baath party é some of whom had been “accidentally” or coldly killed-, to the fear for his own life, as he rejected two generous offers to end the struggle honorably: the first from President Hosni Mubarak some years ago, and the second from the Emir of Qatar recently. Both leaders offered him the political refuge in their countries, as a way to prevent war. But he turned down the offer because he did not believe he would be really safe.

Saddam has never hesitated to sacrifice even his own followers, as a mean to allay his fear. And if he appears in the Iraqi modern political mythology as a fierce and tough man, there is no doubt about his psychological fragility as all paranoiac and psychopathic characters are.

Being trapped in his obsessional fears, Saddam é like any serial killer- would necessarily clutch to them rather than yield to the advices of those among the Arab leaders who try to prevent what they deem to be a tragic and  avoidable war.

Anyway, he has gone too far to come back. He knows é a serial killer is not necessarily a dull unintelligent personage- that it is not his people that is wanted but himself. He knows also that having played all his cards, his game is theoretically over. Even if he bows again to the UN inspectors and allows them to humiliate him over and over é for that’s the way he certainly feels the inspection-, he knows that he is no longer the unique master of the Iraqi people. And if following a last start of pride (vanity of a dictator, that is), he would challenge again the international community- which he likely consider as responsible for this “unfair” molestation of his rule-, he knows he would be the target of the US warfare machine- maybe that of a new coalition.

Thus, in both issues, it will be the end.

Hichem Karoui is a writer and journalist living in Paris, France.

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