Hussein, in his own words

SUN JOURNAL

April 01, 2002|By Robert Ruby | Robert Ruby,SUN STAFF

Americans hear ominous news about Saddam Hussein - that his regime is striving to produce weapons of mass destruction, that it continues to bar United Nations weapons inspectors, that it may be aiding al-Qaida - but they rarely hear the Iraqi leader in his own words.

His career has followed a notably violent path. Hussein first came to the attention of his countrymen in 1959, when he was a gunman in an unsuccessful assassination attempt against a general who had recently overthrown the country's king. Hussein was 22.

In the mid-1960s, after a period of exile in Syria and Egypt, he became an interrogator and torturer for the secret police. During a long season of coups and counter-coups, he was jailed, escaped and became the architect of a brutal security force for the secular Baath Party, which seized control of the government and became his path to power. In 1979 he engineered the resignation of Iraq's president, taking the position himself.

He led a surprise attack against Iran in 1980 in hopes of lightning victory, igniting a war that lasted eight years. In the course of that war, the regime used chemical weapons against Kurdish villages near the Iranian border. In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, only to be expelled by American-led forces in 1991.

Hussein's record includes horrifying cruelties. As documented by the United Nations, human rights groups and the State Department, Iraq's security police routinely and systematically torture detainees; the techniques include branding, administering electric shocks, burning with blowtorches, dripping acid on the skin and rape.

In 2000, the agencies said, authorities began cutting out the tongues of people suspected of criticizing Hussein or his family. Iraqi authorities have beheaded women accused of prostitution or other crimes, displaying the victims' heads in front of their homes.

The government is accused of failing to account for about 16,000 people - including Kuwaitis captured during Iraq's invasion, Iranian prisoners of war and more than 10,000 Kurds. And in 2000 and 2001, security forces killed hundreds of prisoners in a "prison cleansing" to make room for more inmates, the agencies say.

Hussein's speeches seem to be from another world, where every battle has been a victory and every person is a disciple of a loving, generous president. He is florid and bombastic, a leader who became president as a determined secularist but who now cloaks himself as a man of the Quran.

What follows are excerpts from his address on Jan. 17, the 11th anniversary of the start of the Persian Gulf war, as reported by the Iraqi mission to the United Nations.

Great people, striving people: men and glorious women; high-spirited, chivalrous heroes of Arabism, nationalism and faith; brave men of Iraq in our valiant armed forces; sons of our glorious nation wherever you are, in our great homeland or in the countries of emigration; friends all over the world - peace be upon you!

Today is a day in the Grand Battle, the immortal Mother of All Battles. It is a glorious and a splendid day on the part of the self-respecting people of Iraq and their history, and it is the beginning of the great shame for those who ignited its fire on the other part. It is the first day on which the vast military phase of that battle started. Or rather, it is the first day of that battle, since Allah decreed that the Mother of All Battles continue till this day.

It was a dark night, in which everything indicated the degree of darkness that possessed the minds of the aggressors and settled in their sick souls and hearts, which are devoid of faith, culminating in their damnable malice to burn Baghdad with their bombs and rockets.

But Baghdad did not burn. It dispersed darkness with its own torches. The most important thing which Baghdad turned to for support, after turning to Allah, was the light of the torches of faith, sent out by the zeal of men from hearts full of faith and love and full of the sense of commitment to the role Allah decreed for them. ...

In spite of the wounds and bruises inflicted upon the daughter of the Arabs, the torch of light for humanity and the mother of the Iraqis, Baghdad, her face remained safe, splendid, shining, glowing with faith, healthy and unstained by dishonor or marked by shame. In addition to the badges of virtue and glory, Baghdad remained holding the orders of merit and the insignia of sublimity to the level decreed by Allah for her.

Praise belongs to Allah, whose aid we seek! Let the criminals be despised!

We said that the U.S. would be dislodged from the summit to the foot of the mountain with the first bomb it would fire against Baghdad. We said that it would not remain on the summit it had occupied before the 17th of January 1991, and it would never, after that date, be able to resume ascending to that summit again.

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