Iraq Survey Group Final Report
How Saddam Saw His Subordinates
Mining Respect and Expertise
Saddam recognized and respected talent and public esteem in individual subordinates and area experts, but not to the point where they could contradict his goals, power or his judgment. He worked systematically to extract what they could contribute to the Regime, while keeping them politically isolated. Saddam was careful to keep subordinates from gaining popularity.
- According to ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid, “If some person makes good work and gets the admiration of . . . the Ba’thists, he does not keep that person . . . he never let an official admired by the Iraqis [stay] in the same position for more than three years.”
Mutuality of Fear
Saddam feared that his subordinates could gather enough strength to challenge his position, or even a particular policy, and he acted to prevent it. He was routinely suspicious of subordinates—even those with long standing loyalty. His subordinates remained fearful of him, and they were incapable of common action against him or key policies.
- Tariq ‘Aziz said that he opposed the invasion of Kuwait, but could not dissuade Saddam. Asked why he did not resign in protest, he denied he thought he would be killed, but said, “ . . . there would be no income, no job.” Tariq ‘Aziz denied Saddam killed anyone personally while President. “But he would tell the security services to take care of things [dissenters], and they would take care of it.”
- Ramadan believed that from late 2002, Iraqi policy toward the UN and the United States was taking the Regime toward a disastrous war, but he said, “I couldn’t convince Saddam that an attack was coming. I didn’t try that hard. He was monitoring my performance in managing [UN] inspectors.”
- ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh was sacked as Minister of Industry in 1988 after a clash with Husayn Kamil and was ostracized for nine years. He believed he only avoided prison because of Ramadan’s intervention with Saddam. According to Huwaysh, no minister ever argued in meetings against Saddam’s stated position because it “ . . . was unforgivable. It would be suicide.”
- ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid said he feared Saddam and cited the killing of many people close to Saddam as the basis of his fear.
- Huwaysh said Saddam “loved the use of force.”
- Fear worked both ways. At Saddam’s “one-on-one” weekly meetings with individual heads of security agencies, he would always be accompanied by a bodyguard, according to Hamid Yusif Hammadi, Minister of Culture and Information. “Saddam did not trust anyone, even his cousin.”
- Nevertheless, Saddam said he believed “Good personal relations bring out the best in people.”
Dazzled by Science
Saddam was awed by science and inspired by the possibilities it offered for national development and military power. Saddam had an enthusiastic attitude toward science dating back to when, in the early 1970s, he found himself in charge of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) as part of his responsibilities as Vice President. Saddam venerated Iraq’s history as a center of scientific achievement under individuals like the famous mathematician and astronomer Ibn Al Haytham (c. 965 AD—c. 1040 AD). He retained a respect for many aspects of science to the end, but became less interested in detail and more detached from developments in Iraq’s scientific infrastructure.
- Deputy Prime Minister ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh believed Saddam had “a special affection for his nuclear scientists” from the inception of the Iraqi nuclear program in the 1970s.
- ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid noted Saddam’s expansion of the university system “ . . . to the point of [having] a university in every governorate of the country.”
- Saddam kept three scientific advisers on his staff: ‘Amir Hamudi Hasan Al Sa’adi, former deputy director at MIC, who held that position since 1994, ‘Amir Muhammad Rashid Al ‘Ubaydi, the former Minister of Oil, and Ja’far Diya’ Ja’far Hashim, former head of PC-3.
“A Man Can Be Destroyed, But Not Defeated”
Ernest Hemingway, “The Old Man and the Sea”
Saddam’s fondness for certain examples of Western culture was highly selective and did not reflect a sophisticated awareness of Western cultural values or motivations. Saddam—not unlike other dictators throughout history—fixed upon foreign cultural examples to reinforce his view of himself and his own behavior, not to moderate it through the development of a broader, global or more inclusive perspective. One of Saddam’s favorite books is Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea, the Nobel Prize-winning story of one man—Santiago, a poor Cuban fisherman—and his struggle to master the challenges posed by nature. Saddam’s affinity for Hemingway’s story is understandable, given the former president’s background, rise to power, conception of himself and Hemingway’s use of a rustic setting similar to Tikrit to express timeless themes. In Hemingway’s story, Santiago hooks a great marlin, which drags his boat out to sea. When the marlin finally dies, Santiago fights a losing battle to defend his prize from sharks, which reduce the great fish, by the time he returns to his village, to a skeleton. The story sheds light on Saddam’s view of the world and his place in it.
The parallels that Saddam may have drawn between himself and Santiago were in their willingness to endure suffering and hardship to prove a point and in their willingness to inflict pain on the victims of their struggles to accomplish their objectives. Saddam’s rise to “greatness” is marked by jail and exile, as well as violence. Saddam tended to characterize, in a very Hemingway-esque way, his life as a relentless struggle against overwhelming odds, but carried out with courage, perseverance and dignity. Certainly in the context of the “Mother of All Battles”—his name for the 1991 Gulf War—and his subsequent struggle against UN sanctions, Saddam showed a stubbornness arising from such a mindset and a refusal to accept conventional definitions of defeat. Much like Santiago, ultimately left with only the marlin’s skeleton as the trophy of his success, to Saddam even a hollow victory was by his reckoning a real one.
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