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A Leader With an Eye on His Legacy

Report Depicts Hussein As Fearful, Reclusive And Totally Dominant

By Bradley Graham
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 7, 2004; Page A33

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was so worried that a phone call might be detected by the United States and pinpoint his location for an attack that he used a phone only twice after 1990. Toward the end of his rule, he grew more reclusive, fearing increasingly for his own safety and relying more than ever on members of his Tikriti clan.

But even as he felt threatened by U.S. military power, Hussein showed a fondness for U.S. movies and literature, one of his favorite books being Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea." He hoped for improved relations with the United States and, over several years, sent proposals through intermediaries to open a dialogue with Washington.


Saddam Hussein, shown during a 1998 visit to the northern city of Kirkuk, views himself "as the most recent of the great Iraqi leaders," says the report by Charles Duelfer. (Iraq News Agency Via AP)

_____Iraq Survey Group_____
Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD
Key Findings (PDF)
Excerpts from the Report
Comparison: Administration Claims and the Report
_____Video_____
Dana Priest MSNBC Video: The Post's Dana Priest talks about details of Saddam Hussein's personality contained in the report.
AP Report: The top U.S. arms inspector said Wednesday he found no evidence that Iraq produced any weapons of mass destruction after 1991.
_____Today's Post Coverage_____
U.S. 'Almost All Wrong' on Weapons (The Washington Post, Oct 7, 2004)
Hussein Used Oil to Dilute Sanctions (The Washington Post, Oct 7, 2004)
War's Rationales Are Undermined One More Time (The Washington Post, Oct 7, 2004)
Inspector Is Known as Tough, Thorough (The Washington Post, Oct 7, 2004)
Timing of Report Called Inspector's Decision (The Washington Post, Oct 7, 2004)
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These are among the inside glimpses of Hussein that emerge in the report by Charles A. Duelfer, released yesterday, on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Seeking to place the weapons program in the context of an Iraqi government that for years was totally dominated by one man, Duelfer provides a revealing, detailed portrait of Hussein, describing his grand aspirations, autocratic governing style, personal tastes and idiosyncrasies.

Much of the information appears drawn from interviews not only with former Hussein aides in custody but with Hussein. Since his capture last December, Hussein has been held in isolated confinement on the grounds of one of his former palaces about 10 miles from the center of Baghdad.

He has been questioned by a single debriefer, the report says without revealing the debriefer's identity. Hussein has had no incentive or motivation to cooperate, "except to shape his legacy," writes Duelfer, the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq. But the Iraqi leader "is concerned with his place in history and how history will view him," Duelfer adds.

Indeed, Duelfer says, Hussein views himself "as the most recent of the great Iraqi leaders like Hammurabi, Nebuchadnezzar and Saladin." In the reconstruction of the historic city of Babylon, for instance, bricks were molded with the phrase "Made in the era of Saddam Hussein" -- mimicking the ancient bricks forged in Babylon and demonstrating Hussein's "assumption that he will be similarly remembered over the millennia," Duelfer writes.

Duelfer's account confirms the widespread perception of Hussein as having been in total control in Iraq. Hussein made all the strategic decisions and was "fond of micromanagement," Duelfer says.

Hussein lavished rewards on loyalists and was swift to punish those deemed disloyal. He used violence to ensure compliance with his orders. His lieutenants were "tightly constrained" by fear of Hussein and loss of power.

"It was not just an urban legend that, if someone became too popular or too powerful, he would quickly be removed," Duelfer says.

Hussein also was highly secretive and, for subordinates, difficult to read at times. "He would ponder key decisions -- such as the [1990] invasion of Kuwait -- for months but share his thoughts with few advisors," Duelfer writes.

Hussein did not lead by espousing detailed goals and objectives. "He tended to allow ideas to float up and he would consider them -- often never pronouncing on them one way or the other," Duelfer says. "This meant that much guidance to the government was implicit rather than explicit."

Hussein encouraged a multiplicity of reporting systems. "Since no one ever knew for sure how certain their position was, it bred anxiety and uncertainty even among the longest serving ministers," Duelfer says. "He fostered competition and distrust among those around him."

This facilitated Hussein's survival. But it also "greatly colored and contorted the perspectives of reality his top aides had," Duelfer writes.

Hussein's command style with subordinates was "verbal and direct," Duelfer says. This reliance on verbal instructions, particularly involving such key issues as security and weapons of mass destruction, was driven largely by security concerns, according to Duelfer.


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