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Five options for Saddam

Saddam may follow any of Hitler, Idi Amin, Osama, Milosevic and Aideed as his last stand, analyse Pramitpal Chaudhuri and Aditya Sinha.

world Updated: Mar 23, 2003 15:28 IST

THE HITLER OPTION

* Commit suicide: There is no greater glory in Islam than martyrdom. Arab literature is full of heroes who lose but die bravely. With Saddam suddenly rediscovering his Muslim identity after 25 years of secularism, he may chose shahadat.

* The Hitler analogy is reinforced by the fact that Saddam’s favourite hangouts in war are German-made bunkers.

* Saddam is a master of symbolism: note his militarily futile but politically potent 1991 firing of Scuds at Israel.

*He trusts no one, which is why he’s butchered more than one family member in his time. If he cannot overcome his paranoia and declines a deal with the invaders, it’s possible he’ll turn the gun on himself.

* Or, one of his inner circle, such as his murderous sons, will decide it would be better if the old man be found dead — and silent — than alive and talking.

* Trouble with this scenario is that Saddam is a coward — that’s why he’s so ruthless. Plus, he has nothing materially to gain from death.

THE IDI AMIN OPTION

* Go into exile: Idi Amin, the brutal dictator of Uganda who drove out the Indians, had white palanquin bearers and ate human flesh, is now living happily in Saudi Arabia with over 30 wives. Something any tyrant worth his salt should aim for. nIn 1991, when the road to Baghdad lay open to the US army, Saddam had an airplane ready to fly into exile.

* Though Saddam has been a big gambler, he’s in the end a a survivor. So when all other options are exhausted, he may cut a deal. George W. Bush has said Saddam can go wherever he pleases; the US may give his plane a safe passage out.

* Bahrain, a close US ally, has publicly offered him a place to stay. If that smells too risky, he could probably tie up with individuals in neighbouring governments.

* The French say Saddam has $ 6 billion salted away in Switzerland, so he’ll be comfortable. He can even fund an insurgency against any puppet regime the US installs in Baghdad.

THE OSAMA OPTION

* Play hide and seek: Could Saddam emulate the Saudi terrorist who masterminded the 9/11 attacks? To disappear would be relatively easy. More difficult would be to successfully live in hiding, sending occasional videotapes to Al Jazeera.

* Saddam is the head of a state, not a terrorist network. His system depends on overt and public repression, a tightly controlled army and a personality cult, whereas Osama’s is a shadowy system of autonomous cells, connected by a common ideology.

* No dictator has graduated to becoming a shadowy terrorist. And Saddam has made no preparations for setting the precedent.

* There’s also the ideology thing. Though Saddam is now the Muslim world’s alpha male for standing up to the Americans, he is not a fervent Islamist who could become a node in the global terrorist network.

* Then there is the practical question of where he’d hide. There are no caves in Iraq, and he’s unlikely to make the trip out to the tricky and mountainous terrain of Pakistan’s NWFP.

THE MILOSEVIC OPTION

* Capture & trial: The fate of former Yugoslavia president Slobodan Milosevic would weigh heavily on Saddam’s mind. If he’s caught by the USA, they’re likely to bring him up on charges of war crimes at some kind of international tribunal.

* The Iraqi government-in-exile has promised the same fate for Saddam. Plenty of do-gooding NGOs would like the same. There’d be hundreds of hours of testimony he’d have to sit through, punishment enough for him.

* The West would be in two minds about such a fate for Saddam. After all, Saddam was in bed with the USA, the Frend, the British and pretty much everyone else in his long and chequered career.

* Jacques Chirac was such a buddy in the 1970s that the French press called him Monsieur Iraq. Who would want Saddam to spill so many spoilt beans before the klieg lights?

* On the other hand, it would be the just thing to do, and a useful catharsis for those Iraqis who were traumatised by his reign.

THE AIDEED OPTION

* Beat off the US: n“We will fight the invaders and drive them to... lose their patience and lose their way.” — from Saddam’s TV address on Thursday after the US attack began.

* Given the lessons of Vietnam, Somalia and Lebanon, Saddam believes that given enough bodybags and time, the Yankees will go home.

* Somalian warlord Mohd Farah Aideed sent the USA packing after killing 18 of its soldiers in an ambush in the cramped streets of Mogadishu.

* So Saddam’s elite Republican Guard have been dispersed around Baghdad, waiting to bog the US down with sniper fire and intelligence traps.

* A long grinding modern-day Stalingrad, with some chemical warfare, could erode the domestic support for Bush, which is already, at best, shaky.

* Even the Pentagon believes its units would take a 30 per cent casualty rate in street fighting. Only hitch: highly motivated Iraqi soldiers, immune to shock and awe, are required.

First Published: Mar 23, 2003 12:32 IST