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Some Iraqis Cautiously Speak Against Saddam

by Ferry Biedermann

Anti-Saddam Iraqis Promise Oil Deal After War
(IPS) BAGHDAD -- In unprecedented criticism of President Saddam Hussein, some Iraqis are quietly beginning to say that it is time for him to leave.

"In any other country the leader would have resigned by now," says a government employee. A local political analyst who is normally cautious says angrily: "What kind of government is this? It drags its people into all kinds of dangerous adventures without even consulting us."

There are no opinion polls in Iraq to gauge the public mood. But some have begun to give voice to what they dared not whisper before. Some are beginning to blame not the Americans but Saddam Hussein.

Such criticism is unprecedented in a country where the slightest whisper of discontent can be fatal. People have been known to disappear for saying far less. One dancer reportedly bears the scars of torture for suggesting that a performance by orphans for the leader was inappropriate since most of their parents were killed by the regime.

Such criticism was muted at best before the latest crisis. Now the UN Security Council resolution 1441 and the U.S. and British military build-up have emboldened some people to speak out.

These are people who believe that the Iraqi regime will be removed. "A superpower like the U.S. cannot afford to let a third world country like Iraq win this confrontation," says an analyst.

There is much speculation about the possibility of a coup. The regime knows that much of the world sees the removal of Saddam Hussein as a way out without war. The government is believed to have taken extraordinary precautions against a coup.

Inevitably there are people who speak in support of Saddam Hussein and against President George Bush. Saddam is praised for nationalizing the U.S.- and British-controlled oil industry in the 1960s and giving people a share of those riches. "Before Saddam we hardly had any paved roads in this country, any telephone lines or cars," says a Saddam supporter. Some of his actions did make Saddam Hussein popular.

That popularity has been used by the government. The personality cult surrounding Saddam Hussein is extreme by any standard. The Victory Leader Museum celebrates Saddam's life. It houses gifts he received, books under his name and a ballroom-sized gallery of pictures and eulogies.

The museum tells more of the true Saddam story than it was perhaps intended to. It shows that Saddam Hussein was not always on such bad terms with the world. "We have gifts from all over, including France and the U.S.," says a guide. He points to silver trays and plaques from India, Argentina, Cote d'Ivoire and other countries.

There are pictures of Saddam Hussein with former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, with French President Jacques Chirac when he was Prime Minister. Like the gifts, the pictures are all a trifle old.

The story of his life tells of the decline of Iraq. Just a year after being sworn in as President in 1979, a disastrous war with Iran left tens of thousands of people dead, created untold hardship and destruction, and ruined the country's economy.

The government borrowed heavily to finance the Iran-Iraq war and keep up some semblance of prosperity. Kuwait's refusal to waive some of that debt may have contributed to the 1990 Iraqi invasion. The more devastating effect of the Gulf War of 1991 and the UN sanctions that followed have overshadowed the memory of prosperity, especially for the young.

The museum provides one last hint for Iraq's future. It shows images of all the coups and attempted coups against Saddam and those he himself was involved in. No 'regime change' has ever been achieved peacefully, the museum warns.

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Albion Monitor February 18, 2003 (

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