Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge

By Aboul-Enein, Youssef | Military Review, January/February 2002 | Go to article overview
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Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge


Aboul-Enein, Youssef, Military Review


SADDAM HUSSEIN: The Politics of Revenge, Said K. Aburish, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 2001, 406 pages, $13.95. The crisis in Afghanistan, which led to the Taliban's rise, was only one flashpoint in the Middle East. Said Aburish is one of a pantheon of modem Arab writers, such as Fouad Ajami and Edward Said, who live and publish in the West but who bring an Arab perspective to the problems and issues of the modern Middle East. Whereas Ajami and Said are academics and more scholarly in their outlook, Aburish is earthy in his descriptions and looks into a regime's anatomy, including its leadership and its peoples.

In Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge, Aburish tells of Hussein's humble beginnings in the small village of Awja, his fatherless childhood, and his rough life with a stepfather (known as Hassan the Liar) he still refuses to acknowledge.

The chief influences during Hussein's childhood and teenage years were his mother and his uncle Khairullah Tulfah. Tulfah, an Iraqi army officer who introduced Hussein to the evils of colonialism in Iraq, was imprisoned by the British for his activism against the English-backed monarchy of King Feisal I.

Aburish eloquently brings to life the violent means by which Iraqis have fomented revolutions and crushed dissent. This is a subject of poetry, jokes, and criticism among Arabs, and Hussein used the subject as a way to propagate an air of toughness. The Baath (renaissance) Party, which Muslim Salah Bitar and Christian Michel Aflaq originally established, became a vehicle for Hussein. He became an enforcer for the party, and like Joseph Stalin, who fascinated Hussein, he left the intellectuals behind and climbed the ladder of Iraq politics, using a combination of intimidation, fear, nepotism, and outright murder.

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