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Of all the adjectives that George W. Bush has used during his two years in office, none has elicited more howls of derision than the four-letter word "evil." Just as Ronald Reagan was condemned for characterizing the Soviet Union as evil, a chorus of leading opinion makers has lampooned Bush for applying the same term to America's new foes. But as the events of 9-11 remind us, evil exists in this world, and it has consequences. Fortunately, evil can be defeated. Just as Ronald Reagan's assault on the "evil empire" was key to toppling Soviet communism, so has President Bush's response to the evil of September 11 exacted a steep price from the terrorists who orchestrated that horrible day.
As well as provoking a military response from the United States, September 11 prompted the president to identify an "axis of evil." It consists of regimes whose records of aggression, inventories of deadly weapons and support for terrorism pose a threat to the United States and the rest of the world. Chief among them is Iraq under the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein.
The more one learns about the Iraqi dictator, the clearer it becomes that he epitomizes-no less than Osama bin Laden-sheer malice. Here, after all, is a man who has imposed a violent, totalitarian regime on the people of Iraq. He has imprisoned, tortured, gassed, shot and bombed thousands upon thousands of his own subjects. He has launched wars of aggression against several of his neighbors, and still seeks to dominate the Middle East. He has expended vast resources on the development of an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. He is at once a tyrant, an aggressor and, in his own avowed objectives, a threat to civilization.
Alas, for many in the West, Saddam's misdeeds seem not to have made much of an impression. From Europe, whose countries have supplied Baghdad with much of its deadly inventory and still seek to do business there, cynicism is perhaps to be expected. From China, a dictatorship in its own right, indifference hardly comes as a shock. And from the Arab countries, whose regimes are concerned with their own grip on power, an aversion to change is no surprise. Even in the United States, however, where 9-11 should have prompted a special vigilance, there has been complacency. The debate over war with Iraq has shown that too many opinion makers, elected officials and others who guide the fortunes of the world's sole superpower have lost their capacity to identify evil and to act against it. Even when it stares them in the face.
The tyrant whose depredations so many hesitate to interrupt came into the world on April 28, 1937. The future dictator was born near the town of Tikrit, in a poor village consisting largely of mud huts. Saddam's birth, recounts one of his official biographers, "was not a joyful occasion, and no roses or aromatic plants bedecked his cradle." Iraqi accounts gloss over the details of his youth, except to say that he claims descent from the prophet Muhammad. Western sources claim that Saddam's father either died of left his mother before Saddam was born. For their part, his former classmates remember that young Saddam was a bully who, among other things, carried a gun to school. But this much at least is clear: Saddam's uncle, Khayrallah Tulfah, took him under his wing at an early age, bringing him from his native Tikrit to Baghdad. Tulfah was a coup plotter whose political leanings reflected the agenda of the Iraqi Baath Party. He tutored the young Saddam in the blend of socialism, fascism and pan-Arab nationalism that distinguished Baathist politics. (A pamphlet that Tulfah authored, "Three Whom God Should Not Have Created: Persians, Jews and Flies," captures the flavor of his views.) As a teenager, Saddam followed in his uncle's footsteps, attending Baath cell meetings, engaging in street battles with university students, and spending nearly as much time in prison as out.
His political education complete, at the tender age of twenty-two, Saddam attempted but failed to gun down the prime minister of Iraq, Abdul Karim Kassim. "Wounded during the incident by the fire of one of his comrades," one of Saddam's official biographies boasts, "he extracted, in the car that sped away from the scene, a bullet from his leg with his own knife." He fled briefly to Syria and then to Egypt, where he resided for three years. According to the owner of a Cairo restaurant that Saddam frequented, "He was really quite lonely. He didn't have any friends.... I couldn't believe that such a bully who was picking fights all the time could grow up to be president of Iraq." Eventually Saddam returned home to marry his uncle's daughter, and was put in charge of a Baath Party farmers' organization. Then, after a coup briefly brought the Baathists to power in 1963 and another coup just as quickly dislodged them, Saddam wound up back behind bars. Rather than calm his revolutionary zeal, the time Saddam spent in captivity only seems to have fueled it, and he even converted prison guards to his murky cause. Two years later, Saddam escaped from jail. Returning to the Baath underground, he joined a party security force, the Jehaz Haneen, an Iraqi equivalent of Hitler's Brown Shirts. Saddam, who later became a devoted fan of The Godfather, would visit Baath opponents and slaughter them along with their families like a Mafia hit man, then dump their corpses in the street. The brutality reached a new pitch when the Baathists seized power again in 1968, and Saddam was installed as second-in-command and the real power behind his cousin General Ahmed Hassan Bakr. The tactics employed by Saddam and the Jehaz Haneen now became official policy.
As often is the case with Third World coups, a bloodbath accompanied Iraq's 1968 revolt. But this bloodbath never ended. Changing in name only, Saddam's Jehaz Haneen became the Mukhabarat, the intelligence and security force that terrorizes Iraq to this day. It began its work immediately. Only three months after coming to power, the new regime declared that it had uncovered a Zionist spy ring. Fourteen of these "spies," eleven of them Iraqi Jews, were promptly strung up before a crowd of thousands in a Baghdad square. "We hanged spies," Baghdad radio explained, "but the Jews crucified Christ." Over the following months, the regime executed not only Jews and communists, but also hundreds of Muslims accused of being linked to the "Zionist" plot. The executions were televised and the dead hung from lampposts.
As the new regime consolidated its grisly hold on power, so did Saddam. Not unlike Stalin, whose ruthlessness he admires and whose methods of rule he has carefully studied, Hussein proceeded to denounce and murder longtime colleagues on both the left and the right. Years of struggle, note Judith Miller and Laurie Mylroie, authors of Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf, "made him far more ruthless in his determination to hold on to power and to break all who stood in his way of who might one day challenge his rule." Using Iraq's security services as a base, party vice chairman Saddam removed Bakr's other possible successors one by one. In Iraq Since 1958, Peter Sluglett and Marion-Farouk Sluglett detail how the aspiring dictator eliminated his fellow members of the Revolutionary Command Council at a July 1979 meeting. One of them, Muhyi Abd Husayn Mashadi, was tortured at Saddam's order, forced to recite a confession, and then made to stand in front of a Baath Party congress and implicate his fellow "plotters." As their names were mentioned, they were marched out of the hall to be shot-with their mouths taped shut lest they blurt out embarrassing last words, while Saddam sat watching silently, a cigar in his mouth. In case others missed the point, Saddam had the confessions videotaped and dispatched copies to Baath Party offices throughout the country.
That summer, Saddam shoved aside his kinsman, General Bakr, and by the end of the year he controlled all the levers of Iraqi power. Gone was any pretense of decentralized rule. Gone, too, was the ideological substance of Baathism. In its place arose a cult of personality, which, in its pervasive glorification of a single man, would soon rival even those built up around Stalin and Mao. ("To visit Iraq," observe Miller and Mylroie, "is to enter the land of Big Brother.") A towering portrait of Saddam hangs above nearly every village entrance, school, building and store. The ubiquitous portraits of Saddam the peasant, the soldier, the horseman; the wristwatches adorned with his mustachioed face; the claim to be descended from Nebuchadnezzar; the nineteen-volume official biography-these accoutrements of totalitarianism may seem today like parody. In Iraq, however, they reflect reality. The "Great Uncle," as Saddam likes his people to call him, has established one of the world's premier terror states.
"The Baath have saddled Iraq with two kinds of tyranny," writes Kanan Makiya in Republic of Fear, "the despot and his means of violence on the one hand, and his bureaucracy on the other." As to the first of these, Saddam rules his closest aides with the same brand of terror that he applies to Iraq's populace. Whether by ordering his ministers to go on the "Saddam Diet," treating them to frightening weapons demonstrations at company picnics, demanding that their foreign-language typewriters be registered to identify possible dissenters, or simply executing officials and their families as examples to the test, "his excellency, the victorious, the glorious Saddam Hussein" commands a peculiar type of loyalty. And these are the privileged few. As one Iraqi told the New York Times in 1994, "Today I'd say not more than one million Iraqis are living in any real sense of the word. They are those who uphold Saddam's rule and those who protect him. They are given food and plenty of money."
In fact, when the ranks of the armed forces, police, security services and intelligence agencies are combined, the number of Iraqis bearing arms for Saddam Hussein well exceeds one million. Overlapping security organizations like the Military Intelligence Department, the Presidential Affairs Department, Party Security and State Internal Security spy on their own members, on one another and, of course, on average Iraqi citizens. "We are now in our Stalinist era," Saddam announced proudly in 1989. "We shall strike with an iron fist against the slightest deviation or backsliding." Even Saddam's military is suspect. During much of the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam kept his air force grounded for fear of a coup; he cancelled Armed Forces Day parades for the same reason, and he regularly executed senior officers for disloyalty of battlefield setbacks. As the Pentagon's Lieutenant General Thomas Kelly put it during the Gulf War, Saddam "has a fairly vigorous zero defects program." Indeed, the Baath Party investigates all officers, and three different security services are charged with rooting out dissenters in the army. And just in case his security services prove incapable of keeping the army away from the palace gates, Saddam employs a Baath Party militia armed with anti-tank weapons for the same purpose.
Iraq's guns, however, have mostly been reserved for use on its citizens. "Saddam Hussein exists in every corner, every place, every eyebrow and every heart in Iraq," the dictator (who habitually refers to himself in the third person) declared in 1982. Networks of informers pervade the country, turning in those-including their own relatives-who make jokes at Saddam's expense or otherwise engage in what passes for dissent in Iraqi society. Publicly insulting Saddam is punishable by death. Britain's Index on Censorship reports a case where a Baath Party member was arrested for being present at a gathering where jokes were made about Hussein. For the crime of "not informing the authorities" about the jokes, the party member and all the males in his family were executed and the family's home was bulldozed. In another case documented by Amnesty International, a man's tongue was sliced off for slandering the Iraqi dictator and then the man was "driven around after the punishment while information about his alleged offence was broadcast through a loudspeaker."
Instances of citizens disappearing are also routine. Human Rights Watch reported in 1998 that Iraq had more unresolved "disappearances" than any other United Nations member state-over sixteen thousand, according to the U.N. special rapporteur. Arbitrary and deadly edicts issue from Saddam's palaces on a regular basis. In 1992, the Iraqi leader gave new meaning to the phrase "command economy" when he arrested over five hundred of Baghdad's most prominent merchants on charges of "profiteering." Forty-two were executed and their corpses strung up in front of their stores with placards that labeled them as "Greedy Merchants." Two years later, the government issued a decree stating that anyone who stole an item worth more than $12 would have a hand amputated and, if a repeat offender, would be branded. The constant flow of edicts and regulations addresses mundane matters as well. Everything from street names and university admissions to work regulations and building permits comes directly from the presidential palace.
Mostly, though, Saddam simply relies on terror to keep his subjects in check. Marrying twenty-first-century technology to medieval ruthlessness, his security apparatus has over the years fine-tuned the art of torture and dismemberment. Although Saddam's lieutenants all have the same general objective-rooting out dissent-they tailor their tortures to their victims. For women, who are often tortured to elicit confession from their male relatives, the security services favor sexual assault and humiliation. According to Omar Ismael, a captain in the Mukhabarat who fled Iraq in 2000, security agents regularly drug the female relatives of government or military officials and film them being raped. The tapes are then used to blackmail or extract confessions from the officials. In one instance, Ismael was ordered to investigate Taha Abbas Hababi, the director of one of Iraq's intelligence agencies. "We found nothing against him after two months, so we made a tape of his daughter having sex with a man," recounts Ismael. "We had to drug her first." Soon after being sent the tape, Hababi was murdered anyway. According to Amnesty International, female prisoners are "hung upside down from the feet during menstruation. Objects have also been inserted into the vaginas of young women, causing the hymen to break." Amnesty International reports that when the security services torture women, interrogators routinely force the women's children to stay in the room and watch their mothers being debased.
Even the taboo against torturing children is routinely broken by Saddam's regime.
Excerpted from the war over iraq by LAWRENCE F. KAPLAN WILLIAM KRISTOL Copyright © 2003 by Lawrence F. Kaplan and William Kristol. Excerpted by permission.
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|1||Tyranny at Home||3|
|3||Weapons of Mass Destruction||27|
|The American Response|
|4||Narrow Realism (Bush I)||37|
|5||Wishful Liberalism (Clinton)||50|
|6||A Distinctly American Internationalism (Bush II)||63|
|7||From Deterrence to Preemption||79|
|8||From Containment to Regime Change||95|
|9||From Ambivalence to Leadership||112|