The Survival of Saddam
join the discussion: What are your views on Saddam Hussein, the master survivor?  What should be the U.S.'s and world community's policy on Saddam and Iraq?
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the kurds

Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched this show in its entirety and found it incredibly eye opening. Thank you for such a thorough presentation...

For a number of years now I have been waiting for someone to come out and explain what exactly happened in the Persian Gulf in May 1987 when Iraqi pilots bombed the USS Stark. I was on my first US Navy six month cruise on the carrier Constellation and remember seeing no action but escorting ships back and forth from Diego Garcia to the mouth of the gulf.

We were not permitted ion the gulf at that time... my understanding is that it was in retaliation. Saddam found out about the arms for hostages deal - long before the American public - and felt betrayed. It would seem to correlate with your story of betrayal, yet you do not mention this incident. Not many journalists do.

What exactly happened out there and why did we do nothing at that time?

Jeff Dumas
Seattle, WA

Dear FRONTLINE,

The show was excellent!

The show was more than informative and I feel like I should take a neutral stance on the entire situation, but I probably won't. Most of the reactions to this piece are revealing that many Americans who watched or read the program are laying a large portion of the blame for the current state of the world on the US and advising Americans to have more compassion for the Arabs...

Granted the U.S. is nowhere near perfect, and the public is mostly blind to the whole truth of the atrocites being commited in other parts of the world, but putting down the government and removing our support from them can only encourage others that we are conquerable, thus endangering our homeland to a greater extent.

On the flip side, I recognize the genocide that is taking place and my heart goes out to those people. It isn't right that their lives are being destroyed by our government or theirs. It leaves us all feeling helpless.

What can we as the American people do to effectively and efficiently help? We are in a catch 22 situation. We would have to risk our own lives to end it all. And while the task is well worth the risk, where do we start? We all have a moral obligation to protect life. What we need now are solutions to do so.

It is very important to remember that the certain parts of the Middle East have grown accustom to constant turmoil. This is not an excuse to fuel the fires of war or ignore them either. It does serve as a big warning sign that the world needs to be aware that stomping out Saddam does not necessarily end the conflict. Most likely, we would just be starting the next chapter.

IE Freeman

Dear FRONTLINE,

Excellent and eye-opening as always.

No wonder our allies spy on us and don't trust our word. We have proven over and over again that we don't keep our promises and will gladly sell out allies the Kurds for example and switch sides for short-term political advantage.

Your program is proof that a housecleaning is needed at both the State Department and CIA. The arrogance of our policy makers has once again showed how little they we in the U.S. understand the Arab world.

We continue to play geo-political chess with regional despots only to pay a much greater price in the end for supporting their regimes and cleaning up the mess.

The real question to ask as a result of your program is:

How many more Saddams will the U.S. support for short-lived, olitical expedient goals and how many more messes are we going to have to clean up at a much higher cost?

David Hirsch
houston, tx

Dear FRONTLINE,

You seem to be simplifying certain things in an otherwise very nicely done program.

For example, you said paraphrasing that islamic fundamentalism was a threat to host of arab regimes at the time when saddam was emerging as a leader of iraq. but you fail to define what this 'islamic fundamentalism' is; how it came to be known as such, and most of all what is its relation to those repressive dictatorial and undemocratic regimes.

In other words, you may have your logic upside down: the so-called islamic fundamentalism did not originate prior to the rise of largely western-sponsored dictatorial regimes, rather it developed in reaction to them.

Irfan Omer
philadelphia, pa

Dear FRONTLINE,

A good program as usual,

What happened in Iraq was about cheap oil, and hundred of thousands of Iraqis were killed for it. It is not about morality, or we would have at least canceled the Russian loans, if not sent the Western armies to stop the Russian crimes in Chechnia today, as we did in Iraq yesterday.

It is not about Democracy and Human rights, or we would not have supported the Saudi government today, and Saddam yesterday.

I can understand the widespread hypocrisy in the media, but what I can not understand is the silence of the good hearted American people about the sanctions on the people of Iraq. The sanctions are a modern day Holocaust which has killed about one million Iraqi children, more than any weapon of mass destruction has done. Saddam is a criminal, but we can not blame him ... Iraqis before the UN sanctions, and even with Saddam palaces, had the best health care and nutritional status in the area, today with the sanctions only Saddam does.

Iraq is the land where civilization was born, it doesn't deserve this genocide from today's civilized countries.

Ahmad Azeem
TAMPA, FLORDA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your show was informative but unbalenced. Though you made it clear that Arabs throughout the Middle East admire and support Saddam you gave the impression that few Iraqis like him. This is not true. Recently the Iraqi opposition grudgingly admitted that Hussein has at least 51% support throughout the country.

Though you spoke of the Iraqi armies violent conflict with rebel Kurds, you failed to mention that it was the U.S. who had been arming the Kurds since 1972 - not to fight an evil Saddam who was at that time still a new Vice-President - but to foment internal instability in Iraq in concert with American financial objectives in the broader Gulf region. Thus Husseins attacks on the Kurds were really a legitimate counter-attack.


Though you mentioned the use of lethal force by the Hussein regime you failed to make clear that Shi'ite rebels in the south of Iraq have been trying, with the support of Iran, to break the country into two pieces for years. Is it not the right of an internationally-acknowledged sovereign government to try to suppress and fight an armed movement that seeks to break the county apart?? Didn't our own President Lincoln initiate and lead a war against "rebels" to "preserve the Union" that took over 300,000 lives and caused untold devestation?

Finally, do you really think it's just a coincidence that Iraq, a country adjacent to our "Vital Interests" in the Persian Gulf just happens to be ruled by a guy who is really bad and needs to be eliminated form the scene?

The truth is that Saddam Hussein, like countless other revolutionary leaders in the Middle East is being demonized because his ideas about Iraqi and Arab independence threaten the current financial arrangements in the Persian Gulf region - arrangements that have yielded the United States hundreds of billions of dollars over the years through investment, trade, weapons purchases, and more.
All these monetary dividends are put in jeapordy by a regime like Iraq's because other Arabs in the Gulf and elsewhere - bearing witness to a strong Iraq - may someday bring pressure to bear on the Suadi, Kuwaiti, and other oil-rich regimes to take their "petro-dollars" out of the U.S. and put them into Arab and Moslem states.

For those in power in the U.S the best way to prevent this scenario from taking place is to keep the American public ignorant about Iraq, the Middle East, and the outside world in general, and then to introduce Saddam Hussein as some kind of demon so we can feel OK about attacking his country, about sanctioning its people, and about trying every conceivable way to turn back the ideas and philosophy of Hussein and his million of supporters across the Middle East and beyond.

That's been the plan anyway only Saddam Hussein happens to be a really, really, smart and resourceful leader who is well aware of any and all attempts we can and will make to combat him. He is far more adept than any of his opponents in the U.S. and has devoted his life to his ideals and to Iraqi and Arab progress.

He is actually using the conflict that we have picked with him weaken our position, not only in the Middle East but on many fronts world-wide. Iraq is winning and we should acknowledge this and get out before we really lose.


MARK GERY
SANTA ANA , CAL.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I read the script of Aburish's interview and I was flabbergasted with the incompetence of the international community to let this dictator get away with his crimes again. The US policy of containing the Butcher of Baghdad is becoming ludicrous. In fact, it's total sham. The US only contained an arrogant murderer with his innocent victims in one cell. UN resolution 688 was never enforced to protect Iraqis human rights from the abuse of this ruthless tyrant.

One question I love to have an answer for! Why the leading world's powers of economy and democracy have not indicted Saddam and his thugs in absentia for their crimes of war and genocide yet?

Is Saddam less criminal than Slobadan Milsovic??!!

I wonder why?!


Saad Rashid
Manchester, UK

Dear FRONTLINE,

Some important questions were not addressed or not addressed adequately in your otherwise impressive program about Iraq's President Saddam Hussein:

1 How can the Clinton government justify the price Iraqi people are paying for US bombing and sanctions, with UN estimates of more than 1/2 million children under the age of six having died because of sanctions, and more bombs having fallen on Iraq in the last two years according to a boast by Al Gore than during the Gulf War?

2 Do the sanctions which have killed 6000 young Iraqi children a month, and the stated intention of the Clinton government to remove the head of a sovereign state, constitute violations of international law?

3 How does the unnamed source, which evidently informed your team that Iraq had unaccounted-for biological and/or chemical agents, respond to the public statement by former weapons inspector Scott Ritter that Iraq has neither significant mass destruction weaponry, nor the means to produce such weaponry, nor the means to deliver such weapons?

A terrible crime against humanity is being carried out against the people of Iraq, and this time Saddam Hussein is not at fault, unless one's view is that President Hussein and the Clinton government are working together, unwittingly or otherwise, to destroy the Iraqi civilization.

As a video producer myself, I appreciate the high quality of your work, but I urge you to look directly of what is harming the 22 million people of Iraq: It's more CLinton's sanctions than it is Saddam!


Claiborne Clark
Durham, NC

Dear FRONTLINE,

Wonderful program! I enjoyed every minute of it.

As an Iraqi American I am torn between my love for both nations. I believe the US achieved its objective in the Gulf War by setting the stage for the New World order in absence of the Soviet Union. Saddam is no longer a threat to Iraq's neighbors and will be dealt with swiftly anytime he appears to come out of his box.

But what about the Iraqi people--they seem to be removed from the formula. Who is looking after their interest? Not Saddam for sure.

Just as Saddam was not tolerated when he occupied and abused the people of Kuwait, he is at fault today with the people of Iraq. The fact that Saddam was born within the political boundaries of Iraq does not grant him a license to kill and abuse the Iraqi people. Hijacking the Presidency does not add legitimacy either. Our obsession with sovereignty sometimes defeats the purpose for which sovereignty was designed to serve. In Iraq's case the dictator is immune from punishment as long as the atrocities he commits are within Iraq's borders.

I personally have no problem with the US openly supporting Iraqis to regain their freedom. Not only should the US support the Iraqi people, the rest of the World needs to follow suit and make our world a safer place for generations to come.


Muhannad Eshaiker
Irvine, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,


While Saddam seems to be the main issue here, I'm not sure that he should be. Saddam's acts of aggresion pale in comparison to the genocidal effects of the economic sanctions on Iraq. The U.S. and UN sanctions have killed more innocent people than Saddam could ever dream of killing.

Our policy towards Iraq has only perpetuated the problems that need to be solved. From the 1980's when we supplied Iraq with weapons to the present policy of genocide through sanctions, the United States continues to elongate the catastrophe in Iraq.

The solution is simple. Immediately lift all economic sanctions. The sanctions haven't effected Saddam, but unfortunately, they have adversely effected the civilian population of Iraq.

I am ashamed to ally myself with the United States when my government knowingly sentances 100 Iraqi children to die every day simply because they view Saddam as a threat. The United States must remove its sanctions. This is the only way to end the suffering of the Iraqi people and begin to make up for a decade of the worst foreign policy decisions since Vietnam.

Wade Turley
Cedar City, Utah

Dear FRONTLINE,

I agree with the comments of David Shielly about the failure of President Bush to extend the effort the little required to have cut off Sadam's republican guard, and about the resulting losses of life for Iraqui insurgents and civilians

It is truly a shame, and an embarrassment to America that such action was not taken.

But, my criticism is of your program, for glossing over these possibilities, and distorting the events at this crucial juncture of the war. You clearly said the republican guard was safe and unreachable, and went right on to describe the difficulty of sending troops into Bagdad. This would have been true by the following day or two, but at that juncture, it was not.

I think you do the world an injustice by misreporting history this way. Are you trying to protect Bush Sr's legacy? Colin Powell's? What ungodly reason is there?

Michael Regan
hadlock, wa

Dear FRONTLINE,


I am an American of Iraqi heritage. I came to this country when Saddam was still considered a friend of the US, so I am familiar with most of what was said on the program. I should state that some of the statements made by Aburish and others contained some factual and historic inaccuracies, however, overall the program was fair in its characterization of events leading to the Gulf War and the unfolding events hence.

I for one, however, was left with the impression that there is nothing the US can do but to live with Saddam until he dies a natural death or some how by a miracle of all miracles the army would organize and mount a coup against him. I know that this is not our only option, certainly it is an immoral option.

The US Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998 and President Clinton signed it. It is the law of the land, however, the US Administration does not appear to be serious about implementing it.

In my opinion, it is the moral obligation of the US Administration to help the Iraqi Opposition in affecting change in Iraq. We must not forget that we turned our backs on the people of Iraq at the end of the Gulf War even through President Bush called for them to rise against Saddam. After 9 years of embargo, it is only the Iraqi people that are paying the price for the containment plus ėstrategyî of the US.

Why is it our moral obligation to protect Kosovars against the Yugoslavian army and Milosevic, and not when we are dealing with Iraqis and their continued suffering at the hand of a monster we helped create?


Azzam Alwash
Long Beach, California

Dear FRONTLINE,

Saddam Quietly Sharpens His Sword

As the world blames the U.S. and UN sanctions for the hardships on the Iraqi people, Saddam spends money which could be used to buy food and medicine for his people on weapons.

The more he allows his people to suffer, the more he can blame the United States and sanctions.

Saddam has always had one goal, to make Iraq a world power, a power to be feared. He has
purchased 1500 cooling systems from Ukraine for Iraq's T-55's and T-72's main battle tanks. Iraq also produces its own
main battle tank, a T-72 Russian copy called the lion of Babylon.

Since 1995 Iraq has been purchasing missile guidance systems from Russian. These were sold as scarp metal.
Has more than 13 different type of cruise missiles, four of which it produces. The FAW 70, Faw
150, FAW 200 and ABABIL.

Iraq has signed a $480 million deal with Russia to upgrade their SA-3 systems and buy SA-10's.
Iraq may have also have acquired Tamara, an advanced CZECH air defense system, which shoots down aircraft without the use of radar.

Missile program Badar 2000, a two stage , solid fueled missile intended to carry a 450 kg payload to
a range of 900 km.
After observing North Korea activities, Iraq most likely purpose a three stage Taepo Dong -2 approach to an ICBM or SLV, which could deliver a several hundred kilogram payload to parts of the U.S. If Iraq purchase this missile from North Korea it could have an operational missile in months
UNSCOM found Iraq had smuggled enough production chemicals to produce 200 tons of VX nerve agent. That's enough to kill every man, women and child on the face of the earth.. It was reported Jewish News Bulletin,
March 19, 1999.

Syria will be selling about $100 million in military equipment to Iraq.
Not to mention Iraq's chemical and biological programs, new Land Forces such as the Special
Republican Guard, forced conscription. Funds used for military training.
Saddam uses the hardships his peoples endures as a rallying cry against the U.S.

I could go on,but it would be pointless.
Sources:
National Intelligence Council
Foreign Missile Developments and Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States Through
2015 Sept.1999
Center for Nonproliferation Studies
Russian Missile Technology Sold to Iraq as Scrap
Eksport Obychnykh Vooruzheniy no.8-9 16-17 Sept.1997 pp.33-37
Countries with Emerging Cruise Missile Capabilities
on line at http://www.cdiss.org/tabled.htm
STRAFOR.COM
Iraqi Armored Battalions Beat the Heat
Has Iraq Boosted Its Air Defense ?
Russia helping Iraq Upgrade Air Defenses
Stratfor.com on line

stephen hughes
salt lake city, utah

Dear FRONTLINE,

well done and an enjoyable piece about a man and a country where accurate information seem hard to substantiate.

I find it ironic that more weight wasn't placed on the catalyst for all of this tension, namely the power of petrol in the world economy specifically the U.S. I think the faster automakers adopt a non- compustible engine, the sooner the U.S can forget about a country that would otherwise harbor no interest for them - and a country and a region that would bankrupt very quickly given their military industrial complex.

If this were the case nine years ago im sure we would be sitting here with saddam in a presidetial palace in downtown Kuwait.

dave osinga
kelowna, british columbia

Dear FRONTLINE,

The quality of the program on Saddam's survival was in keeping with your usual high standards. The scenes of members of his inner core beating, and ultimately murdering, their enemies were as revolting as the disclosure that this demonic fool wears a bullet proof straw boater was laughable in its pathetic irony.

Where I felt your effort fell short was in failing to address the strategic reasoning behind our policy towards his regime.

The desire to see that no further disruption to the flow of oil from the region was, and is, a primary tenent of our policy, however, it is not alone.

First; Our fear of Islamic fundamentalists in Iran cannot be discounted. These, after all, are the people who not only dealt the US the humilitation of watching 44 of our citizens held in bondage for over a year but whose leadership -- especially in the period in question -- professed an undying hatred of US dominated western civilization. Had the United States led forces continued their irresistable assault and succeeded in destroying the remainder of Hussein Army, it would have faced the harrowing choice of becoming an Army of occupation, or, even worse, permitting a vacum of military power to exist which the Iranians may very well have capitalized on.

The spectre of a regional superpower controlling the combined landmass and resources of Iran and Irage being run from Tehran was apparently more frightening than leaving Irag in position where they could still maintain its self defense.

Secondly; In the matter of the Kurds. You must recall as the Gulf War was being played out while the after shocks of the collapse of the USSR were still reverberating. Where would it end? Would assisting the Kurds in their drive for autonomy only spur other ethnic groups to seek the same freedoms? And how would our staunch NATO ally Turkey, respond to their own large Kurdish population's desire to see themselves reunited with their breathren in a newly unified Kurdistan? They would certainly not look kindly on the US for providing a real world example of the possibility of such a dream becoming a reality.

Our political leadership, both then and now, have chosen a policy which does not solve either of these potential problems. Rather it epitomizes the evils of resorting to the zero sum game mentality of realpolitik.


Michael Shannon
bradenton, fla

Dear FRONTLINE,

Saddam is a scapegoat for the U.S. He permits America to establish and maintain a strong military and econmic force in the middle east. This allows the United States to influence oil prices for America and the rest of the world.

Saddam will be in power until there is someone else just as menacing available to take his place. In short, a distraught, weak middle east means lower oil prices for the U.S. Advantage U.S.

ish osta
jacksonville, florida

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