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Showdown: Iraq: Interview With Sandra Mackey

Aired September 25, 2002 - 12:40   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Saddam Hussein, hard as it may be to believe right now, but during the '80s, he was considered a potential friend of the United States. That is when he was in the middle of his war against Iran. All that, of course, has dramatically changed, especially following his invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Since then, he's become public enemy number one.
Today, we begin our in-depth look at the complexities and the controversy surrounding this man.

Welcome to "Saddam 101."

Joining us today, the analyst and the author Sandra Mackey. She has a new book just out, "The Reckoning: Iraq and the Legacy of Saddam Hussein."

Sandra, thanks for joining us you. Take us inside the head of this man. Will he allow those kinds of unfettered complete inspections even if they result in the destruction of his weapons of mass destruction that will prevent a war, or will he refuse when all is said and done?

SANDRA MACKEY, AUTHOR "THE RECKONING": I think we're at really a fork in the road about dealing with Saddam Hussein. I think, you know, it's very likely that he will try to frustrate weapons inspectors as he has done in the past.

But, on the other hand, Saddam Hussein has a real genius for survival, and his total ideology is really the preservation of power. And I think that we shouldn't just totally discount the fact that Saddam Hussein maybe sees the writing on the wall, and is willing to allow weapons inspectors to come in, whether or not -- you know rather than just being removed from power by the United States.

BLITZER: He does have an instinct for survival. As you well know, Sandra, this is a man who doesn't only order his troops to kill, but he personally, to get that power he has had now for decades, he has personally killed even some of his most loyal aides. Talk to us about his willingness to do that.

MACKEY: Well, he has routinely just taken out anybody who he sees as a threat to his supreme power. This has included two of his son in laws who defected to Jordan and really blew the whistle on some of the weapons programs he was pursuing. He has killed the son of his mentor, who really brought him into Baghdad, took him out of the rural areas around Tikrit and started him on path to where he is today. So he really has absolutely no scruples. And you know, in a way, it is too bad we can't fight this war with Iraq with Prozac rather than missiles.

BLITZER: Talk to us about the man himself, what makes him tick on a day-to-day basis, his family life, his structure, his activities. What does he do besides deal worry about his own survival?

MACKEY: Well, you know, it's very dangerous to talk about psychological games without really knowing the person in-depth, and that is one thing the world has had to deal with, is really trying to understand Saddam Hussein behind a veil, but I think one of the essential points about him is that his father was either killed or died before Saddam Hussein was born, and he grew up in a very tribal society, essentially a fatherless son, and in that culture, that was a very big hurdle for him to overcome.

And I think that we, you know, can consider the fact that Saddam Hussein is probably basically motivated by his ego needs, to be admired, to be respected, and, therefore -- and if he can't get it by ordinary means, he will do it through power and terror.

BLITZER: Sandra, many suggested he has what's described as a weird relationship, a strange relationship even with his son, Udeh, who is a powerful figure in Baghdad as well. What can you tell us about that?

MACKEY: Well, there is all sorts of speculation as to what the secession to Saddam Hussein might be. After all, he is mortal and could die of natural causes, so, you know he may go some other way than besides a war, but Udeh is, by all accounts, really a psychopathic personality, who is very protective of his mother, who is Saddam Hussein's first wife, and Udeh was responsible at one point for actually killing one of his father's valets, for what was believed arranging a liaison between Saddam Hussein and his second wife. Again, this is a lot of speculation, because all of this goes on behind closed doors.

But Udeh has really been someone that I think even Saddam Hussein's inner circle feels is not capable of succeeding him. And, it appears that the favored successor at this time is the second son, Kusay, and there are rumors that there is a great rivalry between these two sons, and that succession might not be smooth, that there might be real inner fighting within the family. That does go on all the time. There are great rivalries within the family, dealing with, as I say, the sons, the relatives of Saddam Hussein who are descended from his natural father and those who are descended from his stepfather. There are the conflicts between his various wives and their families.

So it is not simply a very well-oiled machine in Baghdad that we sometimes think it is.

BLITZER: Sandra Mackey, we are only beginning to probe. We are only beginning to understand Saddam Hussein. We are going to continue this conversation in the days and weeks to come, when an interesting issue that has always fascinated me about Saddam Hussein, his desire for hygiene. We will talk about that, though, on another occasion.

Sandra Mackey, thanks for joining us.


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