Friday, April 04, 2008
April Glaspie: Assad smart, Saddam megalomaniac
April Glaspie, the US ambassador in Iraq who was accused of not warning Saddam enough before he invaded Kuwait, spoke to Dar al-Hayat, here are some things she said, some of which I've been saying here on this blog:
* Saddam's issue with Kuwait isn't just oil theft, he's just megalomaniac.His whole political career derived from overcoming the humiliation of his past . He came from nowhere, he was a self-made man...he grew up at a time when Iraqis believed understandably they were worthy of the leadership of the Arab world just as Egyptians are...it was not the party and what Michel Aflaq wanted, it was his own sense of becoming the leader of the Arab world, after all in his own thinking, it was he who stood against the ancient enemy and beat them back (his war with Iran).
i.e. Saddam's career was a desperately grandiose attempt at trying to be Gamal Abdul-Nassir.
* A very distinguished Iraqi Sunni professor at Bagdad University who was tortured by Saddam who got out of Iraq years before the war once said to me something which is perfectly obvious, but sometimes we tend to forget very obvious things. He said there is only one thing in the world that would make the general Sunni population ever get behind Saddam, because for every reason that we know they have been terrorized by him and that is if they though there was a real possibility of the Shiites taking control in Baghdad. That is perfectly obvious but for a diplomat it is important to remember.
* The British with extraordinary technology of their time tried very hard, spoke more Arabic than the current coalition forces, were working within their old former mandate, they had all the maps they knew every place in Iraq from north to south and they could not do it. I think that the reasons that they could not do it are there for anybody to read and the same difficulties have emerged now.
very true, Iraq was built on a sectarian basis but America needn't entrench it : the Americans should have done their homework
* The difference between Hafiz and Saddam: Completely different, people around President Assad respected his power. Assad was the Eastern Mediterranean, a Levantine; he could be extremely charming which is interesting coming from a very disadvantaged background as he was in every way. He had a great deal of self confidence, he was charming, he could have been a Beirut hostess, he could be genuinely amusing, he always spoke Arabic although I knew from his pilot training he must know some English. Assad was much too subtle and smart to want people to say yes to him all the time. my life as a diplomat in Syria was as free as it would have been in Beirut, o doubt people were watching us and knew where we were but no Syrian would think twice about inviting me to their house, I never entered an Iraqi house except once and that was for a cultural event. Saddam when you were with him there was this huge tension in the air because everybody in the room from his own staff was afraid of him and I never heard him make a joke but if he would have, everybody would have laughed. It was a completely different aura. In Iraq, it was much more frightening.
Full interview (English) [a little difficult to read, pargraphs are stuck together and there are many grammar issues.]