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Saddam's Atrocities of "Honor" By: Dr. Walid Phares
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, December 19, 2003

I remember from the days in Beirut, which I left in October 1990, how many called Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein: Al-Jassur. It means "The Darer," "The Courageous," and "The Macho." A few months earlier, he had ordered the invasion and plundering of Kuwait. Arab nationalists in Lebanon and throughout the region praised his conquest of its small neighbor. "No more borders between the Arabs!" ("la hudud bayna al-arab") they shouted.

See when a big Arab fish eats a little Arab fish, he becomes a hero in the eyes of the radicals. The Ruler of Baghdad had always portrayed himself as a sword of the Arab nation, its soul and its avenger. He projected a leader who was on the footsteps of the great conquering Caliphs. In few words, the embodiment of what is known as al-sharaf al-arabi, or Arab honor.

Saddam knew all too well the delirium tremens of the political elites in the region. They were the product of a failed development, of crumbled empires and of trapped evolution. The writings of Pan-Arabists, the poetry of social-nationalists and the slogans of ruthless leaders shaped the ideological minds of thousands of political cadres of the Baath partisans, Nasser supporters and, later on, Jihadist militants of the region.

Since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, liberal trends were crushed under the yoke of those so-called "Arab nationalists." Instead of social development, democratization and emancipation of minorities, the new rulers of the Arab world erected dictatorships in the newly established nation-states. In each one of these entities, a powerful man emerged. Each one of these dictators declared his messianic dimension. In each capital from Tripoli to Baghdad, dictators self- appointed themselves as the Saladin of the Umma. (the nation).

As the famous Lebanese-American writer Khalil Joubran put it so well, "Beware the disaster of nations, in which each piece believe it is the entire nation." So was the case with the rulers of the region. Nasser of Egypt, Kadhafi of Libya, Assad of Syria, Arafat of Palestine, Turabi of Sudan and Saddam of Iraq.  Each man thought they were the unique saviors of the Arabs, all the Arabs on all Arabs lands. Hence, their will was endless, their desires unstoppable and their crimes unpunished.

Their existence on Earth was legitimized by one word: Honor. Read honor of the Arab nation. They were chosen to defend and embody that pride. It replaced democracy, development, equality, security, stability, prosperity and, above all, justice. The region lived off what the Pan-Arabist elites have divinely defined as al-sharaf al-arabi, Arab honor. Under this honor, regimes killed, tortured, raped, invaded, and ordered all sorts of inhuman behavior.

Nasser invaded Yemen, Kadhafi conquered Chad, Assad occupied Lebanon, Arafat subverted Jordan, and Turabi cleansed southern Sudan. Millions were killed, millions were jailed, and millions were tortured - - from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean. All of that under one word: Honor.

Wars were started with Israel, but could never be ended because of Honor. Women were deprived from basic rights in Saudi Arabia and under the Taliban, because of pride of ideologies. Students are suppressed in Beirut and Tehran because of dignity of regimes. And when reformists, activists or critics would attempt to raise these inhumane issues internally or internationally, they were accused of injuring Arab Honor.

In Mesopotamia, the supreme commander of the socialist-nationalist Ba'ath Party exulted honor as a state ideology. With Ba'athist pride, he ordered the Kurds to be razed. And responding to Arab dignity, he threw half-a-million Shiites into mass graves. Saddam's honor eliminated thousands of Sunni opponents after savage torture. And yet, the irreducible Ba'athists of Iraq and the Arab world still believe in the superseding doctrine of honor.

Is it unique in history? Not really.  In the middle of the past century, millions were assassinated for the pride of the Nazi Third Reich and for the Fascist Empire. When Mussolini was hanged, followers were horrified. And when the Fuhrer committed suicide, supremacists raged. How dare the world injure Nazi and Fascist honor? They attempted to associate German and Italian nations with the injury, but not to avail. The World already understood the crimes that Adolph and Benito had committed. It was too late to play the pride game.

After the capture of Saddam this past weekend, followers of Arab National-Socialism and Jihadism raged. They condemn the images shown of their leader, simply because they identify with him. He may represent them, but he does not represent the Arab world. The game is over. Millions of men and women have been liberated: 14 million Shiites; four million Kurds; and two million Assyrian and Turkomen.

Arab Sunni in Iraq and Kuwait and many, many more are freeing their voices in this large region of the world. They are just discovering that the honor of Saddam is the dishonor of the Arabs. He now embarrasses even those who were pleased with the dictator's ambitions. He pledged Arab unity, yet attacked a brother country, Kuwait. He vowed to destroy Israel, but attacked Iran instead. He lived off a legend of courage, yet didn't die in fighting as Uday and Qusay did several months earlier.

So where is the honor that al-Jazeera and its commentators are mobilizing the region for? Was Arab honor tarnished when Saddam's teeth were examined? Where was Arab honor when tens of thousands of skulls, canines and skeletons were unearthed from Basra to Halabjah.. Indeed, to the millions of innocent victims, Saddam is not the embodiment of Arab honor, but of the dishonor made to the Arabs by their dictators.

Dr Walid Phares is the author of the newly released book Future Jihad. He is also a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington DC.

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