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Wednesday, October 01, 2003


Could Saddam Hussein Make A Comeback?

'European oilmen in Baghdad realise now that Iraqi officials in the oil ministry - one of only two government institutions that the Americans defended from the looters - knew very well that the sabotage was going to occur. "They told me in June that there would be no oil exports from the north," one of them said to me this week. "They knew it was going to be sabotaged - and it had obviously been planned long before the invasion in March."' (Robert Fisk, writing for the Independent)


We have speculated before about the possibility that the current guerilla operations against the U.S. were part of Hussein's plan from the beginning. For various reasons this sort of strategy makes sense. It gives Saddam credibility among the Iraqis as a "defender" of the people. It allows most of his military to survive intact and encourages the participation of the population in the overall war against the U.S. There doesn't have to be a defining battle against the invaders -- any successful attack is enough to rally support for the cause, especially when the occupation force reacts the way the U.S. has reacted (sequestering itself inside Saddam's former palaces, behind huge concrete barriers, and using police-state tactics to fight the enenmy).

Since the end of "major combat operations", there have been several developments which support this theory. From time to time, Hussein's voice appears on an audio tape, calling for the expusion of foreign forces from Iraq. The attacks on the U.N. seem incongruous with a strategy designed to win independence for Iraq, but fit with Hussein's dislike for the organization (although one must consider pent-up frustration and hatred towards the U.N. because of the inspections and, more importantly, because of the sanctions). The attacks all seem to make use of similar types of munitions; military-grade explosives wired together to make larger bombs, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades (which require at least a modicum of training to use) figure promininently in the attacks. The pattern of looting following the invasion was also suspicious -- we noted that it appeared the looters were particularly interested in military-grade weapons (even though many Iraqis have their own personal firearms) in a previous post. The impromptu weapons market which sprang up in Iraq allowed both easy access to military-grade weapons and a quick source of income, both of which could supply arms and weapons to an insurgency. The way Iraqi military personnel "melted" into the general population would indicate that they had specific orders to do so. Finally, there have been a number of statements which would indicate that the U.S. is facing an organized, well-armed and well-trained enemy in Iraq whose makeup defies pre-war associations and alliances.

The question, then, is whether or not Hussein could pull it off. Would the Iraqi people ever let him back into government? How could he remake himself politically so as to make that possible? At this point all indications are that Hussein won't be making a comeback, at least not in person. He was and is obviously very unpopular. However, one has to consider his image in comparison to that of the U.S. No one likes to be occupied, and certainly no one likes to lose their standard of living. Take, for example, the former Soviet Union. Putin has made a number of moves against the free press and is looking more and more like a dictator every day. While there isn't the same level of political repression which existed under the Communists, this has instead been replaced by economic depression. Which would you rather have - a representative government or bread to eat and a place to sleep? Economic depression is always a tricky time politically -- Hitler rose to power on the back of German economic depression, and with it he brought a higher standard of living for the German people. When it comes down to it, we're all looking out for number one and, if Saddam Hussein can be associated with a higher standard of living for the Iraqi people, he has at least a slim chance of gaining some sympathy (if not direct political power). The U.S. invasion siginificantly lowered the standard of living for ordinary Iraqis all over Iraq. Crime is way up, the nightly murder toll from noncombat-related incidents is filling morgues across Iraq, and women fear for their safety outside their homes. A similar situation, it should be noted, exists in Afghanistan, where the U.S. is also facing a resurgent Taliban.

On that note, one likely scenario is that one of Hussein's advisers or someone else close to him could assume power in the name of the Baath party. The party itself is slowly creeping back into government, being put there by the U.S. authorities in charge of Iraq. Police, bureaucrats, technicians, and others who were officials in Hussein's government are reprising their roles under the auspices of the occupation authority. This provides ample opportunity for someone who still maintains loyalty to Hussein to become part of the government, and thus position himself or herself to gain power.

Whatever the outcome, the conditions exist for someone like Hussein, if not Hussein himself, to take power. Anyone who fights against the occupation force will have the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people unless the U.S. drastically changes its tactics in Iraq. The current administration there is not working, and people are noticing that their quality of life has degraded significantly since the invasion. At this point, whomever can restore that quality of life will be the one who comes out on top, whether it's the Americans or a Hussein supporter or (not very likely) Hussein himself.

Andrew 8:18 AM : |


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