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The Survival of Saddam
Principality of Stones (Chapter 12) [From Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge  by Said K. Aburish, published January  2000  by  Bloomsbury;  copyright Bloomsbury Excerpted with permission of Bloomsbury US]
the kurds

cover of aburish's book Once again, the only realistic prospect of ridding Iraq and the rest of the world of Saddam, rested exclusively on possible moves by the Army or the will of an individual assassin. This was what the USA wanted, a pliant colonel or a killer, but organizing either eluded it. Individual officers and small groups acting on their own plotted Saddam's overthrow time and again, but the task proved beyond them. Some of these plots were Saddam inventions, excuses to rid himself of potential sources of trouble' but two serious attempts were made during 1991 and Saddam's motorcade was ambushed in 1992. To the knowledgeable- Dr Heidar Abbas the reason for the plots' failures is clear: the maximum number of people who could meet and plan anything without rousing suspicion was three. But there was another reason too: officers do not change the government of their country when it is under siege by outside powers and when the institution to which they belong, the Iraqi Army, is being attacked by these outside forces.

Aware of the real danger to his position, Saddam tightened his grip on the Army and security apparatus immediately after the Gulf War. The system of commissars and party informers within the Army was effective, but among Saddam's first acts in 1992 was the creation of the Golden Division or Special Republican Guard. This new privileged army within the bigger privileged Republican Guard was expanded, paid higher salaries and accorded priority over normal mortals even in getting food and prescription drugs. Saddam's new creation bridged the gap between the regular Army and the security apparatus; the main task of the Special Republican Guard was to work with the Special Security to protect Saddam, and together they became the Organization of Special Security (OSS).

In addition to his new, expanded OSS he imposed greater family control on the various elements of the Army and security apparatus. His half-brother Watban was made Minister of the Interior, while his second half-brother Sabawi was made head of his private office and given special security duties which eventually elevated him to head of the mukhabarat. Son Udday's duties were expanded dramatically: this semi-literate was made head of the journalists' syndicate and editor of the newspaper Babel in addition to his job with the Olympic Committee chores, and briefly he was made head of National Security. Cousin Ali Hassan A1 Majid (All Chemical) was made Minister of Defence, while Saddam's son-in-law Hussein Kamel already held the post of Minister of Industry and Military Industrialization and his brother, Saddam's second son- in-law Saddam Kamel, headed a mysterious section in the security department. The prize position eventually went to Saddam's more thinking son Qussay, who was put in charge of the OSS and presided over the merger of Special Security and the Special Republican Guard. Of course, half-brother Barazan, the diplomat/conspirator, was in Geneva overseeing what money remained in Swiss banks from the now defunct Committee for Strategic Development. These funds were used to take care of the family and perpetuate its hold on power.

Except for Saddam's son Qussay and his half-brother Barazan the family group made for a most unimpressive collection of people, but their exalted positions had nothing to do with talent. In fact the other members resembled a mafia family. They stole and looted when the Iraqis occupied Kuwait. Their homes contained valuable Kuwaiti Persian rugs, gold fittings and fixtures and even furniture, not to speak of the dozens of Kuwaiti cars including Ferraris in Udday's garages. Furthermore, the state of dual siege provided Udday and Hussein Kamel with an opportunity to profit from the ensuing conditions. Udday struck an alliance with the Palestinian terrorist Abul Abbas, who had past connections with the Russian mafia, and the two created an elaborate smuggling organization. Udday and Abul Abbas supplied the Russians with drugs from the Middle East and as far away as Colombia. Udday also got involved in selling on the open market and in Jordan some of the food and medicine given Iraq by humanitarian organizations. Hussein Kamel too was involved in smuggling and the MIMI, still the recipient of precious funds and trying to continue the unconventional weapons programme, yielded him a considerable income in kickbacks.

Saddam himself was surrounded by one of the tightest security protection systems in modern history. The system of doubles blossomed and Saddam had no fewer than eight of them which, amusingly and more frequently, allowed him to be in several places at the same time. But it was when receiving visitors that the extent and madness of it all was exposed. The procedure of driving Saddam's visitors around in a car with blackened windows remained, and it was done for several hours so that the visitors lost all sense of direction. After they had arrived at a palace unknown to them they were strip-searched. This was followed by medical examination to detect what they might have swallowed - perhaps an explosive. Then their fingerprints and photographs were taken. Even then, they were transferred to another place for the meeting

The office in which visitors met Saddam was always equipped with secret cameras and recorders. The cameras were focused on Saddam's handsome side, and the people in charge of them faced the prospect of execution if they inadvertently showed the President in a bad way. Nobody was allowed to speak except in response to what Saddam said, and then only briefly unless encouraged to continue by the leader. Visitors only sat down after Saddam sat down, sipped their hospitality drink after he did and never budged from the position they occupied when they entered Saddam's office - the one he selected for them. They did not cross their legs or move their hands and maintained a rigid, uncomfortable position. They addressed Saddam as 'Hero-President' or 'Master' but never simply as 'Mr President' or, as in the past, with the traditional Arab 'Abu Udday' (father of Udday). The meetings ended at Saddam's pleasure and the departure procedure, naturally walking backwards, duplicated the one which had to be endured before arriving. No visitor ever knew where he or she had been, and a five-minute meeting with Saddam took a whole day to implement.

The combination of a pervasive all-seeing security system and strict precautions allowed the family to continue in its hideous ways and prompted Saddam to brag, 'I know a person who betrays before he does. Hundreds of people perished during this period, most without knowing that they had betrayed Saddam - because they had not. Thousands suffered detention and humiliation for belonging to political parties, for the suspicion that they belonged to parties or for being related, even distantly, to people who had an association with parties. Ordinary people fared much better than suspect army officers, clerics and members of the bureaucracy, because Saddam expected undivided loyalty from these groups and deemed them dangerous.

Baghdad province commander Omar Mohammed was executed for reasons no one can fathom and so was General Barek Abdallah, one of the heroes of the war with Iran. Religious leaders Abdel Aziz Al Badri, Aref Al Basri, Mohammed Al Sahi, Ali Al Azzouni, Hassan Shirazi and many others were executed. Dr. Raja Al Tikriti - as the name suggests, a fellow townsman of Saddam's - who became Minister of Health offended Udday so much that he was given to a bunch of starving dogs which ate him. In fact, despite Tikriti supremacy, more of that town's residents than outsiders suffered at the hands of Saddam, simply because many of them occupied sensitive positions which put them in harm's way. When Finance Minister Hikmat Hadithi refused to transfer to Udday's personal account money desperately needed to feed people, Saddam told him never to forget that 'Udday was his master', denied him the use of his official car and made him walk home. When it came to acting with utter craziness, the family was determined to stretch the limits of human credibility. Saddam's son Ali, the son of Samira Shabandar and still only a child, took to parading with units of the Special Republican Guard, and soldiers saluted him. And there was a nineteen-volume publication called The Life and Struggle of Saddam Hussein which the more ambitious members of the Iraqi bureaucracy had to read. Meanwhile, government departments were running short of paper for official use.

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