Sucheta Dalal :End of a man who scared the hell out of me
Sucheta Dalal

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End of a man, who scared the hell out of me  

January 4, 2007

Saddam's stroy through the eyes of a defense person. And his message to the U.S

I heard of this man first time when I was undergoing training in UK. In my class there were also Iraqi officers keen to buy Sea Harrier aircraft. They lived in big luxury even during training. How come and I came to know of their President. I wished I were in Iraqi Navy. They left training half way & I forgot them till I landed up in Baghdad 20 yrs. later.

I was heading marketing of a basmati rice co, diversifying into other products & had an office in Baghdad. This office fell vacant & I was deputed.

Iraq then was reeling under UN sanctions because they had attacked Kuwait. The country was badly damaged, flights were not allowed and they were permitted to sell only that much oil which could keep their body & soul together. Electricity even in Baghdad was on 4 hr shift. Small generators could not run ACs and the heat was unbearable. UN observers were on all borders, not interfering with governance. It mattered little for Saddam Hussein & his family. His TajMahal like palaces were shinning more than Las Vegas. Clearly he had lost touch with public.

It was while I was being driven to Baghdad from Amman (Jordan) that I pointed a finger at a distant, blindingly lit castle, that scared the hell out of the Jordanian driver and brought a hawkish police officer to halt us immediately, check all our papers, ask too many irrelevant questions & left us only because, Saddam, the President, considered Indians friendly, poor & harmless. I had pointed a finger. He had come prepared to cut my whole arm & also of driver’s & then throw us in some odd jail forever. The Toyota taxi, he would have kept as souvenir. The driver immediately thanked Allah that his passenger was Indian. The incident shook me, but being Indian I lived more privileged and better than Thailand.

Iraq was extremely oil rich nation, gateway to Europe. Saddam was secular, progressive and very ambitious person. He was shrewd, ruthless & intelligent. Saddam believed that hard lid on fundamentalism & various factions like Shias & Kurds is good for his country. Slowly western luxuries will moderate them. He had made his military very strong, at the discomfort of other Arab nations and the west. Absolute power made him fight Iran for 8 long yrs, killing 80% of officers on both sides. The balance were working for companies like ours for pittance. I felt lucky that my wish of becoming Iraqi officer was not granted.

He misjudged west & attacked Kuwait. West attacked him. I think it is impossible for a dictator to remain balanced. For west should have known this & molded him. Had they befriended Saddam, the world would have been different & there would have been no 9/11. He was the only ruler in Arab world who knew how to moderate the fundamentalists.

West thought sanctions would retaliate Iraqis against Saddam but he started siphoning oil & making billions. Well-connected people became our agents to get tenders accepted in ministries totally riddled with corruption. I don’t want to write more lest I will also be called with Natwar Singh. Saddam had started to feel insecure. There was general talk of his informers all around. The hatred towards west, which he had created, was now turning towards him. US probably knew and therefore attacked in the garb of WMD.

Saddam’s fall

Rich turned poor and suffering people of Iraq were jubilant at his fall. This was a God sent opportunity for West, which they squandered away. Iraqis are secular, moderate, luxury loving and most beautiful people. They like western way of life and are aware that their nation is very rich in oil and agriculture. It has two mighty rivers and world famous Karbala & gardens of Babylon. Why should then they be poor and suffer shortages. The first thing US should have done is to bring hundreds of generators and electricity producing ships around Basra and other ports. Given Iraqis more electricity, even if they had to import diesel. Simultaneously, on war footing, fix refineries, powerhouses, and roads and soon a peaceful nation, with enough oil for them & the world, would have emerged. What after all is the utility of your being the richest and most resourceful? The attacks you are facing each day is a massage that you have made no difference. Your delay is strengthening the few fundamentalists and also the world opinion against you. You train the best management brains for the world & lesson everyone on good governance, why are you then failing?

Saddam’s Hanging :-We in India are conditioned against hanging but Iraqis know better. With him gone, attacks will soon subside. Now please get on rebuilding this great country for the good of the whole world.

(Cdr. S.S. Kumar) –comments invited [email protected]

-- Sucheta Dalal