Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams
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The infant tyrant, he informs me, had the most traumatic possible start to life: he almost never made it out of his mother’s womb. The fact that he did is due only to the benefaction of his Jewish neighbours, now in hiding in Tel Aviv. Is it possible that the Butcher of Baghdad is just taking revenge on the rest of us for his childhood trauma? “I think it’s absolutely crucial. Scars that deep that early you can’t really recover from,” explains my lunch companion, Jerrold Post. “A lot of his total control of the environment is designed to compensate for his being totally out of control. A lot of the adulation he seeks is to compensate for the mirroring, the mothering, he never received.”
Dr Post, a qualified psychiatrist and professor at the George Washington University, pioneered the field of “political psychology” during a 21-year career at the CIA.
Perhaps his most celebrated achievement was the profiling of Menachem Begin (“a detail person”) and Anwar Sadat (“a big-picture person”) that helped President Jimmy Carter negotiate the Camp David peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Over the years, he and his interdisciplinary team compiled hundreds of psychological profiles of leaders and militants for the US Government: all remain secret.
Saddam’s mother, Sabha, was predictably devastated and tried first to kill herself and then to abort her unborn child. Both times she was stopped by the intervention of well-to-do Jewish merchants who were family friends.
Baram, a professor at the University of Haifa in Israel and the author of a forthcoming biography of the Iraqi leader, has interviewed two surviving members of the Jewish family who saved Saddam — a large family that once had branches in Tikrit and Baghdad.
One of the two women remembers Saddam as “both the best-looking and the brightest” child in Tikrit. The other witness was a member of the Baghdad branch of the family who helped to look after Saddam’s mother in her hour of greatest need.
“At a certain point, (the Jewish family) realised that Sabha was in very bad shape and distraught,” Professor Baram says. “The reason was that her eldest son was ill. They had a black Mercedes — the only Mercedes, and one of the few vehicles, in town. They took her in the Mercedes to Baghdad. It took half a day. There they left her with the Baghdad branch of the family. These people lived very close to Baghdad’s central hospital. They very quickly hospitalised the child.
“For four days, Sabha was sitting near her child in bed. In the evening, she was going to the Jewish home. She spent the night there.
“On the fourth day, the doctors told her they would need to operate on the child for a brain tumour. A woman from the Baghdad branch of the family, who was also pregnant, sat with Sabha outside the room. Then the doctor told her the child had died on the operating table.”
It was then that Sabha tried to kill herself and abort Saddam.
“The Jewish woman was taking her out of the hospital just across the street to the Jewish home and Sabha threw herself under a bus. She wanted to commit suicide, but she was a strong woman and she was not hurt,” Professor Baram says.
“The Jewish woman managed to yank her out and saved her life. Then she went home to the Jewish home and started beating her belly against the door. She wanted to abort Saddam. She said: ‘What will this child do for me? I have lost my husband’.”
Again the Jewish family intervened, eventually sending her by taxi back to Tikrit, where the other branch of the family kept a watchful eye over her.
When Saddam was born on April 28, 1937, his mother shunned him — a sign of deep depression. Her brother, Khayrallah Talfah Msallat, Saddam’s maternal uncle, took charge of the child. It was only at the age of three that Saddam was reunited with his mother, who had by then remarried to a distant relative named Haj Ibrahim Hasan, with whom she had a daughter and three more sons. The stepfather physically and psychologically abused Saddam.
“He must have returned hoping at long last to be at the bosom of a warm and loving family and instead he was abused,” Dr Post theorises. “People who are abused as children often become abusive themselves, and he did it on a larger scene, a national and regional scene. In Saddam’s case, he has been able to shape the social system so that it mirrors his own psychology. “He has no father, and he then becomes father to his nation. The sort of violence that was shown to him, he shows to the people around him to keep them under control. He says: ‘Never again will I yield to superior force’.”
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