Sunday, March 23
If absolute power corrupts absolutely, does absolute powerlessness make you pure?
--Harry Shearer

It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.
--David Brin (1950 - )

You see what power is - holding someone else's fear in your hand and showing it to them!
--Amy Tan (1952 - )


Saddam mystery deepens
Paul McGeough , The West Australian, March 24, 2003

BAGHDAD--IN THE face of punishing United States-led attacks, the Iraqi regime is in crisis, denying proof of the invading forces' rapid advance towards Baghdad and dodging questions about the whereabouts and health of Saddam Hussein.

British newspapers reported yesterday that Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Cabinet ministers had been briefed by intelligence chiefs that Mr Saddam was injured and needed a blood transfusion when his bunker was hit in the first allied air strikes on Iraq.

The Sunday Telegraph quoted an intelligence official as saying: "Unfortunately, he (Saddam) was not critically injured. We think he is still alive. We also think his (eldest) son, Uday, was killed or badly injured in the attack."

The newspaper said US officials claimed that another of Mr Saddam's relatives, Ali Hassan al-Majid - known as Chemical Ali for his involvement in the infamous 1988 Halabja chemical weapons attacks that killed 5000 Kurds - had been killed.

Centre-left London newspaper the Independent reported yesterday that Mr Blair and his ministers had been told intelligence believed Mr Saddam might have been killed in the first allied strikes.

Coalition commander US Army Gen. Tommy Franks said in Doha, Qatar, he had no idea whether Mr Saddam was alive or where he might be.

As a wearied Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri was reduced yesterday to travelling by taxi to Damascus, in neighbouring Syria, to pitch a plea for Arab assistance, Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al Sahaf held a midnight press conference on a Baghdad kerbside at which he insisted that the regime was in full control of Iraq.

Mr Sahaf is the only member of Mr Hussein's tight inner circle to be seen in public since the strike on Thursday on a bunker in which the CIA believes Mr Saddam and five others were taking cover.[...]

Breaching Saddam's inner circle
Divide, conquer is U.S. strategy
Dana Priest and Walter Pincus, Washington Post, March 22, 2003

In an intensified effort to divide Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from his inner circle, U.S. military and intelligence officers in recent days have communicated with some Iraqi commanders and have secretly designated buildings in Baghdad for defectors to occupy, promising they will not be targeted by U.S. airstrikes, U.S. officials said Friday.

"There are lots of people, all trying to give the Iraqi commanders options and ways to end the resistance," one senior U.S. official said.

U.S. officials said they still don't know the results of the Thursday bombing of a compound in south Baghdad where U.S. intelligence believed Saddam and his two sons were spending the night. But they said there are signs that the government and its senior leadership are under unprecedented internal pressure, even if those in the bunker survived the attack by Tomahawk cruise missiles and two 2,000-pound bunker-busting bombs.[...]

Psychological warfare

"Saddam is obsessed with his own security and spares no expense, including his own time and attention, to ensure his safety," said Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst who has written a book on Iraq. Saddam has employed separate rings of bodyguards and security service personnel, many of whom are members of his clan and are sworn to protect him.

Pollack said Friday that the airstrike on the bunker, "even if it did not hurt him, probably did a lot of damage in a psychological sense."

He said the Iraqi leader normally prepares five or six locations where he plans to stay for the evening and then chooses one only at the last minute. For the United States to have found where he was, Pollack said, "meant either that there was a spy in his entourage or a new American technical means of monitoring him." [...]

Inside Saddam's Head
Other dictators have known when to flee. Why did the Iraqi ruler stand his ground?


Mar. 23, 2003: Saddam Hussein—supposing that was he on the grainy videotape aired last week barely three hours after the opening salvo intended to kill him—hardly seemed himself. Pictured alone in a cramped makeshift studio, the dictator, 65, looked shaken and tired, his face puffy behind big spectacles he rarely wears in public. His words, rambling and repetitive, were read from scribbled notes on a large pad held in a hand more often seen brandishing a rifle.

During nearly 24 years in power, Iraq's strongman never seemed to believe he might face a moment like this. He has always been preternaturally good at dispatching his enemies before they could get to him. And he plans ahead. Beneath the opulent marble palaces from which he has ruled, he built deep concrete bunkers reinforced with steel, stocked with weapons and linked to underground escape tunnels— [...]

How did Iraq's tenacious leader arrive at this pass? Saddam, after all, built a spectacular career out of survival. Perhaps his luck simply ran out: in the current President Bush, he may have met an adversary even more single-mindedly determined than he is. [...] He could have saved himself by giving up political power. Other modern strongmen staring at a similar fate, from the Shah of Iran to Congo's Mobutu Sese Seko, have done it, and Saddam was suspected of stashing away enough secret wealth to make it easy. But he did not, and the reasons lie very much in his own biography.

War was surely not Saddam's choice. He played his diplomatic cards as cunningly as he could to avoid it. But that was as far as he could go. [...]

... Still, some experts suggest that Saddam might have entertained the option of going underground like Osama bin Laden so that his shadow would continue to make Iraq quake.

But the experts generally believe that for Saddam, power is everything and death is a better alternative than losing it.

Any other outcome, says Phebe Marr, a former Pentagon consultant and author of a book on Iraq, would destroy the monumental myth Saddam has spent his life creating. "His legacy would disappear." Iraq is Saddam, he likes to say, and Saddam is Iraq. He has been a ruler, says Coughlin, who "has always had one eye on history." He has longed for his name to go down in Arab history alongside those of the culture's great heroes, like Nebuchadnezzar, who drove the Jews into Babylonian captivity, and Saladin, who retook Jerusalem from the Christian Crusaders. He wanted to fulfill the modern-day promise of Egypt's great nationalist Gamal Abdul Nasser, restoring Arab unity and the greater Arab nation to its rightful place in the world. In recent years the standard-bearer of secular Baathism even turned to prayer to exploit Islamic ardor, building gigantic mosques and lacing his speeches with the language of jihad.

That great need for the most dramatic of legacies, U.S. war planners fear, might make Saddam choose not only death but a Samsonian version of it: the dictator, as psychiatrist Post imagines it, "lashing out with all the resources at his disposal." President Bush must agree, which is why he sent those bombs crashing into Saddam's bunkers, hoping to get Saddam before he could bring down Armageddon on anyone else.

—Reported by Douglas Waller and Adam Zagorin/Washington, Aparisim Ghosh and Helen Gibson/London, Bruce Crumley/Paris, Scott MacLeod/Cairo and Simon Robinson/Nairobi

From the Mar. 31, 2003 issue of TIME magazine


DRUDGE Report: March 23, 2003
MEDIA BOOMERANG: 6-minute video which beamed on Sunday showed mankind at its most animal...

The microphone reads "IRAQ TV." The screen shows supposed stock market arrows. The station is Al-Jazeera, a mock of Ted Turner's CNN. And on Sunday satellite news turned nightmare as Arab television aired footage of dead American soldiers, some sprawled in a room, and interviews with five U.S. prisoners.

Turner, who once bragged how the invention of all-news global TV brought on the fall of communism at the end of the Cold War, must now be taking a pause at this all-news boomerang.[...]
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