When U.S. bombers and jet fighters crossed the border into Iraq on Jan. 17, the United States declared war on an abused child.
Saddam Hussein's psyche was formed in an abusive childhood. The unique circumstances of his upbringing provide a warning that he is unlikely to surrender to anything less than a bullet in the head. At least that is what the latest secret CIA psychological profiles say about Saddam.
The CIA profile and reports on Iraqi leaders around Saddam predict the only way he will leave the scene is the same way he got there -- by violence.
One source who read the top-secret file on Saddam said he was "moved" by it, in spite of what he knows about the horrors Saddam has committed.
The source said the CIA psychological profile "actually is rather sympathetic to him, portraying him as a disadvantaged orphan child, raised by his mother's brother and becoming an assassin at an early age."
The agency reached its conclusions by gathering intelligence on Saddam's childhood and then having it analyzed by CIA psychiatrists. Our source says the report explains, "Saddam's psyche was shaped by his rejection by his natural father and mother. But the report admits that he is a triggerman who is very ruthless, willing to kill anyone and only likely to disappear from the scene if he is killed."
This source and others filled in details of the CIA profile.
Saddam was born in 1935 in the village of Tikrit north of Baghdad. Most of his closest aides, those who joined him in his butchery, were Tikritis too.
His mother, Subha, was a tyrant in her own right. She had three sons by a prior marriage before Saddam was born. Saddam's father, a farmer, left before Saddam was born. Saddam later put out the false story that his father had died.
Subha went looking for another husband and found Ibrahim Hassan, who was already married. He could have added Subha to his family as a second wife, but she wouldn't share him, so she forced him to divorce his first wife.
Hassan, according to the CIA profile, was an abusive stepfather. He regularly beat Saddam and, like Charles Dickens's Fagin, made the boy steal for the family, and possibly ordered Saddam to commit his first murder. The village knew Saddam's stepfather as "Hassan the liar."
Neighbors and early childhood friends of Saddam's reported that Hassan would sometimes beat Saddam to wake him up, often shouting epithets such as, "You son of a dog, I don't want you!"
At a young age, Saddam was put in a detention center. At 11, he ran away from home and moved in with his mother's brother, Khairalla Tulfah, who lived in a nearby village. According to a semi-official biography of Saddam, the uncle and other relatives "gave him a pistol and sent him off in a car" to Tikrit in his late teens to care for himself.
Saddam found a political outlet in the violent Baath Party. At age 24, he tried to kill Iraqi leader Abdel Karim Kassem. Kassem survived that attempt, but was assassinated by someone else four years later in 1963. In 1979, Saddam became ruler of Iraq, a position from which he has taken out his aggressions on his own people and neighboring Arab nations.