Editor’s note: WorldNetDaily international correspondent Anthony
LoBaido is on assignment in the Middle East. This is his report on one
of the world’s most notorious tyrants, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein,
and the nation he rules — profoundly impacted by international
sanctions, yet apparently recovering in the shadow of its seemingly
AZRAK, Jordan — With staying power rivaled by few despots in the
world, Saddam Hussein continues to reign over a besieged Iraq in
defiance of the West’s sanctions that have become a way of life for the
Contributing to Saddam’s resolve are a checkered history of CIA
involvement, a parade of United Nations weapons inspectors and his
reportedly brutal childhood.
The Mossad station chief in Amman answered his own question about the
dictator’s tenure: “How long will he survive as the ruler of his
nation? As long as his health holds up, I suppose.”
The inspectors’ revolving door
Richard Butler, former head of the U.N. inspection team
commissioned to dig around Baghdad in search of Saddam’s weapons of mass
destruction, resigned in frustration without finding a single nuke. But
that should come as no surprise, since, as the New York Post reported
recently, Saddam has smuggled many nuclear, biological and biochemical
weapons out of the country and into other friendly Islamic places like
Butler doesn’t mince words in his new book,
Threat:” “While the full nature and scope of [Saddam's] current programs cannot be known precisely because of the absence of inspections and monitoring, it would be foolish in the extreme not to assume that he is: developing long-range missile capabilities; at work again on building nuclear weapons; and adding to the chemical and biological warfare weapons he concealed during the UNSCOM inspection period.”
Dennis Halliday, another U.N.-handpicked Iraq inspector hailing from Ireland, also resigned his post after protesting the U.S./UK-led sanctions against the Iraqi people. The sanctions were put in place in 1990, shortly after Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Halliday’s successor, Hans van Sponeck, quit his post just last February after working since September of 1998. A German diplomat, van Sponeck was unable to reconcile himself to the effects of the embargo on Iraq, which has cost, according to the U.N., 1.26 million lives, including 500,000 pre-kindergarten children.
Van Sponeck’s contract to investigate the goings-on inside Iraq was renewed for one year in November 1999, despite severe criticism from the Blair and Clinton administrations that he was getting “soft” on Iraq.
Suffer the children Over three years ago, the U.N. put in place the “oil for food” program, in which Iraq can export a certain amount of oil in exchange for food, medicine and other items.
Still, Halliday told CNN that the sanctions prevented Iraq from meeting the “minimum requirements” for the nation’s 22 million citizens.
“As a U.N. official, I should not be expected to be silent to that which I recognize as a true human tragedy that needs to be ended. How long should the civilian population, which is totally innocent on all this, be exposed to such punishment for something that they have never done?” Halliday rhetorically asked.
Naturally, the Iraqi government was ebullient at the sentiments articulated by Halliday. A resplendent editorial in its official state-run mouthpiece — the ruling party’s daily newspaper Ath-Thawra — said: the “If von Sponeck had acted as a spy, like Butler and Ekeus [another former UN inspector], he would not have attracted the wrath of the Americans. [Von Sponeck has] denounced from his firsthand knowledge the deterioration of the sanitary and nutritional situation in Iraq.”
The sanctions have also hurt the younger generation of Iraqis. Textbooks and computers are covered under the sanctions rules. As such, most of the textbooks in Iraqi universities and medical schools are dated only through 1980.
Each Iraqi citizen gets a rationing card, which sets monthly limits on the amount of food and household items each person can get. Flour, oil, rice, cheese, tea and soap are in very short supply. Often what is required to last an Iraqi family for a month “doesn’t even last one week,” according to Iraqi economic refugees living in Jordan.
As the game of musical inspectors continued, the U.N. turned to Hans Blix, a Swedish diplomat. Blix, who as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency in the 1980s turned a blind eye to Iraq’s weapons program, has, to no one’s surprise, failed to bring about closure on the Iraqi weapons issue.
Blix’s appointment, a British diplomat based in Jordan told WorldNetDaily, “is like sending a blind man to touch up the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.”
Certainly, the sanctions currently in place on Iraq, which include economic, trade, oil, financial, diplomatic and cultural disengagement, are falling apart. Late in 1998, Iraq expelled the U.N. weapons inspectors, apparently fearing they were getting too close to their goals. In response, the U.S. and UK unleashed a new round of bombings during the height of President Clinton’s impeachment problems.
The various global power brokers can’t seem to decide if Iraq is a threat to its Gulf neighbors anymore. Venezuela, one of the world’s top oil exporters, and her new Marxist president recently traveled to Iraq in the first foreign state-level visit in a decade. U.N. Security Council members Russia, China and France all want sanctions lifted. Only the U.S. and UK remain resolute. This should not come as a surprise for those who understand the foundations of the modern nation of Iraq. (Read “A long history of conflict,” Anthony LoBaido’s eye-opening review of Iraq’s modern history, including Saddam’s recruitment by the CIA.)
Who is Saddam? Saddam Hussein has been portrayed as the embodiment of evil in the West. He has survived everything imaginable — a poverty-stricken upbringing, the Iran-Iraq War, Desert Storm and Desert Fox, assassination attempts, Kurdish uprisings and the U.N. embargo and weapons inspectors.
Then, of course, there are the coup attempts orchestrated from overseas.
One such attempted coup occurred in 1996. Back then, the CIA and MI6 (the UK’s foreign intelligence agency, now called the Secret Intelligence Service) were about to launch a coup against Saddam. The CIA station chief based in Amman, Jordan, had set everything in place. The Republican Guard members who would stage the coup had been chosen. Some of them even had special cell phones tucked away on their persons that could put them in touch with the CIA people in Jordan.
Yet, somehow Saddam — who had set up a special unit to identify potential coups, staffed by officers who have meticulously studied every major coup in the world conducted between 1900 and 1999 — was on to this one as well.
Perhaps as many as 300 Iraqi officers were arrested and tortured. Many were executed. One of the special CIA cell phones was captured. At that point, Saddam had one of his intelligence agents dial “The Company” back in Amman.
“Your men are dead. You can pack up and go home,” the Iraqi agent reportedly told the CIA field agents in Jordan.
Unlike Cambodia’s Pol Pot — who grew up living in the Royal Palace — Saddam’s early years were dry and bitter. Saddam Hussein was born in the small town of al-Awja near Tikrit on April 28, 1937. His parents had no land and were frightfully poor.
Things got worse for Saddam early on. His father left his mother — some say she was a prostitute. His stepfather, a brutal man named Ibrahim Hassan, was hard on Saddam, offering a bitter life of beatings, long hours of work in agricultural fields and a total denial of education. As such, it is not surprising that Saddam sought escape from his privation and hardship. He tried to gain entrance to Baghdad’s military academy but because of his poor — actually non-existent — educational background, he was denied admission.
Feeling trapped (like Hitler felt when he was thrown out of the downsized German army after World War I), Saddam turned violent. Although he had not yet reached 21 years of age, young Saddam took out a top ally of Iraq’s then-militaristic leader Abdel Karim Qassim.
After the assassination, Saddam fled to Egypt, where he remained between 1959 and 1963. He was reportedly first recruited by the CIA while living in exile in Egypt. At that time, Saddam made many visits to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, even though he was on the run for having tried to assassinate Iraq’s head of state.
In 1968, Saddam’s Ba’ath party wing took power in Iraq. Immediately, the CIA gave Saddam a list of communists inside Iraq. Working with Saddam made sense to the CIA on two important levels. Number one, he was not an Islamic fundamentalist along the lines of the Iranian ayatollahs. Secondly, he was not a communist and perhaps was an anti-communist.
Yet, like Pol Pot, Saddam found an ally in the Soviet dictator Stalin. In Baghdad, he even has a library with every book ever written on Stalin. Like Pol Pot, Saddam turned more than a few royal palaces into torture chambers. Like the famous S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, Saddam personally controlled the torture facility/royal palace known as the “Palace of the End.”
By 1973, Saddam was vice president of Iraq. In the summer of 1979, in his early forties, Saddam become the ruler of Iraq, a nation rich in both water and oil resources. And Saddam’s relationship with the CIA continued through the Iran-Iraq War. During that struggle, “The Company” furnished him with top-flight intelligence on the actions of the Iranian military. As the Iran-Contra affair unfolded, Saddam came to the realization that the CIA was playing both sides of the fence in the conflict.
The Mossad station chief in Amman told WorldNetDaily, “Saddam is an interesting character. Since he was once an assassin himself, he thinks logically about how to avoid being assassinated. He sleeps in a different bed every night. He uses numerous look-a-likes or ‘doubles’ for public appearances.”
“He is also a very rich man,” the station chief added. “Everyone in the intelligence community knows he made a fortune on oil futures during the Gulf War. He’s very smart and detailed-oriented.”
Speaking of Saddam’s difficult childhood, Stanley Rothchild, a British diplomat based in Cyprus, told WorldNetDaily, “There have been more than a few rumors in the intelligence community that Saddam was raped by a gang of homosexuals when he was a young boy. So I don’t discount the fact that the plot of gay sex in the ‘South Park’ movie was somehow influenced or used by the powers that be as a psychological weapon to punish Saddam. I can’t just believe that it’s a coincidence. We are talking about one of the top-grossing films in America in 1999, a movie which has a plot that is, by far, the most psychologically cruel scenario imaginable to America’s number one bogeyman.”
Tracey Kinchen, a former MI6 agent who has worked in Cambodia, Hong Kong, and South Africa told WorldNetDaily, “Wouldn’t it be ironic if it was the ‘South Park’ movie which really proved to be the proverbial ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ and pushed Saddam over the edge and into launching a nuclear or biological attack against the West? The people who made that film — either they were guided by the CIA or they are incredibly stupid.”
Rich and poor surviving the sanctions WorldNetDaily recently interviewed scores of Jordanian drivers and truckers who make regular trips to Iraq. All of them, to a man, said that they enjoy their trips to Iraq.
One taxi driver, Ali, said, “For us Jordanians, Iraq is very inexpensive. But you must bring a lot of dinars because of inflation. Whenever I go to Baghdad, I get a few suits made. I buy a lot of toys for my children. It’s like a shopping holiday.”
Jordanians bring a lot of dinars to Iraq for a good reason. Before Desert Storm, one Iraqi dinar could be exchanged for $3.30. In August of 2000, one U.S. dollar can be exchanged for 1,900 Iraqi dinars.
During a recent trip to the Iraq border with Jordan, an Iraqi border guard told WorldNetDaily that most of the vehicles in Iraq are dated before 1990. Many cars, the guard added, are from the 1960s, and they run “with cannibalized parts.”
Furthermore, the guard said that when driving in Iraq, “be careful at the intersections, because the lights often go out because of the power shortages.”
No longer does Iraq resemble what it used to be — one of the Middle East’s most wealthy nations.
Three Iraqi men who fled Baghdad to look for work in Jordan spoke with WorldNetDaily about life in Iraq under the U.N. sanctions.
“Life is very hard, but we will survive. We can ride bicycles and eat simple food. You won’t see any fat people like you have in America, that’s for sure,” said one man, who found work on a Jordanian irrigation project for one Jordanian dinar per day (about $1.70).
“The sanctions have only united the Iraqi people against the West, instead of against Saddam,” he added.
Not everyone in Iraq, however, is struggling under the sanctions.
Presidential palaces continue to be built at an amazing rate. Iraq has plenty of water and oil, and as such, has some major chips to bargain with when trading with her neighbors. Shops in downtown Baghdad are filled with imported microwave ovens and Samsung television sets from South Korea. Samsung has offices in Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Saddam controls a company called “Asia” which imports and exports over $1 billion per year in crude oil, electronic goods and foodstuffs to and from the four corners of the world. Saddam’s Asia smuggling operation, also known as the “Tikrit [his hometown] mafia” is a clearing house of sorts that manages illicit trade to Russian client states in the region like Syria and Iran. Saddam’s Asia business goes on of course, with the full knowledge of the U.S. and the UK.
They do not object, says the Mossad station chief in Amman, “because the nations in the Persian Gulf are American and British allies, and they are profiting greatly from the smuggling operations carried out by Saddam and his family. Even the Kurds, who claim to oppose Saddam in Northern Iraq, have been given a piece of the Asia pie. Asia has an office in Zakho, which is a town controlled by the Kurdish resistance movement, but no one would dare interfere with Saddam’s operations there. Everyone, including the Kurds, is getting a piece of the action.”
Mohammed al-Bashir, one of the drivers who took WorldNetDaily around Jordan, has made over 25 trips to Baghdad since 1995. “There are many old cars in Iraq — that’s true. But there are also brand new Mercedes and BMWs, Porsches — anything,” he said. “And there are really wealthy neighborhoods like Mansour and Arasat. There is a lot of money in Iraq, despite what anyone might tell you.”
The U.S. Navy patrols the Persian Gulf, ready to take down Iraqi crude being smuggled out of the country. But on Iraq’s border with Jordan, there are virtually no barriers to the transfer of goods between the two nations. Nor are the land borders Iraq shares with neighbors Turkey and Kuwait strictly enforced.
Jordanian military intelligence officials interviewed by WorldNetDaily said Saddam sneaks out a lot of crude oil via the land border with Turkey, and from there Saddam “also imports a great deal of produce,” said one official.
“The U.S. and the UK actually view Saddam’s trade with southeast Turkey as a positive. You see, by making that region prosper economically, the Marxist Kurds in Turkey will be less likely to take up arms against the government in Ankara. The U.S. also needs the Turkish airbase, Incirlik, to launch sorties in the northern no-fly zone in Iraq. It’s kind of absurd, really.”
WorldNetDaily met several South Korean field representatives in Amman who were traveling to Iraq on behalf of their cheabols or “mega-corporations.”
“When the sanctions are finished, South Korea will be a major player in Iraq because of our business trips there,” said Kwon Si Ho, a service agent who works for Samsung.
“We are used to dealing with the dictator in North Korea, so dealing with Saddam is not a problem for us. Besides, we are salesmen and must be true to ourselves and our brand name. Many South Korean electronics products are being sold in Iraq — it is true — despite the sanctions, and we need to provide spare parts and customer service to the Iraqi people. In the future, they will remember that we treated them with respect, even during their darkest hour.”
WorldNetDaily international correspondent Anthony LoBaido’s in-depth reports are featured in WND’s monthly magazine, WorldNet. For more information about WND’s sister publication, please visit our