In the statecraft of Anwar Sadat, the favorite implement of persuasion was the spoken word. As president of Egypt, he announced his policies, argued his case and chastised his enemies in three-hour speeches and unending interviews in which he was by turns impassioned, sarcastic, bitter and full of advice.
Historians will work with a rich store of his thoughts on all the great foreign and domestic issues that he faced in 11 years as president of Egypt. In contrast to the taciturn and colorless leaders of Syria, Algeria and Iraq, Sadat was always voluble and visible, and he disdained the euphemism and obfuscation of conventional political oratory.
In one memorable tirade before his favorite audience, the Egyptian parliament, he excoriated his Arab critics as "ignorant dwarfs" and "stooges" of foreign powers, motivated by "malice" and locked into the same "rotten mentality" they had exhibited for 20 years. His characterization of his foes as dwarfs became part of a language of Middle Eastern politics that is certain to survive Sadat's burial in Cairo yesterday.
One poignant irony of his assassination was that he preached on many occasions that Islam is a religion of peace and understanding, not of violence, and that terrorism was futile and counterproductive. In one of his two books, "Revolt on the Nile," a memoir of the 1952 revolution, he said that "the glorification of violence is fatal to the hot-blooded people of the East because it unleashes their most animal instincts."
At the beginning of his presidency, in 1970, he was still a captive of conventional Arab rhetoric. He described Egypt's relations with the Soviet Union as "one of the great friendships in history" and he said he would "never" establish diplomatic relations with Israel. But after the 1973 war and the restoration of Egyptian pride, he began to demonstrate the independence of thought and pragmatic perceptiveness that distinguished his presidency.
In an interview with the Egyptian magazine October after he returned from his historic visit to Israel in 1977, he showed how far he had distanced himself from other Arab leaders in his perceptions of the world around him.
In dealing with Israel, he said, it was necessary to recognize that "the Jewish people have a special problem, which we must understand . . . . The Jews have been living in fear for thousands of years. They lived in ghettos while fearing majority populations everywhere . . . . The Jews also were exposed to many massacres and persecutions.
"All this deepened their feeling of fear. As a matter of fact, Jews feel that the whole world is their enemy. When they established Israel, the imagination became a reality and fear became a certainty. They are strangers in a strange land. They are surrounded by millions of hostile Arabs."
In Egypt, he said, "we take life for granted. In Israel, however, nobody knows if he will be alive or dead the next day."
That willingness to recognize the reality of Israel and understand the Israeli point of view set Sadat apart from all other Arab leaders. He was similarly outspoken and iconoclastic on many other issues.
On Libya's Muammar Qaddafi, whom Sadat called a "lunatic" and a "mad boy": "He thinks that money can bring him everything. I want to prove to him that money can never make a leader out of him."
On student dissent and political activism in the universities: "We want to teach our children knowledge, not gangsterism . . . . Education is free at government expense. It is an investment and I want the proceeds. No one should obstruct studies."
On the Palestinians: "Egypt has not forsaken and will not forsake the rights of the Palestinians, despite the rabid barking, obscenities and rudeness of those who call themselves the PLO."
Sadat argued that Egypt's national identity was unalterably Arab -- in fact, that Egypt was the ancestor of all Arabs because Hagar, mother of Ishmael, was Egyptian -- and that upstart rulers of minor Arab states could not break the ties between Egypt and the other Arab people. He proclaimed the other Arabs ingrates toward Egypt, pointing out that they profited from the oil price bonanza after the 1973 war while they criticized Egypt for trying to rebuild itself through peace.
"The tongues of the Arabs," he said, "have become frozen over an old expression, 'Arab solidarity.' I got tired of discussing this empty expression, but the Arabs have not. The Arabs have never been in agreement. The Arabs have never been united, not even once. . . . The Arabs have agreed on only one thing, to vilify Egypt and its people."
Referring to criticism from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, he said, "Are these states in the Persian Gulf genuine states? These states are jellylike entities, which can neither stand on their feet nor defend themselves."
With the triumph of the Iranian revolution, the resurgence of Moslem fundamentalism in Egypt and the outbreak of sectarian strife between Egypt's Moslems and Christians, Sadat had to deal more and more frequently with the always-delicate relationship between Islam and the state. He followed the principle that he laid down in "Revolt on the Nile" in 1957:
"The Egyptian is a religious man. He has a deep respect for all religions and for spiritual values. But religion is one thing, its exploitation for political purposes quite another. It must not be given a purpose which it does not inherently possess. If a religion is turned into a political system, then fanaticism is born. The confusion of temporal power with the spiritual has been the downfall of many oriental societies."
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, he said in a 1980 speech, "is the worst harm to befall Islam. Islam is not a bloodthirsty religion, as Khomeini is portraying it. Islam is not a religion of mad, yellow revenge." In Iran, he said, "dignity is being abused in the name of Islam -- secret trials, murders, arrests and an exploitation of the basest lust of them all, the lust for revenge and hatred. All in the name of Islam."
In another speech to parliament in the same year, he said, "I am a Moslem president of an Islamic state, and I know my responsibility. The Copts and Jews of Egypt are just as much my responsibility as the Moslems, and this is stipulated in the Koran." He said he was "well aware that Islam combined religion and the state. Still, I say, no politics should be mixed with religion and no religion should be mixed with politics."
The central theme of Sadat's presidency was that the war of October 1973 restored Egyptian dignity and ended the "myth of Israeli invincibility," and ushered in a new era of peace and reconstruction in Egypt. The Israelis, he said, were tough negotiators, but once they made an agreement they kept it, and the other Arabs should recognize that Israel could be moved only through direct talks, not through slogans and posturing.
For Egypt, he said, the era of confrontation was over.
In his "October Working Paper," a policy document issued 3 1/2 years before he went to Jerusalem, he said, "Hatred is never constructive and it has no place in the ranks of our good and kindly people. We do not want to fight battles which are long past for we still have the most serious of all battles ahead of us, that of the future, of construction and progress. With the October war, we have embarked on a new stage in the life of this ancient people."