Secular Saddam Hussein’s Final Address

One of the more frequent comments one hears from people who want to insist that there was no link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden is the contrast between Saddam, the secularist from the Ba’ath party and bin Laden, the religious zealot. Nothing, these members of the “reality based community” insist, could be more opposite.

I have tried to point out that the secular-religious split is a peculiarly Western development (it goes hand in hand with democracy and the freedom of religion, a good thing for both the seculars and the religious). To project the very difficult accomplishment of separating secular and religious spheres onto Saddam Hussein, and thereby to assume that someone like Saddam would have nothing to do with someone like Bin Laden is cognitive egocentrism.

Here is Saddam’s final speech. You be the judge of what kinds of things he had on his mind and he thought his audience had on his mind.

saddam in glory

Saddam Hussein, President of the Republic of Iraq and the Chief Commander of the Combatant Armed Forces

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate:

‘Say: Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector: and in Allah let the Believers put their trust’

Oh, great people of Iraq. Oh, courageous men of our unrelenting armed forces. Oh, glorious Iraqi women. Oh, sons of our glorious nation, the courageous believers in the brave resistance.

In the past, I was, as you all know, in the battlefield of jihad and struggle. God, exalted be He, wished that I face the same again in the same manner and the same spirit in which we were before the revolution but with a problem that is greater and harsher.

Oh beloved, this harsh situation, which we and our great Iraq are facing, is a new lesson and a new trial for the people by which to be judged, each depending on their intention, so that it becomes an identifier before God and the people in the present and after our current situation becomes a glorious history. It is, above all, the foundation upon which the success of the fu! ture phases of history can be built. In this situation and in no other, the veritable are the honest and faithful and the opposing are the false. When the insignificant people use the power given to them by the foreigners to oppress their own people, they are but worthless and lowly. In our country only good must result from what we are experiencing:

‘The scum disappears like froth cast out; while that which is for the good of mankind remains on the earth’

God is all knowing.

Oh great nation. Oh people of our nation and of mankind. Many of you have known the owner of this letter for his truthfulness, his honesty, his purity, and his genuine concern over his people, for his wisdom, his vision, his justice, and for his firmness in dealing with issues and for his watchfulness over the properties of the people and of the country, and for living according to his conscience and his mind. His heart aches for the poor and he does not rest until he helps in improving their condition and attends to their needs. His heart contains all his people and his nation, and he craves to be honest and faithful without differentiating between his people except on the basis of their efforts, efficiency, and patriotism.

Here I am speaking today in your name and for your eyes and the eyes of our nation and the eyes of the just, the people of the truth, wherever their banner is hoisted.

Oh Iraqi people, oh our people and our folks and the folks of every honest and glorious man and woman in our country. You have known your brother and leader as well as his own family knew him. He never stooped to the cruel oppressors. He remained a sword and an authority on what is loved by the honest and abhorred by the oppressors.

Is this not the position which you would like your brother, your son, and your leader to take? Yes, this is how Saddam Hussein was described, and this is how his positions will be. If his positions did not, God forbid, correspond with his description, then he would despise himself. These are the stands which anyone who leads you and leads the nation must take, after God the Almighty and the all capable.

Here I am offering my soul as a sacrifice. If the Merciful wants it, he will raise it up whenever He commands it to be with the companions and the martyrs, and if He sees that He wants to postpone His decision, He will, because He is the Merciful and the Compassionate. He is the One who created us, and to Him we return. ‘Patience is most fitting.’ It is God whose help can be sought against the unjust.

Oh brothers, oh great nation. I call upon you to preserve the convictions which made you worthy of the faith that you have and to be the guiding light for civilization. Make your land, the birthplace of the father of the prophets, Abraham of Al-Khalil, and other prophets, and to preserve the values which officially and justifiably gave you the title of greatness for the sake of your country and your people. He offered all his life and the life of his family, young and old from the very beginning to this great nation and its faithful and honorable people and never gave up. In spite of all the difficulties and the storms which we and Iraq had to face, before and after the revolution, God the Almighty did not want death for Saddam Hussein. But if He wants it this time, it is His creation. He created it and He protected it until now. Thus, by its martyrdom, He will be bringing glory to a faithful soul, for there were souls that were younger than Saddam Hussein that had departed and had taken this path before him. If He wants it martyred, we thank Him and offer Him gratitude, before and after. ‘Patience is most fitting.’ It is God whose help can be sought against the unjust.

In the shadow of the greatness of the Creator, may He be exalted, and His protection, you must remember that God has bestowed on you different types of characteristics that make you a good example to be followed in love, pardon, forgiveness, and coexistence. The great make up of capabilities and resources which the Merciful had made available to you, was not meant to go to waste. He wanted it to be a test that would refine the souls. Hence there were some who joined your lines and others who joined the North Atlantic Treaty. Others were the Persians who are hateful as a result of their rulers’ actions who had inherited Kisra’s inheritance in place of Satan. He tempted those who obeyed him to turn against their own people or against their neighbors or tempted the Zionist aspirations and hatefulness to move their representative in the American White House to carry out the aggression and to create animosity that has nothing to do with humanity and faith. On the basis of faith, love, and peace, which bring glory and not bitterness to the glorified, you built the edifice and raised it without any fight or spite, and on this basis you were enjoying glory and peace in your beautiful colors, under the country’s flag, not in the distant past, especially after your distinguished revolution, your 17th revolution, on 30 July 1968. You realized victory and you carried it in the color of the one great Iraq as loving brothers in the battle trenches or in the construction fields. The enemies of your country, the invaders and the Persians, found that your unity stands as a barrier between them and your enslavement. They planted and grounded their hateful old and new wedge between you. The strangers who are carrying the Iraqi citizenship, whose hearts are empty or filled with the hatred that was planted in them by Iran, responded to it, but how wrong they were to think that they could divide the noble among our people, weaken your determination, and fill the hearts of the sons of the nation with hatred against each other, instead of against their true enemies that will lead them in one direction to fight under the banner of God is great: The great flag of the people and the nation.

Oh brothers! Oh mujahideen and fighters! For this I call on you now and I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair. It blinds you and closes all doors of thinking. Hate prevents you from thinking straight and from making the right choices and avoiding the wrong. It blocks your vision and prevents you from seeing the variables in the mind of those who were thought of as enemies, including those people who had gone astray but have changed their direction and have taken the right path, the path of the noble people and the glorious nation.

I also call on you, brothers and sisters, my children and the children of Iraq. I call on you, oh comrades of jihad; I call on you not to hate the people of the other countries that attacked us. You should distinguish between the decision-makers and the people. Just hate the action. Even those whose actions deserve to be fought–do not hate them as human beings. Also, the doers of evil, do not hate them, but hate the evil deed itself and fight the evil with what it deserves. Whoever changes to the better or does good inside or outside Iraq, give him clemency and open a new page for him because God forgives and loves whoever forgives out of willingness. Firmness is necessary if the situation calls for it. To be accepted by the people and the nation, one should base things on the law and must be fair and just. One should not be hostile on the b! asis of spitefulness and illegal pursuits.

You should know brothers, that among the aggressors, there are people who support your struggle against the invaders, and some of them volunteered for the legal defense of prisoners, including Saddam Hussein. Others revealed the scandals of the invaders and condemned them. Some even wept profusely and with noble sincerity when they said goodbye to us when they ended their duty. To this I call on you to be one loyal nation, kind to itself, to its nation, and to humanity, and sincere with others and with oneself.

Dear faithful people, I bid you farewell, but I will be with the merciful God who helps those who take refuge in him and who will never disappoint any honest believer.

God is great. God is great.

Long live our nation. Long live humanity in the light of security and peace, wherever it imparts justice and fairness.

Long live our great unyielding people. Long live Iraq. Long live Iraq. Long live Palestine.

Long live jihad and the mujahideen. Allah Akbar. And the wretched aggressors shall be repelled.

Saddam Hussein

The President of the Republic and the Chief Commander of the Combatant Armed Forces

I especially like the stuff about security, peace, justice and fairness. Demopathy anyone?

Nota bene: This speech with photo was posted at a radically progressive list-serv, with Saddam as a symbol of the “resistance.” Dupes of demopathy anyone?

13 Responses to Secular Saddam Hussein’s Final Address

  1. Joanne says:

    I’m sorry, but although I’ve heard that Hussein started emphasizing Muslim themes toward the end of his rule, I am not convinced that he had any alliance with bin Laden. I understand that there is in principle no separation between religion and state in Islam, but that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been Muslim rulers who regarded themselves as secular. The ideological differences within the Muslim world are still very real. Baathist ideology, for instance, was not based on Islam.

    Also, Hussein’s propaganda showed him in all sorts of poses, as a hero from many perspectives. I still don’t think that he was an Islamist. He was just an opportunist. Some representatives did meet with reps from bin Laden a couple of times, I’ve read, but that seemed to have resulted in nothing.

    The issue is not what the Baathist ideology is based on, what it’s words look like to us, but how it plays out in the Arab world. The “very real” differences you see may not carry anywhere near the weight that you, a westerner, think you see. What it means for an Arab leader to “regard himself as secular” — especially in an time of rising Islamic appeal — may have little to do with what we think it does. Moreover, I wouldn’t argue he’s an Islamist in any formal sense of the term. (I think we take our categories about Islam way too seriously.) But I do think that global Jihad appeals to him, and had a far more powerful appeal than any Baathist “party platform.” The consistency we find in the Arab and Muslim world is far less “ideological” and intellectual, and far more driven by both emotions and audience.

  2. ellen says:

    We could also say that when it comes to Jihad the views and aspirations of a secular Arafat’s PLO were, and continue to be, very similar to those of Hamas and their leadership.

    Below are excerpts of Arafat’s 1994 speech in Johannesburg:

    The Jihad [Islamic holy war] will continue, and Jerusalem is not [only] for the Palestinian people, it is for all the Muslim nation…

    Our main battle is Jerusalem. Jerusalem. The first shrine of the Moslems.

    This has to be understood for everybody and for this I was insisting before signing to have a letter from them, the Israelis, that Jerusalem is one of the items which has to be under discussion and not the state, the permanent State of Israel! No! It is the permanent State of Palestine [applause]. Yes, it is the permanent State of Palestine.

    And in this letter it is very important for everybody to know … we are responsible for all the Christian and the Moslem and Islamic holy sacred places.

    I have to speak frankly, I can’t do it alone without the support of the Islamic nation. I can’t do it alone. No, you have to come and to fight and to start the Jihad to liberate Jerusalem, your first shrine…

    This agreement, I am not considering it more than the agreement which had been signed between our prophet Mohammed and Koraish, and you remember the Caliph Omar had refused this agreement and [considered] it a despicable truce….

    But Mohammed had accepted it and we are accepting now this peace offer. But to continue our way to Jerusalem, to the first shrine together and not alone.

    We are in need of you as Moslems, as warriors of Jihad [in Arabic, Mujaheddin].

    There is no single phenomenon in the Arab world that has been more misunderstood in the projection of western “secular-religious” antinomy than FATAH.

  3. Stan says:

    I am not sure what your point is. Whether Saddam spouted religious jargon or not, there is still no real connection to Bin Laden.
    Bin Laden was allied with the Taleban and the Taleban philosophy. Not Hussein.
    I am a strong proponent of the war on terror. I think we need to fight terror tooth and nail; this is why I am furious with George Bush.
    He sacrificed the war on terror to pursue his own oil interests in Iraq. The failure in Iraq has strengthened Iran 10 fold and weakened America’s ability to respond to the very real Iranian threat.


  4. RL says:

    A colleague sent me this:

    I’d say you’re spot on. Consider also that the terms
    “moderate” and “extremist” have similarly different
    values in the Middle East. We are prone to describing
    particular Muslim or Arab leaders as “moderate” or
    believe that they have “moderated their stance” when,
    in fact, by Western standards their positions are
    still quite ridiculous. If Ahmadinejad stopped
    denying the Holocaust for a year, for instance, there
    would no doubt be some praise for his “moderated”
    stance even as he continued to call for the
    destruction of Israel.

    As for the comment on your post declaring Baathism a
    secular ideology and that precluding a relationship
    with jihadists, I have a whopper of an article for
    you. You want substance? See this Weekly Standard
    from early 2006:

    What you need to take away from this article is not
    that there was a strong connection between Saddam and
    AQ in particular–I still think that was an assertion
    made at the time for political reasons–but that even
    so-called Arab “secularists” can masterfully wield the
    attractive power of Islam when appropriate. They can
    do this because they come from a culture in which
    religion, expression, and everyday life are
    inextricably woven together, not just because they are
    skilled liars. Just try finding an Arab who doesn’t
    say “Ilhamdallah” or “Inshallah” every now and then
    (these are NOT comparable to secular Westerners
    commonly using “God…” or “Holy…” in curses or
    expressions of surprise).

    We also have to keep in mind that importing “jihad”
    was a smart move, but the pragmatic nature of the play
    doesn’t preclude its executors from being believers on
    some level. I’d point out, for instance, that Izzat
    Ibrahim al-Douri was a Sufi even as a very high
    ranking Baathist. Saddam’s secretary and right hand
    man, Abid Hamid, is fond of prayer beads.

    It’s true that Baathist ideology downplayed Islam, but
    it also downplayed tribalism. Do we really think
    Baathists completely gave up their tribal identities?

  5. Lynne T says:

    To all readers above re: Saddam and Osama, the “connections” between the two, if not formal, are multiple and existed as early as the 1990s when Saddam hosted one of his notorious terror conference in Iraq after the 1st Gulf War. OBL numbered among the many who attended.

    Despite the constant denials in the MSM as to any linkage between Saddam and Osama and therefore 9/11, it is fairly well known that Saddam provided A-Q’s 2nd in command, Ayman Zawahiri with funds to help broker a merger between Zawahiri’s organization and A-Q in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Saddam also provided Ansar al-Sunna, an Islamist organization with A-Q connections, with favourable conditions for setting up shop in the Kurdish north of Iraq in the early 2000s, to give pain to the Kurds. Ansar was then able to play host to the late and unlamented Abu Musa Al-Zarqawi in early 2002, so Osama’s Emir in the Land of the Two Rivers was able to get well entrenched in advance of the invasion that deposed Saddam in March 2003. There is also evidence among the many documents seized from the Baathist regime that 9/11 was contracted out by Saddam to A-Q in retaliation for Gulf War I and the sanctions. Saddam used Islamist mercenaries, knowing that had any of the pilots been members of the Iraqi Air Force, what the consequences would have been.

    Wake up and smell the coffee, folks. As for Baathism being a distince and secular fascist movement, may I also point out that one of Baathism’s co-founders was, Michel Aflek, a Christian Arab who converted to Islam as he recognized the pan-Arabism that is inherent in the faith.

  6. igout says:

    Are such grand outpourings as SH’s typical of the culture out there? Is he unaware of or indifferent to facts? Forgive me, my ethnocentric slip is showing. They are just a western thing.

    I think it is typical of the culture which is in love with rhetoric… and in general, authoritarian societies are notorious for producing what to “free people” seems like nauseating sycophancy. Indifference to facts is a temptation of people everywhere. Look at AP’s response to the Jamil Hussein scandal.

    It’s our job to resist.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Lynn T,

    I would really like to see your sourcing for this assertion, among others:

    “There is also evidence among the many documents seized from the Baathist regime that 9/11 was contracted out by Saddam to A-Q in retaliation for Gulf War I and the sanctions. Saddam used Islamist mercenaries, knowing that had any of the pilots been members of the Iraqi Air Force, what the consequences would have been.”

  8. shitsu says:

    First post here.


    This is religious appeal by Saddam appears to be a bald-faced attempt to leverage religious zeal into political power or military morale. Saddam is an example of a political elite trying to leverage religion into greater political power.

    On the other end, Nasrallah is using his religious authority to wield political power over Hezbollah. Both religious and secular leaders view religion as a tool to enhance their influence.

    Maybe the dynamic is similar to that between the Kings of the Frankish Empire and their vassals and the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church and the members of the church hierarchy.

    If there are interesting parallels maybe we can learn important lessons from history. Although if parallels indeed exist, it would that the Middle East political system is stuck 1000 years in the past.

    well, i’d certainly agree that Arab political culture is at least several centuries behind us in terms of developing the capacity to treat even most of its citizens fairly. but i’m not sure i’d go with your analysis of what was going on back then. the most powerful players — like Gregory VII (the pope who excommunicated the emperor Henry IV) — may well have been obsessed with exercising political power, but he was above all a “true believer”, not a hypocrite. he believed he was innocent and that he pursued his amazingly arrogant and self-glorifying policies not for his own sake but for that of God. it’s only people who believe in themselves who can really move large numbers of people to sacrifice themselves for the “greater good.”

    The arrangement between A-Q and Saddam would seem to be born out of mutual benefit, and both parties did benefit from the arrangement. A-Q got the infrastructure and monetary support it needed, and Saddam nutured a forced that would undermine Saudi Arabia from within and attack the United States. I would guess that Osama and Saddam were very distrustful of one another and intense jealous of each other’s power.

    my sense is these are all good reasons. to go sort out middle east politics with the idea that ideological categories are paramount is fairly self-defeating. as for mutual fear and contempt… goes with the territory. in zero-sum games you admire someone even as you worry that he will undermine you.

  9. Eliyahu says:

    As a matter of fact, Saddam was using Muslim religious rhetoric as far back as 1990 when he invaded Kuwait. So it’s nothing new, whether or not he was “sincere” when he used it during and after his trial, and when he used it in 1990 and subsequent years.

    Note Saddam’s stress on STRUGGLE. Another famous 20th century fellow or leader who stressed the importance of struggle was the fuehrer, Hitler. The Nazi leader was infatuated with kampf. In fact, there’s evidence that Hitler discussed jihad –a form of struggle– with a Muslim theologian in Berlin about 1925.

    Ellen, I would go further than you and say that arafat was never really secular. Indeed, his personal background was in the Muslim Brotherhood. Today, journalist after journalist makes the same mistake of calling arafat’s Fatah party “secular.” This shows that the press is either ignorant or deceitful, forever trying to whitewash Fatah.

    i wd go for ignorant, which seems to be a combo of cognitive egocentrism and wishful thinking. but then that doesn’t explain why there’s no reconsideration. that this is disastrous for our understanding of the problem — are you listening James Baker? — that it had many people cheering on the second intifada as an act of national liberation resistance of people who wanted to be “free like us”, when they were actually cheering on the opening round of the current wave of global jihad that may well devour their/our own societies… somehow that doesn’t get thru. why not?

  10. […] st words expressed his depth and what he died for.” Here’s an interesting read of Hussein’s religious orientation. At least as far as this […]

  11. montag46 says:

    I believe Mr. Hussein is praying to Allah, not to Mr. Bin Laden.
    This is not one of your finer moments.

    I’m confused. did i ever imply that Hussein was praying to OBL? what did i say that would lead you, even sarcastically to suggest i did. as far as i’m concerned, this is about whether Hussein was “secular” in any sense that we in the west think when we use that word, and some reflections on what that meant for the commonly heard comment — Hussein wdn’t have anything to do with OBL because H is secular and OBL is religious. have i missed something here?

  12. montag46 says:

    Perhaps I was confused.
    So I read it again.

    Agreement: the argument that Saddam Hussein would have nothing to do with Bin Laden, because Saddam is secular and Bin Laden religious, is nonsense.
    (in fact, it is so obviously wrong that it is surprising that there is a need to refute it. such is life.)

    However, since the erroneous assumption is made by people who must have their own dealings with religious people, the source of the error might not be in cognitive egocentrism. (that is, unless they totally cut themselves off from all religious folk.)

    Perhaps there is too much emphasis on the symbolic Bin Laden. Why should Bin Laden be the touchstone of an evil act?

    The photo of Saddam is interesting. The ring around his face-itself seated within a halo glow-seems to be made up from the word na’am. It could be ni’am, since the vowel marks are not shown.

    Na’am would be something like “yes, indeed!” or “certainly!” and give us “Yes, indeed! Saddam!”
    Ni’am would be more like “How excellent (is) Saddam!”

    Sounds fairly religious itself.

  13. […] Secular Saddam Hussein’s Final Address. Augean Stables. [↩] […]

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