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Saddam hoessein and the rebuilt babylon

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Saddam Hussein

Modern "King" of Babylon

By Ken Raggio

The Los Angeles Times, in October 1995 published a story entitled, "Iraqis affirm support of President Hussein." It was a commentary on the public election in Iraq of Saddam Hussein.

The dateline on the article was "Babylon, Iraq." The article detailed the phenomenon of a nation voting for a dictator that had ruled by force for twenty-seven years.

Apparently there were virtually no dissenting votes. Everyone was afraid that a "no" vote would spell calamity for the voter -- loss of food rations, government harassment, and possible jeopardy of life. Of 7.5 million voters, not one dared speak publicly against Hussein.

Who is this infamous, powerful man...

...who brazenly defies all the world, and strikes fear in the hearts of those he rules?

Hamid Youssef Hammadi, the Iraqi information minister is quoted as saying, "Saddam Hussein is a national hero. America had Abraham Lincoln, France had Napoleon and De Gaulle, and Egypt had Nasser. In America, you may not like Saddam, but he is a hero here. Saddam is the centerpiece of a "brazen personality cult."

Modern-day Equivalent of King Nebuchadnezzar

"Nowhere is that more visible than in Babylon, where the Iraqi leader is cast as the modern-day equivalent of King Nebuchadnezzar, the warrior and builder who came to power in 605 BC at the tender age of 25.

Hussein, who helped stage a coup at age 31, has restored part of Nebuchadnezzar's 600-room palace.

Placed atop some of the original bricks, marked with Nebuchadnezzar's name, are others that declare, "In the era of Saddam Hussein, protector of Iraq, who rebuilt the Royal Palace."

A palace tour guide said, "Nebuchadnezzar was a man of war and peace, just as Saddam Hussein is. That's why people love him."

Babylon - Babel revisited

History, both Biblical and secular, record ancient Babylon as the seat of the most powerful empire in the world of its day.

Its famous "Hanging Gardens" were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The western world, due to its Judeo-Christian orientation, remembers Babylon best for its role in capturing and destroying the nation of Israel in the seventh century BC. It was the captive home of Daniel and the three Hebrew children.

Babylon is also famous for being located in the same location as the more ancient Tower of Babel. Bible students equate Babel and Babylon with everything sinful and rebellious against God and His kingdom.

Babylon has been resurrected in our time

Charles Dyer, author of "The Rise of Babylon" documents a fascinating event that took place in 1988 on the actual site of the ancient city of Babylon.

"It is a cloudless September night, and the moon casts its shining image on the banks of the gentle Euphrates River.

Thousands of guests and dignitaries walk by torch light to Babylon’s Procession Street and enter the city from the north.

Instructed to line the streets along the massive walls, the guests obediently follow orders.

When the audience is in place, the dark-eyed man in charge nods, and the procession begins.

Rows and rows of soldiers parade in, dressed in Babylonian tunics and carrying swords, spears and shields.

Interspersed among the ranks of soldiers are groups of musicians playing harps, horns and drums.

Clusters of children carry palm branches, and runners bear bowls of incense.

Then come soldiers and still more soldiers in a seemingly endless line of men and weapons.

After the procession, the guests attend a ceremony paying tribute to Ishtar, the mother goddess of Babylon."

The director of that event, the International Babylon Festival, was none other than Saddam Hussein.

He was celebrating the revival of the city from ancient times.

By 1990, over sixty million bricks inscribed with Hussein’s name were on top of the very bricks that Nebuchadnezzar had laid.

Risen to Fall Again

In the days of the prophet Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of an image whose head was of gold. Daniel interpreted the dream.

It depicted the progression of world empires beginning with Babylon to the end of an age.

In the end of time, Daniel saw that the Kingdom of God would crush all these man-made empires: "Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold," (Daniel 2:45.)

There is much about Babylon and its role in Bible prophecy. Babylon in the Scriptures comes to represent much more than merely the city of Babylon.

Babylon grew over the centuries to represent an entire world system, as well as an evil religious system ("Mystery Babylon"). See separate articles on this website that explain who "Mystery Babylon" is at What is Mystery Babylon?

There are many other prophecies that apply to those representations. The focus of this article is to point specific Bible prophecies at the actual City of Babylon.

The King of Babylon again oppresses Israel

No other king ever captured and destroyed the nation of Israel except Nebuchadnezzar.

Now, Saddam Hussein, perceiving himself as the new King of Babylon, and self-appointed leader of the Arab world, intends to capture and destroy Israel again.

His ventures into Kuwait prior to the Gulf War were only his first adventures in rebuilding the entire ancient Babylonian empire, which would include Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait and ISRAEL!

The City of Babylon will again be destroyed

Even though Babylon has lain in ruins for many centuries now, certain Bible prophecies concerning her destruction have not yet been fulfilled. Isaiah 13:19 says, "And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah."

Isaiah’s "burden" for Babylon, in chapter thirteen also included a terse warning: "Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty," (verse six).

God promised Israel that they would someday take up this taunt against the King of Babylon (Saddam Hussein?), "How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!" (Isaiah 14:4.)

Here, the utter destruction of the city of Babylon is linked to a.) God’s overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah (fire fell from heaven) and b.) the day of the Lord (the same time frame as other endtime prophecies).

Revelation 18:21-23 tells of the future and utter annihilation of the City of Babylon, "And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee:

I believe that it is possible that this scripture could be fulfilled BOTH in the geographical city of Babylon, Iraq AND in Mystery Babylon - ROME, for the simple reason that God often uses shadow AND substance, typology and real-time fulfillment. Just as God's actions in the Old Testament Tabernacle foreshadowed His actions in the New Testament Church, I believe that it is possible that God's actions in the geographical city of Babylon, Iraq could foreshadow His actions in Mystery Babylon, ROME.

Does Saddam’s palace in Babylon contain biological or chemical weapons?

If Saddam’s palace in Babylon becomes an object for concern in the current showdown between Iraq and the West, a scenario could quickly and easily develop which could fulfill the above mentioned prophecies.

If world leaders determine that Saddam’s palace in Babylon is a threat to world security, Babylon could finally become the target for a massive force of destruction. Alternately, Saddam's fraternity with other neighboring Arab and Muslim countries could draw him into the middle of the Israeli/ Arab conflict in a profound way. An act of aggression against Israel could result in Babylon's becoming a target of retaliation in a Mid-East showdown. News reports in late October declared that Iraq had subscribed over one million volunteers to mobilize in ground warfare against Israel. Prime Minister Barak of Israel announced to the Knesset in early November 2000 that he was prepared to use nuclear force against Iraq if necessary.

If and when such an event took place, every thing Saddam has rebuilt could suddenly reduce to a rubble of contaminated ashes that no one could even go near for thousands of years.



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Hope of Israel Ministries (Church of God)

Saddam Hussein and --

Babylon: Prelude to Armageddon?

The Bible says that ancient Babylon -- the mightiest and wickedest

city of the ancient world -- will be rebuilt before the world's final battle

at Armageddon. Lost for centuries under the shifting sands of Iraq, the

ruins of this once great city have been rediscovered. Conclusive evid-

ence shows that Saddam Hussein is rebuilding Babylon to the exact

specifications and splendor it had in the days of Nebuchadnezzar!

What are the motives of Saddam Hussein? Is the Iraqi despot fulfilling

Biblical prophecy?

John D. Keyser and Charles H. Dyer

The dry, blistering heat was oppressive that September day in 1987, and the last thing the traveler wanted to do was hike alone along a sandy road and scale a dusty wall. But he had traveled from his home in Texas to Babylon, Iraq, and now that he was here, nothing short of an armed guard would stop him from exploring the ruined city that had always fascinated him.

Finally he was alone, for the moment, in a city that was nearly as old as civilization itself. Perhaps he was standing a few feet from the spot where Alexander the Great died or where Nebuchadnezzar once mused over the greatness of the city he had built. Maybe the young prisoner Daniel had absently run his fingers along this very wall and wished that he were back home in Jerusalem. Or perhaps somewhere in the sand under the travelers feet was a fragment of the symbol of man's rebellion against God -- the tower of Babel.

The traveler snapped several pictures of this bleak, undeveloped section of ruins and then slipped back over the wall to join the official party of foreigners of which he was a part. Saddam Hussein had invited a group to Iraq for a cultural festival, to see the beauty of the new Babylon that was rising from the ruins. Like the other visitors, the traveler clapped and smiled for his hosts at the appropriate times. But something arose from within his soul -- a feeling part thrill, part chill.

The Bible forecasts the rebuilding of Babylon, and here, before his very eyes, was another thrilling proof that Bible prophecies are infallible. But the Bible also reveals that the rebuilt Babylon will be brutally and suddenly destroyed with such force that not even one stone will ever be used again.

The traveler looked down at the Babylonian ruins and saw twenty-five-hundred-year-old bricks that were ordered into place by Nebuchadnezzar. Over the centuries, thousands of his bricks have been taken out of the rubble and used to build nearby villages. Today the rebuilders of Babylon are laying additional bricks inscribed, "Rebuilt in the era of our President Saddam Hussein." These bricks, too, should last through the ages. What act of destruction could prevent their reuse?

Nuclear war, perhaps. But the United States and Russia are talking again, the traveler reminded himself, and the superpowers have never been more eager for peace and disarmament. Then his eyes fell upon a chilling twenty-foot portrait of Saddam Hussein, the self-described Knight of the Arab World -- a man whom some call "the Butcher of Baghdad."

What does the future hold for Babylon? the traveler wondered. Whatever terrors lie ahead, they are sure to affect the entire world.

Old News Is New News

"Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Madman from Mesopotamia threatens the stability of the Middle East! World plunges toward war!"

Are these headlines from today's New York Times, or are they the cries of a prophet who lived twenty-five hundred years ago? History, it seems, is repeating itself. Descriptions of Iraq's rise to power today parallel descriptions of Nebuchadnezzar's rise to power in 605 BC. Once again the eyes of the world are riveted on the Middle East and the threat of one man. Once again the world is painfully aware of Babylon.

At the heart of the current crisis is Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq. Well known for atrocities, tortures, and ruthlessness, he seems bizarre and unreasonable to Western minds. What are his plans and ambitions? What relationship do his current actions have with biblical prophecies and God's plans for the world? Is Saddam Hussein a link to Armageddon, or is he only the latest head on a long string of would-be world conquerors? Hussein has baffled both his own countrymen and Western foreign policy analysts.

While the world struggles to penetrate the enigma of Saddam Hussein, we can find an important, God-given clue in the Bible. The key to the mystery of Saddam Hussein is Babylon. From Genesis to Revelation, Babylon occupies a unique position in God's Word. Today the once dead city is being revived by Saddam Hussein, who seeks to establish and lead an international power paralleling the glory of ancient Babylon.

Pagan Parade in Babylon

It is a cloudless September summer night, and the moon casts its shining image on the banks of the gentle Euphrates River. Thousands of guests and dignitaries walk by torch light to Babylon's Procession Street and enter the city from the north. Instructed to line the streets along the massive walls, the guests obediently follow orders. When the audience is in place, the dark-eyed man in charge nods, and the procession begins.

Rows and rows of soldiers parade in, dressed in Babylonian tunics and carrying swards, spears, and shields. Interspersed among the ranks of soldiers are groups of musicians playing harps, horns, and drums. Clusters of children carry palm branches, and runners bear bowls of incense. Then come soldiers, and still more soldiers in a seemingly endless line of men and weapons. After the procession, the guests attend a ceremony paying tribute to Ishtar, the mother goddess of Babylon.

Has the traveler just described a scene of pagan worship from the time of Daniel? Perhaps, but it is also exactly what he witnessed when he returned to Babylon in 1988 for the second International Babylon Festival held under the patronage of Saddam Hussein.

Imagine, if you will, a ruler determined to stamp his name on the pages of history. His goal is complete dominion of all surrounding nations, and he has built an extensive army and sophisticated weapons (nuclear and biological) capable of carrying out his wishes. He holds absolute power, and he does not hesitate to execute those who pose even a remote threat to his leadership. People have been arrested and imprisoned for the simple crime of not revering his image.

Yet his military might is not his only claim to fame. He also sees himself as a patron of culture: of poets, artists, and architects. Even the bricks in Babylon bear his name as the personal overseer of its construction.

Is this a fair description of Saddam Hussein? Yes, but it also accurately describes Nebuchadnezzar II, the Babylonian king whose empire once stretched from sea to sea. In his day, the lands of what are now Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Kuwait were all under Babylonian control. In August 1990, Saddam Hussein tried to reclaim a portion of that early empire and invaded Kuwait. Can he possibly hope to reclaim the entire kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar in the future?

Bible Predicts Resurrection of Babylon

Shafqa Mohammed Jaafar, the chief archaeologist of Babylon, explains --

Because Babylon was built in ancient times, and was a great city, it must be a great city again in the time of our new great leader, Saddam Hussein.

Babylon will be a great city again. The Bible mentions Babylon over two hundred and eighty times, and many of those references are to the future city of Babylon that is rising from the fine sands of the desert today. Consider the following biblical prophecies:

Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians' pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah. -- Isaiah 13:19

Babylon was never suddenly overthrown like Sodom and Gomorrah in their fiery destruction. It was conquered by the Medes and Persians and fell into decline, but it was not violently destroyed.In the time of Peter the apostle a colony of Jews resided in the ancient city and a modern town existed on a portion of the ruins until quite recently.

Note Isaiah again --

An oracle concerning Babylon that Isaiah son of Amoz saw: ... Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. -- Isaiah 13:1, 6

"The day of the Lord" described by Isaiah refers to the tribulation period that is still to come. Babylon's destruction, then, will come in the time of the tribulation -- a short period of time just before the second coming of Christ.

The Lord will have compassion on Jacob; once again he will choose Israel and settle them in their own land....They will make captives of their captors and rule over their oppressors.... On the day the Lord gives you relief from suffering and turmoil and cruel bondage, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has come to an end! How his fury has ended! .. . All the lands are at rest and at peace; they break into singing. -- Isaiah 14:1-4, 7

When Babylon is ultimately destroyed, Israel will finally be at Peace and will dwell in safety. Israel has been a nation since 1948, but not for one day has the nation of Israel known real peace or ease. It has never been able to claim all the lands God promised the Israelites, and Israel's Arab neighbors have been a constant threat and danger.

The "Woman" of Rome

In the book of Zechariah we read:

Then the angel who was speaking to me [Zechariah] came forward and said to me, "Look up and see what this is that is appearing."

I asked, "What is it?"

He replied, "it is a measuring basket."

And he added, "This is the iniquity of the people throughout the land."

Then the cover of lead was raised, and there in the basket sat a WOMAN! He said, "This is WICKEDNESS," and he pushed her back into the basket and pushed the lead cover down over its mouth.

Then I looked up -- and there before me were two women, with the wind in their wings! They had wings like those of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between heaven and earth.

"Where are they taking the basket?" I asked the anger who was speaking to me. He replied, "To the country of BABYLONIA to build a house for it. When it is ready, the basket will be set there in its place." -- Zechariah 5:5-11

Zechariah was a product of the Babylonian exile of the Jews in the sixth century before Christ. Born in Babylon, he returned to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. Zechariah was from a priestly family, and he watched his people begin to rebuild the temple in 536 B.C.

The work in Jerusalem languished, however, and God spoke to Zechariah and Haggai and called them to deliver his message to the people: rebuild the temple! While this was their immediate message, God also gave them a glimpse of his future plans for the nation of Israel.

Zechariah had the vision about Babylon in 519 B.C. He saw a measuring basket, with a cover, that was said to contain "the iniquity of the people throughout the land." The woman Zechariah saw in the vision represented a church (see Revelation 12: 6, etc.) and the fact that this woman was refered to as "Wickedness" indicates that a "wicked church" is symbolized here. We see the same woman portrayed in Revelation 17. This "wicked church" is none other than the Roman Catholic Church -- a church that is riddled through and through with the false doctrines of the ancient Babylonian mystery religions. The heavy lead cover was designed to keep the woman, or wickedness, from escaping.

After showing Zechariah this scene, the angel pushed the woman into the basket and shut the lid. Obviously Zechariah was indicating that God had confined and limited this wicked church for a time. God was restraining the church and keeping it in check so that it would not run free in the world until its time had come.

The basket was carried away by two angelic beings to the country of Babylonia, or Babylon. This church would be deposited in the land where man first rebelled against God, where a rebel named Nimrod led mankind to build a tower whose top would reach God. Babylon was the city that had threatened God's land of promise and sacked and burned Jerusalem.

Wickedness, or the Roman Catholic Church, said the angel, would again reside in Babylon. But how? Evidently the church will be allied in some way with modern Babylon (Iraq), and together they will become a great economic and military power that will invade and conquer Israel and other countries in the Middle East.

Zechariah had been living in the land of Babylon when it fell to the Medo-Persians. Could Babylon rise again? Yes. Zechariah's vision shows that the "house" of Babylon will rise again "when it is ready. " The time and place have not been right for thousands of years, but when God's prophetic plan is ready, Babylon will be rebuilt. Wickedness (the church) will again reign from the plain of Babylon. The city where man's rebellion against God began will be the site where man's rebellion will return to take up residence.

Every day that passes brings us closer to the end times, and every day the eyes of the world focus more closely on events in the Middle East and Mesopotamia. One key element in God's program of end-time activities will be the re-establishment of Babylon as a world power, when wickedness will again occupy the "city of man."

As Babylon takes its place in the center of the world stage, it is time to open our eyes.

Nebuchadnezzar's Royal Mandate

Paul Lewis, in the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote --

When King Nebuchadnezzar ran things around here some 2,500 years ago, he left clear instructions for the future kings of Babylon that are finally being carried out. Writing in cuneiform script on tablets of day, the royal scribes urged their master's successors to repair and rebuild his temples and palaces. Today, in a gesture rich in political significance, President Saddam Hussein, Iraq's strong-armed ruler, is sparing no effort to obey that now-distant command. -- "Nebuchadnezzar's Revenge: Iraq Flexes Its Muscles by Rebuilding Babylon," April 30, 1989.

For nearly two thousand years, Babylon was the most important city in the world. It was the commercial and financial center for all Mesopotamia, the center of a geographical "X" that linked the Orient with the Mediterranean and Egypt with Persia. Its scribes and priests spread its cultural heritage throughout the known world. The arts of divination, astronomy, astrology, accounting, and private commercial law all sprang from Babylon.

Still, Babylon declined in importance as the major routes of commerce and trade shifted from the shores of the Euphrates to those of the Tigris. First Seleucia, then Ctesiphon, and in turn Baghdad rose to become the center of power and influence. Babylon was still inhabited, though the city retained only a shadow of its former glory. It had not yet fallen in the way predicted by the prophets, but its glory had been eclipsed by others.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, as Babylon crumbled into the shifting sands of the desert, it seemed unlikely that it would ever rise from the mounds that had entombed it for so long.

As recently as fifteen years ago, all that existed on the site of ancient Babylon were dusty ruins, or ruins of ruins. Babylon's walls, made from clay bricks, were not as strong as the still-imposing stone structures of Egypt. Barely a wall was intact. Notes Insight On the Scriptures: "About the fourth century C.E. the city appears to have passed out of existence. It became nothing more than "piles of stones." Archaeology and Old Testament Study states: "These extensive ruins, of which, despite Koldewey' work, only a small proportion has been excavated, have during past centuries been extensively plundered for building materials."

But as of February 1990, over sixty million bricks had been laid in the reconstruction of Nebuchadnezzar's fabled city. Saddam Hussein has ignored the objections of archaeologists who consider it a crime to build over ancient ruins. He has scrapped a plan to rebuild Babylon on a nearby site across the Euphrates River. On the exact site of ancient Babylon, he has reconstructed the Southern Palace of Nebuchadnezzar, including the Procession Street, a Greek theater, many temples, what was once Nebuchadnezzar's throne room, and a half-scale model of the Ishtar Gate.

Hussein plans to rebuild the hanging gardens, once considered one of the seven wonders of the world: he has offered a $1.5 million prize to any Iraqi who can devise a plan to irrigate the gardens using only the technology available in ancient Babylon. Three artificial hills, each almost a hundred feet high, have been built on the plain and planted with palm trees and vines, and the ziggurat, or "tower of Babel, " may once again rear over the city.

Wrote Judith Miller and Laurie Mylroie --

Saddam's campaign to enroll the past in the service of future glory is obsessive. He has embarked on a giant project to reconstruct a version of ancient Babylon. Millions of bricks have been baked, many of them inscribed: "The Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar was reconstructed in the era of Saddam Hussein." Saddam is widely portrayed as a latter-day Nebuchadnezzar, the sixth century B.C. Babylon ruler, whose memory the Old Testament has preserved as the conqueror of Jerusalem, the leader who carried the Hebrews into captivity. During one official nighttime celebration, diplomats and invited guests were asked to cast their eyes upwards into the black desert sky. There above them hung twin portraits of Saddam and Nebuchadnezzar etched against the night by laser beams. Saddam's features were rendered unusually sharp and hard in order more closely to resemble the ancient carved images of Nebuchadnezzar. -- Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf. Pp. 57-58.

Wrote Amy Schwartz:

In the next few years, [Director General of Antiquities, Dr. Muayad] Said predicts, the government will also redig and refill the city moat, close the city to all traffic but pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages, and maybe rebuild the ziggurat. -- "Saddam Hussein's Babylon," Washington Post, April 4, 1990, p. A27.

The Construction Begins

The restoration of Babylon began in 1978 to save what remained of the city from the destructive effects of local salt deposits, a high water table, and pillaging from local villagers. In part because most young Iraqi men were away at the war with Iran, and in part because native laborers often lacked the required skills, Babylon has largely been rebuilt through the hands of over eighteen hundred Egyptian, Sudanese, Chinese, and South Korean laborers.

The Iraqis are determined that the new Babylon will look as nearly like the old as possible. No one is exactly sure how the ancient city looked. Scholars, however, are studying archaeological data and other information from ancient Sumerian and Babylonian writings in order to make sure that the restored Babylon is authentic.

The reports of the German archaeologist Robert Koldewey, who excavated much of Babylon in the early part of this century, would have moldered away on library shelves except for the strange turn of political events that have thrust his work into prominence today. His black-and-white maps of the ancient city of Babylon have led first to blueprints and then to yellow brick and mortar.

The German archaeologists who excavated the area between 1899 and 1912 carried off the best remains of ancient Babylon. The blue glazed bricks of the original Ishtar Gate, decorated with bulls and fanciful dragons, are now in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. The great black stones of Hammurabi, on which were written one of civilization's first known law codes, now reside in the Louvre in Paris. Hussein's government has petitioned to have the original items returned, but no one realistically expects them to arrive.

Will Tourists Flock to "Saddam World"?

Some observers believe that Babylon is being rebuilt as a tourist attraction and little more. It has been described as "a kind of megalomaniacal Disneyland." Amy Schwartz, an editorial writer for the Washington Post, called it "one of the world's oddest tourist attractions . . . with jiggly music, . . . a plethora of snack bars and rest areas and a 'Lake Saddam' for fishing."

There are plans for hotels, playgrounds, recreation centers, movie theaters, and temples. The main hotel in the tourist city, like the supposed ruins of the tower of Babel, will resemble a ziggurat, a pyramid-like structure with outside staircases and a shrine at the top.

When the traveler attended the Babylonian Festivals in 1987 and 1988, guests from all over the world gathered there. There were ballet troupes from the Soviet Union and France, opera singers from Italy, folk dancers from Greece, Turkey, Poland, and Yugoslavia, flamenco artists from Spain, a symphony from the Soviet Union, and Bedouin dancers from Saudi Arabia. The Iraqis even invited Madonna, who didn't show.

"This is not just an Iraqi festival," Munir Bashir told a writer for the Los Angeles Times. "It is a festival for the whole world, because Babylon was the capital of civilization once and has given the world so much. People from all over the world want to see Babylon. All the time we have requests."

A Pardon for Babylon?

Paul Lewis, in his San Francisco Chronicle article, stated --

Iraqis enjoy Nebuchadnezzar's emerging palace, flocking to Babylon by rickety bus and car on their Friday holiday. "It's prettier than where we live," said Sadia, a teenage student who was visiting with friends. Noisy wedding parties drive over, too, each led by trumpeters and drummers who vie to produce the loudest cacophony. -- "Nebuchadnezzar's Revenge."

There may be another subtle reason, however, behind the drive to rebuild Babylon. Michael Ross, a writer for the Los Angeles Times, speculated that perhaps Munir Bashir took the job of organizing the music for the Babylon Music Festival to "grant Babylon a pardon from the biblical sentence imposed upon it in the book of Revelation, when a 'mighty' angel cast a stone into the sea and said: So shall Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and shall be found no more: and the sound of harpists and minstrels, of flute players and trumpeters, shall be heard in thee no more.

But because music and building and wedding celebrations continue in the city of Babylon, we know that it is too soon to grant such a pardon: the violent destruction of the city has not yet occurred. The passage in Revelation 18:21-22 continues:

No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again.

Why is Saddam Hussein rebuilding Babylon? Some Iraqis, noticing that the rebuilding began in earnest during the years of war with Iran, see Hussein's building campaign as a living reminder to his people of the feud that has existed between his people and the Persians (who live in present-day Iran) for thousands of years.

Stated Arif Gita Suheil, governor of Babylon --

The president has signed an open check to reconstruct the ancient city and revive the marvelous shape it had before the Persian aggression which destroyed it more than 20 centuries ago.

Others believe his goal is to reestablish Iraq as the cradle of civilization and the Iraqi people as heirs to the great cultures of Babylon, Nineveh, and Ur, which flourished thousands of years ago between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. -- "Babylon Is Being Rebuilt to Lure Tourists and Build Iraqi Morale," by Subhy Haddad, Philadelphia Inquirer, October 10, 1986.

It is time to look more closely at Saddam Hussein's reasons for rebuilding.

Why Rebuild Babylon?

In the January 16, 1987, issue of the Los Angeles Times, Michael Ross wrote: "Babylon has assumed additional importance for the government since the war broke out in September, 1980. Keen on establishing a link between its current conflict with the Persians and the legendary battles of the past, the Iraqi government has speeded up the reconstruction in order to make Babylon a symbol of national pride."

To appreciate the present-day construction of Babylon, it is necessary to understand Iraq's recent history. In February 1963, Iraq was rocked by a bloody coup. The Pan Arab Socialist Renaissance Party, more commonly called the Baath Party, took power. Goals of the Baath Party include the political unification of all Arabs and the glorification of the Arabs as a race. The Baath Party has opposed, and still opposes, Jewish emigration into Palestine and the establishment of an independent Jewish state.

Saddam Hussein, a Baathist, became president of Iraq and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council in July 1974. Since assuming leadership, he has become the driving force to make Iraq a leader among the Arab countries. His name means "one who confronts," and six days after becoming president he confronted twenty-two of his rivals in leadership and had them executed. He was now the sole ruler of Iraq, but he had not yet achieved his ultimate ambition. His goal was -- and is -- to become nothing less than the savior and leader of the Arab world.

Explains Amitzia Baram of Haifa University in Israel --

Saddam Hussein thinks in terms of circles. . . . His most immediate circle is the Gulf, which remains number one for him. But beyond that there is the circle of the Arab world, where he aspires to hegemony, to being the single most important leader.. . . He sees himself as Nasser's heir in the Arab world. -- Newsweek, August 13, 1990, p. 23.

Hussein's First Invasion

One year after assuming power, Hussein invaded Iran, hoping to take advantage of the recent change of leadership in Iran and the resulting chaos. Hussein's reasons for invading Iran were complex, but an underlying problem is the racial tensions that have existed between Iraq and Iran for thousands of years. The two countries share the Islamic religion, but Iranians are not Arabs. They are Persians who speak Farsi rather than Arabic and have a distinct social, cultural, and ethnic heritage. Hammurabi of Babylon fought the Persians eighteen hundred years before Christ. In 539 B.C. Cyrus, king of Persia, conquered Babylon.

It is often difficult for the American mind to comprehend, but the people of the Middle East talk of centuries-old feuds as if they began yesterday. The feud between the Iraqis and the Iranians (Persians), who are now at peace, could be energetically kick-started on practically a moment's notice. In that area of the world, any lingering hostility between various ethnic groups can be inflamed into war with one impassioned breath.

A second reason for Iraq's invasion of Iran was political. After the overthrow of the shah of Iran, Khomeini's Islamic Republic tried to topple Iraq's Baathist regime by supporting the Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq and by appealing to the Shiite Muslims in Iraq (the Baath government is dominated by Sunni Muslims). The Kurds, who are not Arabs, want to be free of Arab domination. Hussein invaded Iran, then, to retaliate for Iran's interference in Iraqi affairs.

A third reason for the invasion was geographical. Geography has been cruel to Iraq, and as an independent state, Iraq suffers handicaps that did not exist when it was a province of the far-reaching Ottoman Empire. First, Iraq lacks natural defenses. Like Germany, to which Iraq has often been compared, it faces the problem of encirclement by hostile powers. Given that the openness of the land surrounding the two rivers (Tigris and Euphrates), it is not surprising that the Mesopotamian region has been vulnerable to invasion from all sides throughout history.

Not only that, but Iraq's two largest cities are extremely vulnerable. The capital, Baghdad, is 70 miles from the Iranian border; Basra a mere 13. During the Iran-Iraq war, and during the Gulf War, Baghdad was subject to Iranian and American missile attacks long before Iraq's missile program gave it an equal capacity, while Basra was under near-constant siege by the Iranians. Finally, Iraq is practically landlocked. Its acess to the sea is limited to a scant 26 miles of the Persian Gulf coast -- and the Shatt al-Arab is the only maritime route to Iraq's interior. Hussein felt his vital access to the Gulf was threatened by the Iran-Iraq compromise of 1975, and he was convinced that he could win a secure link to the sea.

The outbreak of war with Iran in 1980 closed the Shatt, and Iran cut access to Iraq's Gulf ports. During the war Iraq became entirely dependent on its neighbors, particularly Jordan, for the transport of vital supplies.

War Changes Babylon's Importance

Before the Iran-Iraq war, portions of Babylon had been restored. Some areas were excavated, a museum was built, and one temple was reconstructed. The area, however, was primarily of interest to archaeologists and scholars. Only after the beginning of the war with Iran did the reconstruction of Babylon become a priority.

In 1982, Iraq published a booklet titled Babylon. The chief message of the book appears on the back cover: "Archaeological Survival of Babylon is a Patriotic, National, and International Duty." The book was remarkable because it called for international assistance in rebuilding Babylon. Saddam Hussein wanted Babylon rebuilt, but his goal was to rebuild it only as an archaeological park that would focus on the "preservation and restoration of the monuments of Babylon."

But sometime between 1982 and 1987, Hussein's purpose for restoring Babylon changed.

The War Bogs Down

When Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980, he expected to win a rapid victory over the demoralized Iranian army. The army, which had been loyal to the shah of Iran, had lost power to the religious clerics who now ruled the country. Hussein expected his army, the fourth largest in the world, to crush the Iranians easily. He was wrong.

The war that was going to end in weeks stretched into months and then years. From 1982 to 1988 the tide turned against the Iraqis, who were driven from Iranian territory in fierce, bloody battles. The relentless Iranians continued to send wave after wave of Revolutionary Guard volunteers at the Iraqi positions. The war turned into a stalemate that neither side could break.

News from the front lines was grim, and so was the mood in Baghdad. The early flush of excitement gave way to fear and uncertainty. The city, within range of Iranian missiles, suffered physical damage. More significant was the toll in human suffering and death. During the war's eight years, an estimated one hundred and thirty thousand Iraqis died. Another three hundred thousand were injured. Almost every family in Iraq felt the sting of death. Day after day, bullet-riddled taxis laden with flag-draped coffins brought the bodies of young Iraqi men home to families who had last seen their loved ones walking off to war.

Not only was the war costly in lives; it also drained the Iraqi treasury. Before the war began, oil-rich Iraq had a surplus of $30 billion, but after the war the country owed $70 billion. The tremendous cost of outfitting and deploying an army of one million men was staggering. Worst of all, the price of oil was dropping on world markets, and Iraq's pumping and shipping facilities were being destroyed by Iranian shells and bombs. Iraq's oil production dropped from 4.5 million barrels a day to a mere trickle after the war began.

It all spelled trouble for Saddam Hussein, who survived several assassination attempts. He soon realized he needed some force to galvanize the will of the people, or he would be swept away in a sea of discontent. He needed some way to crystallize his people's ancient enmity for Iran, some symbol of Iraqi superiority. What better way to dramatize the situation than to point to the ruins of Babylon, the city that had been conquered by a Persian king?

Wrote Paul Lewis --

President Hussein's decision to rebuild Nebuchadnezzar's Palace at the height of a war he almost lost was the centerpiece of a campaign to strengthen Iraqi nationalism by appealing to history. . . . Mr. Hussein's campaign also served subtler ends; it justified Iraq's costly war with Iran as the continuation of Mesopotamia's ancient feud with Persia. And it portrayed Saddam Hussein as successor to Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon's mightiest ruler. -- New York Times International, April 19, 1989, p. 4Y.

The Iraqi "Alamo"

Noted Professor J.C. Hurewitz of Columbia University:

History is often used in nation building in that part of the world.

The city of Babylon was a supreme visual aid. It became an Iraqi Alamo or Masada. Saddam Hussein's decision to rebuild Babylon forced the people to focus on a grand era in Iraq's history -- a time when they had been defeated by the same enemy who again threatened the nation.

Building Babylon became synonymous with rising to the Iranian threat and asserting Iraq's "manifest destiny" to lead the Arab nations to glory. Now, instead of just building Babylon as an archaeological park, Hussein made Babylon the focal point of Iraqi nationalism, which had replaced the earlier Baathist goal of Arab nationalism. By early 1987, plans were under way to hold the first annual Babylon Festival to celebrate the glory of Babylon, which included an emphasis on Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

It is no accident that the opening of the festival was scheduled for September 22, 1987 -- seven years to the day after Iraq's invasion of Iran.

Son of Nebuchadnezzar

Dr. Muayad Said, Director of Antiquities for Iraq, stated --

It's a Mesopotamian tradition that whenever a new ruler arose, he would rebuild all the principal cities of Mesopotamia.

By rebuilding Nebuchadnezzar's city, Hussein has a natural opportunity to portray himself as Nebuchadnezzar's successor. Understandably, the rulers of Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia are nervous when Hussein extols Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom and leadership, for the ancient king ruled the lands of the entire Arab world.

When the traveler attended the Babylon Festival as an invited participant, he could not help noticing the emphasis placed on Saddam Hussein and the comparisons between Hussein and Nebuchadnezzar. The festival's official seal featured the two men's portraits side by side, stressing their physical similarities. The festival's official theme was revealing: "From Nabukhadnezzar to Saddam Hussein, Babylon undergoes a renaissance. "

On the opening night of the festival, Mr. Latif Nsayyif Jassim, Minister of Information and Culture, spoke to the gathered crowd. His speech, focusing on he political and historical conflict between Iraq and her enemies, appeared in the newspaper the next day:

The Persian [iranian] mentality in our neighborhood, prompted by deep-rooted hatred and aggressiveness, tried to quench the flame of civilization in this city of Babylon. Hence the city came under the attack of the Persian ruler Kurash [Cyrus] who, before 2500 years, laid siege to this town. The siege lasted long and the town remained strong. It was not until Cyrus had collaborated with the Jews inside the city that he was able to tighten the siege round the city and subsequently to occupy it....Today we are living in the midst of Khomeini's aggression which has extended over a span of seven years during which Khomeini had allied himself with the Zionists in an attempt to enter Baghdad and other Iraqi cities and destroy them as was the case with Babylon... . It [rebuilt Babylon] will serve as a living example of the grandeur of the Iraqis to pursue their path for more glories. -- The Iraqi Minister of Information and Culture, Baghdad Observer, p.2.

A Hatred for Israel

Iran was not the only country to confront Hussein in the early 1980s. On June 7, 1981, Israeli warplanes made a daring raid on the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad, destroying Iraq's fledgling attempt to develop nuclear weapons. The attack humiliated and angered Hussein. Iraq had always opposed the state of Israel, sending troops to fight in each of the Arab-Israeli wars. Now the Israelis had struck close to Baghdad and destroyed a strategic plant Hussein had personally traveled to France to secure.

Iraq's hatred of Israel also played prominently in Hussein's decision to rebuild Babylon. Saddam had always been one of Israel's most recalcitrant enemies, and he knew that one rallying cry for the Arab people was Al-Quds -- Jerusalem! He searched for a common cause around which all Arabs could unite, and found it in the "liberation" of Palestine from Israel.

(All, that is, except Egypt. When the Camp David Accord was signed in 1978, Iraq led the other Arab nations in condemning Egypt. At the 1978 Baghdad summit the Arab nations followed Iraq's lead and broke diplomatic ties with Egypt because of the peace treaty with Israel. Those ties were not restored until 1983.)

Hussein's hatred of the Jews is well rooted in the region's past. The outbreak of World War II led to open confrontation between the Iraqi nationists and the British. "Events in Baghdad came to a head in April 1941, when Iraqi army officers forced the regent and prime Minister Nuri Said to leave Baghdad. The officers sought help from Germany, and Hitler sent a few planes through Vichy-occupied Syria. British forces then proceeded to occupy Iraq a second time, supported by the British-officered Arab Legion, which came across the desert from Transjordan, and the regent and his government were restored."

"Upon their defeat, rebel officers took their revenge by instigating the mob into attacking the city's prosperous and ancient Jewish community. For several days, army elements ran amok. One hundred and eighty of Baghdad's Jews were killed and several hundred were wounded amid wide-scale looting" (Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf, by Judith Miller and Laurie Mylroie. P.74).

Latter, when the Baath party took control of Iraq, the new regime also arrested Iraqi Jews. Among the first fourteen Iraqis to be publicly hanged on January 27, 1969, eleven were Jews. The event was deemed an occasion for a public festival and, although Iraq's upper class was appalled, some 200,000 people turned up for the show -- many of them Baghdad's workers and peasants from the surrounding countryside. Some even brought their young children in tow.

The accused were strung up in rows of gallows in Baghdad's "Liberation Square." The proceedings continued for twenty-four hours. Bakr, Salah Omar, and others made haranguing speeches condemning Zionism and imperialism, against the back-drop of bodies dangling from the gallows.-- Ibid., p. 94.

Again, Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar played a central role in Hussein's plan, this time in uniting the Arabs against Israel. The official program for the 1987 Babylon Festival featured an opening statement from Saddam Hussein to the participants:

Old policies have always ignored the status of Babylon when they created psychological and scientific barriers between Iraqis and their leaders in ancient times. No one has ever mentioned the achievements of "Hammurabi," the founder of the first organized sets of law in human history. Or "Nebuchadnezzar," the national hero who was able to defeat the enemies of the nation on the land of "Kennan" [Canaan] and to take them as prisoner of war to Babylon. What we need now is to increase awareness in this regard. -- Saddam Hussein.

Nebuchadnezzar was the only Arab ruler ever able to lead Arab armies against the Israelites and defeat them in battle. Nebuchadnezzar took the land of Palestine from the lsraelites. By rebuilding Babylon, Saddam Hussein was making himself the new Nebuchadnezzar, who also hoped to lead the Arab armies in victory over Israel.

Colorful murals appear on the outer courtyard walls of the Nebuchadnezzar Museum in Babylon. One depicts Nebuchadnezzar supervising the construction of a temple, another shows him looking over the city he has built, a third pictures him leading his army in battle against a city.

In each carefully chosen picture, there is a parallel to Saddam Hussein. Saddam has rebuilt the temple originally constructed by Nebuchadnezzar. He is rebuilding the city of Babylon. But he has yet to lead his army in battle against a city. What is remarkable about the city in the mural is that it is a walled city in a mountainous region surrounded by a prominent valley -- clearly Jerusalem. Saddam Hussein wants to parallel the life of Nebuchadnezzar by leading his army against the Jews of Jerusalem!

Noted John Burns in the New York Times International --

When Mrs. Jaafar, the archaeologist, was asked if Iraqis considered Mr. Hussein to be "the new Nebuchadnezzar," she laughed and replied, "Yes, of course!" Among Arabs, King Nebuchadnezrar is remembered as much as anything for the fact that he three times conquered Jerusalem, carrying tens of thousands of Jews back to Babylon. -- "New Babylon Is Stalled by a Modern Upheaval," October 11, 1990, p. A13.

Babylon, then, has become far more than an archaeological project. It is a symbol of Iraqi greatness. It represents the goals and dreams of Iraqis to be the guiding light and dominant force in all Arab countries. The new Babylonian/Iraqi empire aspires to achieve worldwide respect and honor again for the Arab people and to avenge decades of humiliation and defeat at the hands of the Israelis.

Hussein is the leader who has carefully crafted this goal, but he is not alone in this vision. He has articulated the longing of Arabs in general and of the Iraqi people in particular. Babylon and the empire of Nebuchadnezzar conjure up the magic of Arab unity and greatness that has inspired a host of would-be conquerors through the centuries.

The Two Tyrants

Looking back over his life of conquest, few could have imagined that one born in the tiny village of Tikrit along the banks of the Tigris River could achieve such international notoriety. But even as a young man he aspired to greatness, and his cunning and bravery propelled him into ever higher positions of leadership. His burning ambition was to unify the Arab nations under his leadership. It wasn't long before countries of the West, fearing the consequences of an Arab expansionist policy, formed a multinational force and deployed it in the Middle East against the Arab leader.

Saddam Hussein? No. Saladin, the greatest Muslim warrior of the twelfth century. His capture of Jerusalem in 1187 caused the Third Crusade.

Another Son of Tikrit

Nearly eight hundred years later, in the same tiny village of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein was born, a man whose passions and methods baffle Americans. We cannot understand why this man would invade the neighboring country that supported him in his eight-year war with Iran. We cannot fathom why he would be unwilling to withdraw his troops in the face of worldwide condemnation. We cannot comprehend his barbaric use of chemical weapons on the citizens of his own country, including defenseless women and children.

His country is a police state where Iraqis have been arrested for turning off a television when Saddam's image was on the screen or accidentally knocking over one of his ubiquitous posters. Can such a prideful, barbaric leader be sane?

Yes, Saddam Hussein's actions are only too logical. He is not a mentally deranged sociopath. In fact, he is a cold, calculating, rational individual who is following a definite plan.

Janet Cawley, in an article entitled "Hussein Doesn't Deny 'Butcher of Baghdad' Nickname" (Chicago Tribune, August 3, 1990) wrote --

In an interview, Saddam Hussein was asked to comment on his "Butcher of Baghdad" nickname. "Weakness doesn't assure achieving the objectives required by a leader," he replied.

The Voice of History

To understand Saddam Hussein's plans and motives, we must first understand something of the Middle East's religious and political history.

The Muslim religion began in the seventh century A.D. with the rise of the prophet Mohammed, who began preaching in the city of Mecca in what today is Saudi Arabia. The people of Mecca opposed his preaching, and he fled from Mecca to `Medina in A.D. 622. Called the Hegira, this flight is so important to Muslims that their calendar, instead of using B.C. and A.D., begins dating the modern era from the year 622.

Mohammed won a following at Medina, and in A.D. 630 he returned to Mecca in triumph. Seven years later, Arab forces defeated the Persians at the battle of Al Qadisiyah, and Islam spread into Iraq and Persia.

Those early centuries were times of vigor and triumph for Islam and for the Arabs. Great leaders such as Saladin were able to galvanize the people and spur them on to further conquest.

But while Islam continued to spread, the political unity of those who were Muslims began to disintegrate. The Egyptians, Turks, Persians, and Arabs developed different spheres of influence and fought for control of the Islamic world.

The glory and prominence of Iraq under Saladin vanished under the heavy hand of foreign domination. In 1534 the Ottoman Turks conquered Iraq and established dominion there that lasted nearly four hundred years, until the end of World War I.

The Turks were Muslims, but they were not Arabs. In World War I, the Ottoman empire sided with Germany, and after the war, the victorious Allies parceled out much of the Turkish territory. Britain and France randomly divided up the Middle East. The borders of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq are little more than straight lines drawn on a map by the British. Iraq was free of the Turks, but it was still being ruled by foreigners.

The remainder of the twentieth century proved a time of continued foreign domination and national humiliation for the Arabs. Though several Arab countries gained nominal independence, their governments were still heavily influenced by Western powers. In 1948 the United Nations ignored Arab threats and protests and created the nation of Israel. The Holy Land became anything but peaceful.

David Lamb wrote in the Los Angeles Times --

The Middle East is the world's deadliest neighborhood. It has 17 Arab countries and a Persian republic populated by 231 million Muslims as well as small Christian minorities and one Jewish state with a population of less than 5 million. It has known few days of true peace in this century, none since Israel was born to a rattle of gunfire 42 years ago. Lurching from crisis to moments of ill-conceived optimism and back into crisis, it has spent more on weapons, fought more wars and suffered more casualties than any other part of the Third World. -- "The Line in the Sand," November 25, 1990, p. 4T.

Israel Not Welcome in the Land

Arabs took the formation of Israel as an insult and declared war against the new state. Israel courageously fought off the combined armies of seven Arab states, and after the war ended, Israel had more land than it had been granted under the original United Nations plan!

Ariel Sharon the brillant Israeli general was quoted as saying --

Israel will not pay anything. We will not make the smallest concession in order to satisfy what you call moderate, or non-moderate Arab countries. We have one interest. We want to live here peacefully and defend our lives. We will pay no price to anyone. -- Los Angeles Times, November 6, 1990, p. 7B.

In the 1950s, General Gamal Abdel Nasser rose in Egypt and called for Arabs to unite against Western powers and Israel. He nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956 and closed the Gulf of Aqaba. Britain, France, and Israel responded by attacking Egypt. Again, Arab aspirations were thwarted.

In 1967 Nasser and the Syrians threatened once more to invade Israel, but Israel struck first and humiliated the Arab nations on all sides in the Six Day War. Nasser's dream of a unified Arab nation was shattered.

Again stated Ariel Sharon --

Jerusalem is not negotiable. It will never be negotiable. Jerusalem is the heart of the Jews. It has been the capital of the Jews for the last 3,000 years. We will accept no other arrangement. -- Ibid.

Arabs Search for a Leader

Current conflicts in the Middle East are not the product of spontaneous combustion but the natural result of passions, hatred, and rivalries that have simmered for centuries. The Arab people feel that their great past has given way to a demeaning present. They blame much of this on the domination they have experienced by Western powers including Turkey, Britain, and now the United States. They are looking for a leader who will throw off the domination of the West and lead them back to the greatness they once had.

Those who live in the Middle East have a stronger sense of history than Americans do. Some houses in the Middle East were standing when the first Europeans set foot in America! The Arab "identity crisis" and the Arabs' keen sense of history help explain the current upheaval in the Middle East.

The Iraqi Nation and Its Leader

In 1920, the Allied powers met in San Remo, Italy, to divide the spoils of the First World War. The announcement that Iraq would be placed under British Mandate sparked a widespread revolt in the country. Tribal chieftains, Shiite rekigious leaders, and Sunni officers all roused their followers and rejected British rule solely on the grounds that Muslims should not be ruled by non-Muslims.

In response to the demand for Arab rule, the British installed the Emir Faisal as king of Iraq. Faisal, a scion of the Hashemite family that ruled over the Islamic holy places in western Arabia, has fought alongside the British against the Ottoman Turks during the Arab Revolt of World War I.

In Iraq, the British established what was formally a constitutional monarchy, with a parliament, alongside King Faisal. But what worked in Europe did not necessarily function in other places. -- Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf, p. 68.

Although Faisal had been installed to meet Iraqi demands for an Arab ruler, his roots in the country were very shallow. An Arab prince, he relied to an unusual degree on those officers who had fought alongside him in the Arab Revolt against the Turks. While these Iraqi officers were strong Arab nationalists, they were willing to work within the terms of the British mandate.

All the officers in Faisal's entourage were Sunni Arabs, while the majority of the country was Shiite. Even as the Sunni Arabs kept political control in their own hands, the new Iraqi kingdom was fragmented along ethnic, religious and social lines. The early years of the Faisal rulership were plagued with armed insurrections in Kurdistan in the north and amongst the Shiites in the south. Reflecting on this troubled situation, King Faisal wrote in the early 1930s that "this government rules over a Kurdish group most of which is ignorant and which included persons with personal ambitions who call upon this group to abandon the government because it is not of their race. It also rules a Shiite plurality which belongs to the same ethnic group as the government. But as a result of the discriminations which the Shiites incurred under Ottoman rule, which did not allow them to participate in the affairs of government, a wide breach developed between these two sects...There are also other huge blocks of tribes...who want to reject everything related to the government because of their interests and the ambitions of their sheiks....I say with my heart full of sadness that there is not yet in Iraq an Iraqi people."

Yet, at the same time as Faisal penned his lament, Iraq was becoming, in fact, an independent state. In response to unceasing agitation over the past decade, Britain agreed to terminate its mandate and, in 1932, Iraq became the first Arab state to rid itself of mandatory status and the first to enter the League of Nations.

Iraq, which in 1932 was the first Arab nation to gain its independence from British control, is a country without a clear identity. Twenty percent of the people are Kurds, a non-Arab group whom Saddam attacked with poison gas after rebellions in 1987-88. Westerners had a difficult time understanding how Hussein could poison his own people, but in fact, though the Kurds were Iraqi, they were not Arab.

An early tie to Germany was forged shortly after Faisal's death. Germany, it seems, held a powerful attraction to the Sunni Arab nationlists whose military officers came to see Iraq as the Prussia of the Arab world. The dream was that Iraq, by virtue of its early independence and through its army, would unite the Arabs. The Nazis actively cultivated the Iraqis, and Hitler's success in defying Britain and France further enhanced the pro-German sentiments of the young urban elite and the army officers.

In 1937, Saddam Hussein was born in the village of Tikrit, about a hundred miles north of Baghdad on the Tigris River. Though he attended secondary school in Baghdad and law school in Cairo, his real education came from the crowd of zealous revolutionaries with whom he hung out on the streets.

Another guiding influence was his uncle, Khayrallah Tulfah. Khayrallah raised Saddam and later arranged for him to marry one of his daughters. When Saddam came to power, Khayrallah was rewarded by being named mayor of Baghdad. Khayrallah Tulfah, whose influence on Saddam was significant, was not exactly open-minded about non-arabs. He once published a booklet titled Three Whom God Should Not Have Created: Persians, Jews, and Flies.

Saddam Hussein's early exploits on behalf of the Baath Party have been elevated to the status of legend. At 22, he was chosen to lead what was an unsuccessful assassination attempt against the President of Iraq. He escaped to Egypt, returned to Iraq in 1963 when the Baath Party first came to power, was imprisoned from 1964 to 1966 when the Baath government was toppled in a coup, and then escaped from prison.

When the Baath Party again seized control in 1968, Saddam Hussein became, at age 31, a leader in Iraq. Under the patronage of his older cousin al-Bakr, Saddam became deputy chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council in 1969 and deputy secretary-general of the Baath Party in 1977. Later he was named vice-chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, the nine-member body that legislates by decree.

Saddam had the clearest vision of all the Baath leaders. With Bakr's patronage, Saddam built his base in the party through the intelligence apparatus. He defined his aim as the total control of Iraq and its people, and he proceeded to pursue this goal through party control of the country and, behind that, through his control of the party. The original party terror and intimidation organization, the Jihaz Haneen, was developed and organized as the Mukhabarat -- and it reported to Saddam.

A few weeks after becoming president of Iraq in 1979, Saddam Hussein executed some of his closest friends and fellow members of the ruling Baath Party. Videotapes of the meeting at which the "traitors" were named show Hussein reading their names from a list, pausing to puff on a cigar while members of his audience squirmed in their seats. Once their names were called, the supposed conspirators were marched off and killed. Saddam Hussein had begun his pattern of rule by force.

Iraq today is one of the most paranoid nations in the world. When the traveler was in Iraq as an invited guest, his group was assigned an official "watcher" who dogged their every footstep. On at least one occasion they were asked to surrender the film in their cameras, even though they had taken pictures only of an innocent village. When some of them balked at handing over their film, they were taken to a police station and simply held there until they gave in.

Babylon is once again part of a police state, where individual liberties are almost nonexistent and the country's leaders use power and force to rule. Power and force -- just as in the days of Nebuchadnezzar.

The Call for Arab Nationalism

The Baath Party to which Saddam Hussein belongs was formed to promote pan-Arab nationalism. The party's goal is to unify the Arab people and elevate them as a race. By pointing to the past, the Baath Party reminds Arabs both of the greatness they once experienced and of the Western invaders who stripped them of that greatness.

Said Saddam Hussein in 1979 --

The glory of the Arabs stems from the glory of Iraq. Throughout history, whenever Iraq became mighty and flourished, so did the Arab nation. This is why we are striving to make Iraq mighty, formidable, able and developed. -- Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1990, p. 14A.

An ominous example of this mentality is the current description of the United States military presence in the Gulf. Iraqis, Jordanians, and Palestinians refer to the U.S. armed forces as "crusaders." This is not a compliment. To the Arab it recalls the armies of Western infidels that attacked, conquered, humiliated, and killed Arab people, dominated and exploited Arab countries, and tried to destroy the Islamic faith.

Saddam Hussein intentionally draws parallels to history in what he says and does, not only referring to the Arab countries' recent humiliations, but going back hundreds and even thousands of years to make his point. For example, he called his war against Iran "Qadisiyat Saddam," reminding the people of the battle against the Persians fought nearly 1350 years ago!

A second example of Saddam Hussein's understanding of symbolism and history can be found in his efforts to rebuild Babylon. Moa'yad Saeed, director-general of the Iraqi Antiquities Department, described the rebuilding of Babylon as a symbol of the conflict between Iraq and Iran. "The Persians tried many times to overrun Iraq and they did it not only in Babylon.... They have been trying to do it for centuries."

Echoing the same idea, the Iraqi Minister of Information and Culture, Latif Nsayyif Jassim, spoke at the opening of the Babylon International Festival in 1987. He compared the Iran-Iraq war to the attack on Babylon by Cyrus in 539 B.C.: "We told Khomeini that Babylon will never be burnt twice. Today we tell him that Babylon at the time of President Saddam Hussein is recalling its past glories. It hosts this outstanding gathering of thinkers, educated people, and artists. It thus links ancient Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar and Hammurabi with the modern Babylon under President Saddam Hussein."

We find this statement in a booklet published by the Iraqis:

When Babylon consisted of small city-states and separate dynasties, Hammurabi waged successive wars to unite these city-states so that Babylon remained as one city, as the bright light of civilization.

However, it suffered more and more from repeated attacks until Nebuchadnezzar came to power and reconstructed. He built temples and high walls as he realized it was the pulpit of the first Iraqi civilization.

Today looks exactly like yesterday.

After long periods of darkness that enveloped the land of Babylon and concealed its characteristics, Saddam Hussein emerges from Mesopotamia, as Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar had emerged, at a time to shake the century old dust off Babylon's face.

Saddam Hussein, the grandson of the Babylonians, the son of this great land, is leaving his fingerprints everywhere. -- From Nebuchadnezzar to Saddam Hussein, Babylon Rises Again, Baghdad: Ministry of Information and Culture, Department of Information, 1990.

Saddam Hussein has compared himself to the warrior Saladin. He has traced his family tree back to the prophet Mohammed. But the person he compares himself to most often is Nebuchadnezzar.

The Grandson of the Babylonians

What is most important to me about Nebuchadnezzar is the link between the Arabs' abilities and the liberation of Palestine. Nebuchadnezzar was, after all, an Arab from Iraq, albeit ancient Iraq. Nebuchadnezzar was the one who brought the bound Jewish slaves from Palestine. That is why, whenever I remember Nebuchadnezzar, I like to remind the Arabs -- Iraqis in particular -- of their historical responsibilities. It is a burden that should not stop them from action, but rather spur them into action because of their history. -- Saddam Hussein, 1979

Notes David Lamb --

When asked if Hussein ever dreamed of filling a role such as that of Nebuchadnezrar or Saladin, an Arab hero who fought the Crusaders, Hussein replied, "By God, I do indeed dream and wish for this. It is an honor for any human being to dream of such a role." -- Los Angeles Times, "Saddam Hussein Held Hostage."

Wrote Walter Laqueur in the Washington Post --

Saddam Hussein first appeared on the scene as a pan-Arab politician. His great hero is Nebuchadnezzar II, who was neither an Arab nor a Moslem, but the builder of a great empire (and the conqueror of Jerusalem). "Like Hitler, but Different," August 31, 1990, p. A25.

Saddam Hussein has three ambitious goals: territory, economic power, and the elimination of the nation of Israel. Somehow it is not surprising that his goals reflect the goals of Nebuchadnezzar, who also wanted an empire, power, glory, and the destruction of Jerusalem.

Like Nebuchadnezzar, Saddam Hussein is full of pride.

Hussein . . . has used the arts and great artists not for their own sake but as a tool to further his political goals and glorify himself. It is a mark of his grip on society that he has co-opted so many artists into going along, getting to live like millionaires in exchange for their homage to him in acrylic, steel, and literary verse. When the book is written on Saddam Hussein, it will be said that artists and poets were as vital to his reign as his field commanders and his secret police. -- Carol Morello in the Philadelphia Inquirer. ("Iraqi Despot Seeks His Own Grand Era," June 29, 1990, p. A1.)

Reveals the San Jose Mercury News --

Robed Bedouins, helmeted air force pilots and women soldiers appear nightly on state television in choirs to sing the praises of Hussein and the valor of Iraq's fighting forces.

"Oh Saddam, our bullets sing to their clip that they are always ready," croons the dapper Yas Khuder as scenes of swooping jet fighters and advancing tank battalions appear on the television screen behind him. -- "Firm Grip of Iraq's Hussein Lies Deep in Nation's Roots," March 10, 1987, p. 12D.

Wrote Daniel Williams of the Los Angeles Times --

The tour guide at a reconstructed palace in Babylon described with enthusiasm the restored monuments of the ancient city -- the lion sculpture, the brick reliefs of bulls and griffins, the newly planted hanging gardens. Then she got to the throne room and, with a sweep of her hand, she pointed to the empty platform. "This is where the

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