THE PRESIDENT – SADDAM HUSSEIN
Alan Bott, from Iraq: Under the Leadership of the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party, News Line special report 1980
The crucial importance of revolutionary leadership has been expressed in Iraq most strongly during the celebrations to mark the 12th anniversary of the July 1968 Revolution.
The occasion also marked the first anniversary of Saddam Hussein's assumption of national leadership.
Everywhere in Baghdad, his portrait was alongside that of his predecessor, Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, and coinciding with the celebrations of the Revolution were special exhibitions - one of books by President Hussein and another documenting his life and political struggles, in contemporary photographs and documents.
It is a story which has been dramatised in a semi-fictional form, first in a two-volume novel The Long Days by Abdul Ameer Mu'alla, and a film of the same name, by the Egyptian director Tawfiq Saleh.
Both accounts present in an exciting and popular way the true story of Saddam Hussein's flight from Bagh dad into Syria after an unsuccessful attempt on the life of Abdul Kerim Qassim in 1959.
The photo-documentary exhibition of the President's life is in the attentive care of Hamid Matbei at the Baghdad Museum of Modern Art. He explains the story with genuine pride - as a part of his own past.
Saddam Hussein was born into a poor family in the spring of 1937, about 120 kilometres from Tikrit, in a village called Al Awja. His father died before ever seeing his son Saddam and the task of bringing up the future President fell to an uncle who was then an officer in the Iraqi army.
From the age of three he was looked after at the home of another uncle, Haj Ibrahim al-Hassan, who lived just south of Tikrit. The family moved when Saddam Hussein was only six and at his new home in the al-Hawaja area, he was to learn first-hand the struggle of farm life.
Another move in 1947 took the family to the Nineveh area and soon after Saddam Hussein began his formal education at schools in Tikrit and then Baghdad.
He developed political convictions which led to his taking part in the 1956 demonstrations over Allied aggression in Egypt. This was to be the turning point in his life, at the age of 19.
After the July revolution of 1958. Saddam Hussein and several of his comrades were briefly jailed along with other militants and on his release he continued both with his studies and with clandestine political work.
Abdul Kerim Qassim’s regime brought a new reign of terror in Iraq, after abandoning its original revolutionary line. Protest soon became confrontation with Qassim's government and police and it was at this point that the secret Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party Command aid plans for an attempt on
Saddam Hussein was one of seven party members selected for the mission - a daring attack on Qassim's car as it was driven along the old Rasheed Street in Baghdad city centre.
His task was to cover and protect those carrying out the attack. One comrade was killed and another badly wounded in the shooting.
It was while Saddam Hussein was carrying the wounded comrade that he was hit in the leg by a shot from a security policeman working undercover as a local greengrocer.
After making their escape from the scene, they hid for days, shattered by the news that Qassim had survived with only slight wounds.
Saddam Hussein's comrades, unable to obtain the services of a doctor, were forced to remove the bullet from his leg using a razor blade, sterilised in a flame.
His later escape from Baghdad, while police carried out continuous raids in the hunt for the attackers, is recorded in detail in the documentary exhibition and is the main subject matter of the film “The Long Days”.
On horseback, on foot, by motorcycle and donkey, he travelled the 1,000 kilometres into Syria, across the desert, in spite of his painful wound.
The photographs of those who helped him on his way are the rugged faces of Iraqi peasants, his brother in Tikrit, and other Ba'athist sympathisers.
After three months in relative safety with Ba'athists in Syria, he travelled to Nasser's Egypt, where he studied law at Cairo.
After the Ba'athist Revolution of 1963 in Iraq he returned to Baghdad, only to discover after six months of the new regime that the leadership had adopted policies to serve their own interests.
Soon he was back at work in secret, frequently disguised, using three names, in hiding and on the move from place to place to evade the police. The exhibition shows one of the best photographs of Saddam Hussein as a “Wanted” poster issued by the authorities.
Arrested, in spite of all his precautions and skill in clandestine operations, he spent two years in various Iraqi jails, before escaping to continue secret work.
Arrested again, he staged another daring escape while under armed escort in 1966, to play his part in rallying the forces for the July 17 Revolution two years later.
On the 11th anniversary of the Revolution, President Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr announced he was stepping down from office, in favour of his second in command. Saddam Hussein - a decision which carried the unanimous approval of the leadership of the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party.
He assumed three posts at once, secretary of the party's Regional Command, chairman of the Revolution Command Council and President of the Republic.
In his speech accepting the responsibilities of leadership, the new President said: “I would never hesiate or delay undertaking the responsibilities of the forward march of the leadership, dealing with patriotic and Pan-Arab tasks on the path of unity, liberty, and socialism, embodying the spirit of revolutionary, initiative required of an official.”
Since taking office and making that pledge to the party and the Iraqi people, he has achieved a reputation as a man of firm action in home affairs, insisting on the highest standards of dedication and integrity of government officials.
He has also become a leading international statesman both on a pan-Arab level and in the movement of non-aligned nations.
He played a leading role at the 10th Arab Summit in Tunis, in making opposition to imperialism and Zionism a central issue, along with policies for economic integration of Arab states.
At the Sixth conference of the Non-Aligned Movement last September in Havana, he stressed a fiercely independent line, again rejecting imperialism and Zionism and exposing fully the treachery of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
Saddam Hussein's drive for modern development in Iraq, the election of a National Assembly in June, the improving of living standards through wage rises and price controls, along with new social welfare provisions, have built up a momentum of achievement which the President and the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party are determined to maintain.
President Hussein told Iraqis in a speech to mark July 17: “When we talk about the future - expressing the conscience and aspirations of the Iraqis - it is now based on increased capability. It is based on our confidence in the possibility of attaining our ambition in an accurate way, in the light of experiences we have gained, the achievements we have accomplished and the competence we have over the past 12 years.”
28 July 2004
SADDAM’S BRITISH ADMIRERS – 6
As an example of how Vanessa Redgrave and the Workers Revolutionary Party repaid Saddam Hussein's generosity (see below), here is a piece from the WRP daily News Line in 1980, which was reproduced in a pamphlet. (I have a lot more of this rubbish but am republishing this just to give a taste.) Incidentally, just to show that I have no axe to grind, Ms Redgrave said in her letter to the Sunday Telegraph that "the WRP totally and publicly opposed Saddam Hussein's regime from September 1980". She might just be right. This fawning report dates from late August of the same year.