Frontline interview with author Said K. Aburish
- I don't think
there was any Arab in the '70s who did not want Saddam Hussein to have
an atomic weapon. They wanted him to have military parity. Israel had
atomic weapons. The Arabs wanted an Arab country to have atomic weapons.
Iraq was the head of the pack and therefore all Arabs supported Saddam
Hussein. I have news for you: I don't think there are many Arabs at
this moment in time -- you can exclude me out of this statement at this
moment in time -- who do not want Saddam Hussein to have an atomic weapon
now. They don't look at it as weapons of mass destruction. They look
at it as transfer of technology. That the Arabs have done it, the Arabs
have joined the modern world. That's the way they see it. And that pleases
them. The fact that Saddam Hussein eliminates people, kills innocent
men, uses a chemical weapon against his own people, is actually in a
way secondary to this image. The Iraqi people are concerned with the
latter. They suffer because of the latter. But the Arab people outside
of Iraq do not suffer because Saddam Hussein eliminates people, because
he doesn't eliminate them. He eliminates Iraqis.
- I think Saddam
and the United States very often have a commonality which bonds them
together and that is simply this: That without Saddam Hussein, Iraq
would disintegrate into several countries and make more trouble for
the rest of the Middle East. I know no Iraqi who believes that -- whether
Sunni, Shia or Kurd. The American administration believes that however,
and Saddam Hussein believes that. When the rebellion started against
Saddam in 1991, that danger loomed. The United States helped Saddam
crush that rebellion.
- I think where
we go from here is to make a deal directly with the Iraqi people. The
only salvation for Iraq and for Western policy towards Iraq is to make
a direct deal with the Iraqi people, openly. To tell the people who
guarantee Saddam's continuance that they would not suffer if there is
a change in the regime. To tell the Iraqi people that they would have
more to eat and more medicine. To tell the Sunnis that they would not
suffer under the Shias. To ask the neighbors not to interfere in Iraq.
To give them an incentive to get rid of the man.
- Saddam Hussein
is now the only Arab leader who has a following outside his own country.
. . . Saddam Hussein is standing up to the West. He has survived for
nine years. He is a hero. He is not winning. But the mere fact that
he survives, that he continues, is enough to make him a hero. And people
like it. They don't live under Saddam Hussein, so they don't suffer
from his actions the way the Iraqi people suffer. All they see is the
fact that he is standing up to the West, and they like that.
- He lives by
virtue of the Iraqi people's fear. Once that fear is removed, the Iraqi
people will move against him, as they have in the past moved against
other dictators successfully, even ones who were very, very closely
protected by their followers.