Saturday, May 20, 2006

Saddam Hussein

Saddam ready for ‘martyrdom'
Prepared to leave world his literature legacy

Publishing Date: 19.05.06 09:36
Saddam Hussein -- ready for hangman
By Gordon Thomas

LONDON -- Saddam Hussein has told the only woman now in his life that he is ready to meet his hangman.

"I will go to the gallows with dignity knowing I will die a martyr. The legacy I will leave the world is my new epic work that will assure my place in literature," he has told his lawyer, Bushra Khalil, the only woman on his defense team.

He made his bizarre claim shortly before he was brought back to court for the resumption of his trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

His first action on facing the judge was to refuse to enter a plea.

"I do not attend this trial to spare my life. I attend it to defend Iraq", he told a court wearied after seven months of his outbursts.

But the clearest clues as to his mindset came from Bushra Khalil. Smartly dressed and refusing to wear a veil, the softly-spoken 44 year-old lawyer has built up a unique relationship with the dictator in which she listens for hours in his cell as he talks about foreign affairs and his ambition to be a best-selling author.

In court she sits near him, watching as he sits, arms folded, eyes half closed, looking like a man impatient to get back to his writing.

Bushra Khalil is Shi'ite Muslim who for the past seven months has taken on the task of trying to defend the hated Sunni dictator.

She is the only member of the defence team Saddam has allowed to visit him in his high-security prison near Baghdad international airport. He has refused to see his own family.

For hours at a time, Khalil, dressed in chic Western clothes - usually a customised trouser suit or calf-length skirt and high-buttoning blouse - has listened to Saddam discuss not his defence, but international issues and reading the latest passages from his "epic."

He has told her he rises at 4.30am, the hour many millions of Iraqis terrorised by him call "the first dawn."

Bushra Khalil does not know where his prison is located. "I am taken there by the Americans in a van with blacked out windows. I have been told it is for my own protection," she said last week.

Since Saddam's trial started, two defence lawyers had been murdered - and a third fled the country to escape assassination.

While Khalil, as his lawyer, is given the normal client-prisoner relationship, she believes her talks with Saddam are closely monitored.

He is treated with the same vice-like grip that exists on Death Row in an American prison. His iron bed is bolted to the floor. The bedding is standard US military prison issue. His toiletries consist of a weekly bar of soap, a sponge and a tube of toothpaste. But he has reverted to the days of his childhood and brushes his teeth in the Arab fashion with a stick of miswak, a hardwood.

His bathroom has a shower and European-style toilet. A metal washbasin and two towels complete the facilities. Toilet paper is of the kind sold in any Baghdad marketplace.

His breakfast consists of yogurt, toast and tea, eaten with airline-style plastic cutlery. His guards are unarmed. Saddam has told Khalil his relationship with them is "friendly."

When not in court his daily routine never varies. All his meals are cooked by a specially recruited Iraqi. Drinking water comes from sealed bottles - part of consignments flown in from the United States for its troops.

After lunch Saddam is taken out to a small courtyard for a period of exercise. In a corner of the yard is a water tap. The first thing Saddam does is to turn it on. The sound of flowing water has always been a reminder for him that, in a land parched by nature, he could always command water. In his palaces there were magnificent tumbling waterfalls and the sound of water was pumped into his office. But often the tap produces only a mere trickle.

As the sky darkens into deep ebony, Saddam prepares for his night.

His dinner will be fruit - dates and olives are a staple of the diet - along with soup, possibly chicken and rice. The diet has led to Saddam shedding his pot-belly. His shaggy salt-and-pepper beard is trimmed once a week, enhancing his sharp, penetrating eyes.

Then he returns to his writing. An MI6 source said the "epic work" is filled with paranoid invective against the United States and Israel. However, according to Bushra Khalil, he sees the book as "a cross between ‘Gone with the Wind' and Russia's epic defense of Stalingrad in World War Two."

Aviv Rubin, a former Mossad analyst, said: "Letting Saddam play out his fantasies on paper could offer important clues to his past relationship with countries like Syria, Egypt and even Iran. His characters are thinly disguised but based on living Arab leaders."

The one certainty is that Saddam's "epic work" will be a strictly limited edition.

"It will never be published. That would make it a collector's item for fanatics - rather like having a first edition of Hitler's ‘Mein Kamph,'" said Rubin.

Gordon Thomas, a British journalist specializing in international Intelligence matters, is author of "Gideon's Spies: The History of the Mossad." He is a regular contributor to G2 Bulletin.

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