Monday, March 20, 2006

# Posted 7:31 PM by Patrick Porter  

SECULAR SADDAM? Judging from the comments below, there is apparently still debate about whether Saddam was a secularist in the way he governed Iraq during his final years. Some excerpts from a speech in 2002, which mark the 14th anniversary of the end of the Iran-Iraq war:
We have never, and will never, face any aggression with the power of our weapons or the strength of our muscles, but with the strength of our faith and our belief that God always makes the faithful victorious through right against wrong..

The faithful shall remain steadfast. Darkness shall be defeated. Clouds carrying no useful rain shall clear. And the sun shall shine ushering in an endless spring, blessed by God.

And then in March 2003:
He ordered Iraqis to "cut the throats" of the invading troops and said: "Iraqis will strike their necks as God has commanded. Strike them, and strike evil so that evil will be defeated."
Earlier on, in a speech in 1996, I count Saddam referring to God eleven times. In 13 paragraphs.

I know not all Islamic fundamentalists always agreed that Saddam was a man of faith. And who knows the real inner workings of his mind. And I don't know whether its the translation. But for a guy who is supposed to have been an avowedly secular ruler, he does enthusiastically mention God rather a lot. If he was really a secularist towards the end of his rule, it must have been very secret.

From Newsweek's Christopher Dickey, who reports that in 1993

Islamic radicals from all over the Middle East, Africa and Asia converged on Baghdad to show their solidarity with Iraq in the face of American aggression." One speaker praised "the mujahed Saddam Hussein, who is leading this nation against the nonbelievers." Another speaker said, "Everyone has a task to do, which is to go against the American state...

Every time I hear diplomats and politicians, whether in Washington or the capitals of Europe, declare that Saddam Hussein is a 'secular Baathist ideologue' who has nothing do with Islamists or with terrorist calls to jihad, I think of that afternoon and I wonder what they're talking about.
(7) opinions -- Add your opinion

I imagine they are talking about the persecution of mullahs in Iraq, the lack of shari'a law or clerics on the judicial bench (something our guys added last year!), the co-education of women and men in universities, the selling of alcohol in liquor stores (can't get that in Basra any more), etc., etc. In other words, they weren't talking like gotcha pundits, but about real life.
That would be my guess.
against that, he used the media to call for holy war, was defended by the "Fedayeen Saddam", one of whose efforts was to reintroduce the beheading of women in Iraq in 2000/1. Their ranks included jihadists recruited from abroad. Party meetings began to stop for prayer. Saddam supported suicide bombings in Israel by Islamic Jihad.

People being blown up and beheaded has a certain sting of 'real life' about it, if that's what you are looking for. And there's the Koran written in blood.
Hey Roger,

many or all of those things you mention are indeed more suggestive of a secular state. But those were things the Baath party introduced earlier in Iraq. I'm more interested in what was happening 'towards the end' of his rule between 1990-2003, his cultivation of militant Islam. I agree those things aren't as everyday as buying alcohol, but symbolism and language matter politically too. His receptivity to various Al Qaeda agents is also more than symbolic.

Putting it slightly differently, I can think of various world leaders often described as 'Christianist' who would pass your test of secularism: they have maintained a priest-free judicial bench, co-education at university, and the selling of alcohol.
Don't you first have to establish why it is that mentioning God a lot disqualifies you from being a secularist?

Bush mentions God a hell of a lot, even Blair has started to go down that route.
Saddam's "secularity" seems to be mostly touted by those who use it as proof that there could be no possible connection between him and Islamic terrorists.

When Saddam was overthrown, he was in the process of building some of the largest mosques in the world, including one named after himself, which seems a bit odd for a totally secular leader.
Very few secular rulers brag that they've had the Koran written in their own blood.
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