Tuesday, 25 March 2003

Saddam starts to sound more like his hero, Uncle Joe

by Robert Fisk in Baghdad

click here to visit his website Let us now praise famous men. Saddam Hussein was keen on doing just that yesterday. And he proceeded to list the Iraqi army and navy officers who are leading the resistance against the Anglo-American army in Umm Qasr, Basra and Nasariyah.

Major-General Mustapha Mahmoud Umran, commanding officer of the 11th Division, Brigadier Bashir Ahmed Othman, commander of the Iraqi 45th Brigade, Brigadier-Colonel Ali Kalil Ibrahim, commander of the 11th Battalion of the 45th Brigade, Colonel Mohamed Khallaf al-Jabawi, commander of the 45th Brigade's 2nd Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Fathi Rani Majid of the Iraqi army's III Corps ... And so it went on.

"Be patient," President Saddam kept saying. Be patient. Fourteen times in all, he told the army and the people of Iraq to be patient. "We will win ... we will be victorious against Evil." Patient but confident in victory. Fighting evil.

Wasn't that how President Bush was encouraging his people a few hours earlier? At other times, President Saddam sounded like his hero, Joseph Stalin. "They have come to destroy our country and we must stand and destroy them and defend our people and our country ... Cut their throats ... They are coming to take our land. But when they try to enter our cities, they try to avoid a battle with our forces and to stay outside the range of our weapons."

Was this, one wondered, modelled on the Great Patriotic War, the defence of Mother Russia under Uncle Joe? And if not, how to account for – let us speak frankly – the courage of those hundreds of Iraqi soldiers still holding out under American air and tank attacks?

People, party, patriotism. The three P's ran like a theme through the Saddam speech along with a bitter warning: as the American and British forces made less headway on the ground, President Saddam said, they would use their air power against Iraq ever more brutally.

So what does it feel like to live these days in President Saddam's future Stalingrad? Early yesterday, the cruise missiles and the planes came back. The great explosions clapped across Baghdad in the darkness. One of the Tomahawks smashed into the grounds of the Al-Mustansiriya University – 25 students wounded and one dead, so they claimed.

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