Thursday, February 6
Why Hussein sees history on his side
Scott Peterson,The Christian Science Monitor, February 6, 2003 (edition)
AMMAN, JORDAN – Gambling yet again with his rule, his life, and the fate of one of the most powerful nations in the Middle East, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein appears unfazed by the rising pressure brought to bear by the United States.
Almost nightly on Iraqi television Mr. Hussein calmly waves a Cuban cigar, exhorts his generals to prepare for war, and denies the existence of weapons of mass destruction.
Hussein is an inveterate survivor. [...]
[...] Born dirt-poor and unwanted in a Tikrit backwater village, Hussein was able to violently claw his way out of an abused childhood to the top of the ruling Baath Party.
He has survived numerous coup and assassination attempts, a devastating war with Iran in the 1980s, and then took on the US and UN in the 1991 Gulf War. He further survived a widespread, postwar rebellion, followed by more than a decade of sanctions that have impoverished his oil-rich nation.
"We may look at [the current US build-up] and say they odds are really long, and Saddam's answer would be: 'I've been doing this all my life,' says Mr. Krepinevich.
In his first television interview since 1990, which aired on the BBC Tuesday, Hussein said that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction nor any link to Al Qaeda.
The CIA assessed last fall, in fact, that Iraq posed little threat if unprovoked.
But the agency determined that any conflict that sought regime change was likely to result in Hussein's use of any remaining chemical or biological weapons against US forces and Israel.
Hussein is "not a martyr," and "has this funny kind of optimism," says Jerrold Post, a political psychologist and former US government analyst at George Washington University, who has focused on profiling Hussein for some 15 years.
A formative moment was the 1991 war, which was widely cast in the West as a decisive defeat for Iraq. For Hussein, surviving meant a coveted international role. Palestinians cheered from rooftops as Iraqi Scud missiles struck the Israeli capital; an Arab leader was standing up to the US and its close Jewish ally.
"He was filled with dreams of glory, to follow in the path of Saladin and liberate Jerusalem from the Crusaders ... to be a hero of the Arab world," says Mr. Post. "This was an explosion of narcissism for him. [...]