Albion Monitor /News

How the Saddam Story Grew and Grew

by Jack Breibart

(AR) WASHINGTON -- It started on the afternoon of Tuesday, January 28th, when a high-ranking military officer called reporters into his Pentagon office to talk about Saddam Hussein.

Before the session was over, the officer, who asked not to be identified, had told the reporters that Saddam was moving from safehouse to safehouse; that he had put his second wife under house arrest; that his son, Uday, wounded in an ambush in August, has gangrene in his leg; and that Iraqui troops were preparing for a quick strike at Kuwait.

The interview got scant attention in Wednesday morning's papers.

Things began to swirl again early Wednesday.

"We don't need to demonize him," Burns replied. "He is a demon, and he's done it to himself"
Besieged with inquiries, White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry issued a statement.

"There are a great deal of complicated internal struggles for power," McCurry said. "There have been some things that have happened there recently...that would indicate some internal machinations."

White House National Security Adviser Samuel Berger picked up the stoker. "Iraq is not a normal place. There's obvious dissatisfaction," Berger said. "I don't see anything that is an imminent threat to Saddam but there is obviously lots of intrigue."

By the time, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns held his afternoon briefing and said "we have no evidence that Iraq is staging new moves to threaten its neighbors," the press was getting skeptical.

"Nick, if there is no evidence that Iraq is moving troops or that there's any imminent threat from Iraq, what is all this about?" Burns was asked. "Why are Pentagon officials, you know, sort of stirring the waters on Saddam, and why is the White House and the State Department feeding this right now? I don't understand."

Burns replied he was unaware of any "stirring" but said that "we've learned with Saddam Hussein that when he does peek his head above the foxhole that he has dug for himself in the desert, it's always good to remind him from time to time about the reality of our relationship with him."

Burns said he was not referring to any one recent incident of Saddam "peeking out of his foxhole" but his actions over a period of time.

So, a reporter pressed on, was there a campaign on by the demonize Saddam?

"We don't need to demonize him," Burns replied. "He is a demon, and he's done it to himself. I mean, look, he took 600 Kuwaitis prisoner and they were never heard from again. What happened to the missing Kuwaitis? He invaded another country and inflicted punishment on the civilian population. He's responsible for the deaths of thousands of people there. He violated his commitments to all of his Arab countries. He's trying to build nuclear weapons. He's trying to build chemical weapons. He lied to the United Nations for five years about his program to build chemical weapons."

Burns said he was speaking as he was because new Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had told the state department employees to "speak plainly" and "tell it like it is."

"Why in the world should we mince words about the reality of who Saddam Hussein is, given everything that he's done to destabilize the Middle East and ruin his own country?" Burns said.

General Peay, U.S. Commander in the Gulf, was Pentagon military official who initiated the Saddam story
By Wednesday night, there were television reports that Saddam was preparing an invasion of Kuwait.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press quoted Iraqi dissidents as saying that Sajida Talfah, Saddam's first wife and the mother of his two daughters, was placed under house arrest after she opposed a plan to forgive the killers of her two sons-in-law. The two, who were brothers, were killed after they returned to Iraq last year after fleeing to Iran.

It is widely believed that the murders of the two sons-in-law were orchestrated by Saddam's son Uday, the apparent successor to Saddam.

Uday appeared on Iraqi television Wendesday night. He was in his hospital bed talking with officials. The AP said Uday, in his 30's, was moving his right arm freely but there was no visible movement in his left arm.

The Times of London reported in its Thursday edition that Saddam had arranged a marriage between Uday and the 16-year-old daughter of his "most notorious henchman."

The Times also identified General Binford Peay, Commander of the U.S. Central Command in the Gulf, as the Pentagon military official who initiated the Saddam story.

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Albion Monitor February 4, 1997 (

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