Catalogue


Saddam : king of terror /
Con Coughlin.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
New York : Ecco, c2002.
description
xxxiv, 350 p. : ill., geneal. table, maps, ports. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0060505419
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Ecco, c2002.
isbn
0060505419
catalogue key
5443370
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [337]-338) and index.
A Look Inside
First Chapter
Saddam: King of Terror

Chapter One

The Orphan

The young Saddam Hussein had a harsh and deprived childhood. The man who was to become one of the most powerful Arab leaders of modern times came from an impoverished village situated on the banks of the Tigris River on the outskirts of the provincial town of Tikrit. He was born into a poor family in one of the country's most inhospitable regions. At an early age Saddam was orphaned and sent to live with relatives, who oversaw his upbringing and education. No profound knowledge of psychology is required to estimate the effect these circumstances had upon the child's development. As with Hitler and Stalin, those two great tyrants of the twentieth century, both of whom overcame their less than auspicious starts in life to take absolute control of their respective nations, Saddam was to rise above the disadvantages of his childhood to become the undisputed master of Iraq. The shame of his humble origins was to become the driving force of his ambition, while the deep sense of insecurity that he developed as a consequence of his peripatetic childhood left him pathologically incapable in later life of trusting anyone -- including his immediate family. Given the disadvantages of his birth, Saddam deserves credit for overcoming these seemingly insurmountable social obstacles to reach the pinnacle of Iraq's political pyramid.

Saddam was born in the village of Al-Ouja, which means "the turning," and is so named because of its location on a sharp bend in the Tigris River eight kilometers south of Tikrit, in north-central Iraq. The village was then a collection of mudhuts and houses and the inhabitants lived in conditions of abject poverty. Amenities such as running water, electricity, and paved roads were unheard of, and although there were a number of wealthy landowners in the region, the village itself was barren. Infant mortality was high, and survival for many was a full-time occupation. The big estates, situated in the Fertile Crescent, produced a variety of crops such as rice, grain, vegetables, dates, and grapes, and their owners, who resided either in nearby Tikrit or the ancient metropolis of Baghdad, were held in high esteem within Iraqi society. In what was essentially a feudal society, the function of the impoverished inhabitants of Al-Ouja was to provide a fund of cheap labor to work as farmhands on the estates or as domestic servants in Tikrit. There were no schools at Al-Ouja. The wealthier parents sent their children to school in Tikrit, but the majority could not afford it, and their barefoot children were left to their own devices.

While most of the inhabitants were gainfully employed in these mundane pursuits there were some who preferred to sustain themselves through illicit activities such as theft, piracy, and smuggling. Historically Al-Ouja was known as a haven for bandits who would earn their keep by looting the doba, the small, flat-bottomed barges that transported goods between Mosul and Baghdad along the Tigris, one of Iraq's most important trade arteries. The looters were particularly active in the summertime when they could more easily go about their business from their vantage point on the bend in the river where the passage of the boats was of necessity slow, and where the doba would sometimes become stuck on the shallow banks. Poaching was another popular activity, and some of the villagers felt no compunction about helping themselves to chickens and fresh produce from the neighboring estates.

Officially, Saddam was born on April 28, 1937, and, to lend the date authenticity, in 1980 Saddam made it a national holiday. Given the primitive nature of Iraqi society at the time of his birth, it is, perhaps, hardly surprising that this date has been challenged on several occasions, with some of his contemporaries arguing that he was born a good couple of years earlier, in 1935, while other commentators have claimed that he was born as late as 1939. This might be explained by the fact that the whole process for registering births, marriages, and deaths was exceedingly primitive. At this time it was the custom for the authorities to give all peasant children the nominal birth date of July 1; it was only the year that they attempted to get right. This would certainly explain why a certificate presented in one of Saddam's official biographies gives July 1, 1939, as the date of his birth. In fact, Saddam acquired his official birth date from his friend and future co-conspirator, Abdul Karim al-Shaikhly, who came from a well-established Baghdad family and so had the advantage of possessing an authentic birth date. "Saddam was always jealous of Karim for knowing his own birthday. So Saddam simply copied it for himself." Not content with stealing someone else's birthday, it is now generally accepted that Saddam also changed his year of birth to portray himself as being older than he actually was during his meteoric ascent through the ranks of the Baath Party. This is explained by his marriage to his first wife, Sajida, who was born in 1937. It is frowned upon in Arab society for a man to marry a woman older than himself, and Saddam appears to have amended his year of birth to that of his wife. The fact that Saddam cannot even be clear about his precise date of birth says a great about his inner psychology.

Although the date of birth may be disputed, the location is not. Saddam was born in a mudhut owned by his maternal uncle Khairallah Tulfah, a Nazi sympathizer who was later jailed for five years for supporting an Iraqi anti-British revolt during World War II. He was born into the Sunni Muslim al-Bejat clan, part of the al-Bu Nasir tribe, which was dominant in the Tikrit region. Tribal loyalties were to play a significant role in Saddam's rise to power. By the 1980s there were at least a half-dozen members of the al-Bu Nasir tribe—including the president and Saddam -- who held key government positions. In the 1930s, however, the clan was known primarily for its poverty and for its violent disposition ...

Saddam: King of Terror. Copyright © by Con Coughlin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Saddam: King of Terror by Con Coughlin
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Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2002-09-15:
Described by the publicist as up-to-the-minute-though next week's news could change all that. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2002-10-28:
"Writing a biography of Saddam Hussein is like trying to assemble the prosecution case against a notorious criminal gangster. Most of the key witnesses have either been murdered, or are too afraid to talk," notes Coughlin. Despite these formidable obstacles, the London Daily Telegraph correspondent has assembled a timely, detailed portrait of the Iraqi dictator-though not one that fully supports the subtitle's implied link to al-Qaeda. Relying on both primary and secondary sources, as well as interviews with Iraqis living in exile, Coughlin examines how Saddam latched onto a pan-Arab ideology and developed a ruthlessness that allowed him to rise to the top of the Iraqi leadership in 1980. As Saddam became embroiled in the lengthy Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s, and then the 1991 Gulf War, Coughlin shows how the leader used violence to keep himself in power. While emphasizing the brutality of Saddam's regime, Coughlin also explains that the Iraqi strongman developed widespread support through a combination of social programs and cult of personality, and that support so far has survived the poverty and chaos of the past decade. Coughlin provides new details of Saddam's cruel behavior and of internal purges, as well as of the U.S. role, or lack thereof, in attempted coups-though he takes no position on a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq. Still, as a new military action looms, readers looking for a biography of Iraq's strongman will need to look no further. (Nov. 4) Forecast: Coughlin is booked on the Today show in early November, which will undoubtedly be only the beginning of a major media campaign. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, September 2002
Publishers Weekly, October 2002
Los Angeles Times, November 2002
New York Times Book Review, December 2002
Guardian UK, January 2003
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Unpaid Annotation
An unprecedented biography, drawn from the author's exclusive access to high-ranking defectors, intelligence officials, and even Saddam's own relatives -- fully illustrated with photos from his early life to the presentTwo weeks before September 11, 2001, Saddam Hussein placed his troops on their highest military alert since the Gulf War. As al-Qaeda terrorists set their attacks on America in motion, the Iraqi dictator was prepared to go to war for a second time with the United States. How did an illegitimate child from Tikrit become the West's greatest adversary, and one of the most dangerous and murderous dictators of modem times?"Saddam: King of Terror is the most insightful and illuminating portrait of the Iraqi president to date-and a fascinating study of the making of a tyrant. Con Coughlin, executive editor of London's award-winning Sunday Telegraph, has covered the Middle East for decades -- on the front lines, narrowly escaping kidnapping and violence. He has cultivated exclusive contacts among the Western intelligence community and numerous defectors from Saddam's inner circles -- including former generals, political associates, and bodyguards as well as childhood friends. Coughlin knew immediately that American and British declarations of war against terrorism after the September 11th attacks would sooner rather than later encompass Saddam Hussein as well as Osama bin Laden. Coughlin shows that any operation against terrorism will be incomplet
Table of Contents
List of Illustrationsp. ix
Prefacep. xxiii
Prologue: The Outlawp. xxv
The Orphanp. 1
The Assassinp. 23
The Revolutionaryp. 52
The Avengerp. 72
The Nation Builderp. 99
The Terroristp. 125
Mr. Presidentp. 150
The Warlordp. 176
The Victorp. 201
The Invaderp. 227
The Loserp. 253
The Survivorp. 276
Epilogue: The Idolp. 313
Notesp. 325
Select Bibliographyp. 337
Indexp. 339
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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