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Saddam and the Arabs

With the end of Saddam Hussein's regime, the scope of his brutalization of the Iraqi people is becoming clear. Mass graves are unearthed, torture chambers opened. Countless Iraqis now openly recount horrifying stories of the murder and disappearance of loved ones.

In the other Arab states, the political leadership and the media have not dwelled much on these aspects of Saddam's rule. They have good reason for avoiding such close scrutiny. Many of them benefited directly from Saddam's rule. Examining what he did in Iraq means examining their own role in supporting more than three decades of brutality.

The heyday of Saddams's relations with the Arab world came during the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s. Saddam's attack on Iran allayed the fears of Arab regimes that Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran would export its Islamic revolution. The late Jordanian monarch King Hussein would join Saddam in inspecting the frontlines. The Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, offered Saddam massive financial and media support.

Egypt's centers of power, such as its army, businessmen, journalists, and ideological parties, played a prominent role in supporting Saddam's war against Iran. Syria was the sole exception to this chorus of Arab approval for Saddam, because its late leader, President Hafez al Assad, had aligned himself with Iran.