CouSadd 03-3-32




King of Terror


Con Coughlin

HarperCollins, 2002, 335 pp. 



Coughlin is executive editor for London’s Sunday Telegraph and a leading expert on the Middle East.  The book details Saddam’s life and leadership of Iraq.  All the worst things you’ve heard about him are documented in this book.  Whether he intends to produce weapons of mass destruction (biological agents, chemical agents, and nuclear weapons) is not in question.  The fact that he has produced - beginning in the 1970s - biological and chemical agents is common knowledge.  That he has used chemical agents is common knowledge.  That he has at times been within months of producing nuclear weapons is documented.  The complicity of other countries in helping him produce these weapons, notably the French and German governments, is documented.  The fact that he continually concealed information on the manufacture and storage of these from weapons inspectors is documented.  That he has frequently tortured and executed political enemies, suspected political adversaries, and ordinary citizens by the hundreds is documented.  That his number one priority is, and always has been, his own personal survival in national leadership is the primary theme of the book.  11 pages of endnotes.


Following are particular pages that discuss a few of these things.  The whole book reads like this, only with more details.


Saddam’s presidency is run on the basis of absolute terror.  “No dissent was too trivial or slight in Saddam’s eyes.  Any suggestion of opposition to Saddam’s will was to be crushed ruthlessly and with the utmost brutality.”  (164)  “It is far better to kill an innocent man rather than to allow a guilty man to survive.”  (quoting Saddam) (166)


It was estimated the regime had 107 different methods of torture.  (167) Some of these are described in various places in the book.


“Almost all information in Iraq on government, the economy, and society was considered a state secret, and the disclosure of virtually any information to a foreign diplomat or journalist could be deemed a treasonable offense.”  (169)  [So don’t expect his scientists to reveal anything to inspectors.]


“In those cases where, for one reason or another, the security forces were unable to bring political opponents to trial, poison was used.  Thallium was the most favored method, because it is odorless, colorless, and tasteless.”  (169)


“Failure to do Saddam’s bidding often resulted in imprisonment and torture, frequently ending in death, for hundreds of Iraqi writers and intellectuals.”  (170)


“By the time work on the complex was completed [1986], Iraq could boast one of the largest chemical weapons manufacturing plants in the world.”  (190)


In the war against Iran, a potential Iranian breakthrough in Kurdistan prompted a chemical weapons attach against the Kurdish village of Halabja.  Western TV crews documented that 5000 men, women, children and babies were killed and almost 10,000 wounded, gassed with a hydrogen cyanide compound (a lot like that used by the Nazis to exterminate Jews) developed with the help of German advisers.  (225)


“By 1988 Iraq had developed the fourth largest army in the world.”  (238)


After the 1988 cease-fire with Iran, 65 Kurdish villages were attacked with chemicals.  It is estimated that 5000 died and 100,000 fled.  (242)


In October 1989, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a private research foundation, reported that Iraq had continued and even expanded its chemical and biological weapons efforts since the cessation of fighting with Iran in July 1988 and was on the verge of becoming self-sufficient in producing them.  (243)


Before the Kuwait invasion, Saddam threatened the U.S. with terrorist retaliation if the U.S. continued what he called its hostile policy against Iraq. (250)


After Iraq invaded Kuwait and before the Western coalition was put together, French President Francois Mitterrand “embarrassed Washington by indicating, during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, that he recognized the legitimacy of some of Iraq’s territorial claims to Kuwait.”   (258-9)


Prior to the U.S. led invasion of Iraq, “Saddam proposed capturing U.S. soldiers and tying them up around Iraqi tanks and using them as human shields.  ‘The Americans will never fire on their own soldiers,’ he declared triumphantly.”  (265) [This tactic was not employed because the Iraqis couldn’t capture any U.S. soldiers.] 


The regime got rich by circumventing the embargo with illicit oil sales.  The funds were used for arms and the top politician’s personal gain while the Iraqi people suffered and the suffering was used as propaganda against the U.S.


By the mid-1990s it was estimated that Saddam had regained 80% of the military hardware destroyed during the Gulf War.  (292)


Saddam’s son, Uday, was the most profligate and corrupt member of the ruling family.  He was personally involved in the resale on the black market of humanitarian aid Iraq received from the UN.  He sold milk donated for undernourished children and kept the profits for himself.  (292)


Saddam has a liking for blondes.  “For example Saddam might be attracted to a woman he had seen on television.  He would order his bodyguards to bring her to him.  When he had finished with her, the bodyguards would be told to pay her handsomely.  But if for some reason the woman had not pleased him, she would be taken out and shot.”  (298)


The defection of Saddam’s two sons-in-law in August 1995 was a damaging blow.  They were thoroughly debriefed and Hussein Kamel, the head of Iraq’s weapons procurement program, provided a treasure trove of detail about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction program, “including hitherto hidden chemical weapons plants and front companies helping with Iraq’s weapons procurement and Saddam’s VX nerve agent program.  His most startling revelation was that Saddam had been within three months of testing an atomic bomb at the start of Operation Desert Storm in January 1991.”  (299)


“Even though Saddam’s policies were mainly to blame for this appalling state of affairs, public opinion in the West held that the UN sanctions were responsible.”  (311)


“When the UNSCOM inspections ended in 1998 Saddam had still not accounted for 20 tons of complex growth media, essential for the production of biological weapons such as anthrax, together with 200 tons of precursor chemicals for the production of VX nerve gas.  The UN still did not know the full extent of Iraq’s capability to produce long-range missiles.”  “In addition the Iraqis, at the very least, retained the ability to conduct active research and development of nuclear weapons and an effective delivery system.  Scott Ritter, the former UNSCOM inspector, believed that Iraq had the capacity to make several bombs, which could be moved from one secret storage facility to another in specially modified vehicles.”  (311)


“For most of the 1990s, as Iraq wrestled with the UN over disarmament issues, Saddam had ruthlessly exploited the suffering of his people to persuade Western public opinion to abandon the UN’s uncompromising sanctions.”  (315) 


In 1991, a defector said had worked on the renovation of secret facilities for biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons in underground wells, private villas, and even the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Baghdad.  (320)


“During the UNSCOM inspections Iraq had never accounted for all the 100,000 chemical weapons that it had produced during the Iran-Iraq War, and there were fears that thousands of them, filled either with VX nerve agent or mustard gas, had been hidden.”  (321)