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Showdown Iraq: Interview With Adel Darwish

Aired October 2, 2002 - 12:45   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's take a look now inside Saddam Hussein's family structure, and how it may affect his views on keeping power in Iraq. For example, we know that Saddam was raised by his uncle.
Let's get some insights. We turn to an expert who has met Saddam Hussein on several occasions in Iraq. He is Adel Darwish, a veteran journalist, author and historian who has written extensively about Iraq. He joins us now live from our bureau in London.

Adel, thanks for joining us.

Give our viewers, who may not be familiar with Saddam Hussein's family tree, some background, the whole Tikriti clan and what that means to his leadership right now.

ADEL DARWISH, AUTHOR, "UNHOLY BABYLON": Well, I think because Saddam was actually, as you said, brought up by his uncle -- I mean, he, as a very young boy, he was severely beaten, abused by his stepfather. He grew up in a very violent atmosphere, a very violent climate. At the age of 8 or 9, he used to walk around the village with an iron bar in his hand, because older kids used to tease him about his mother's reputation.

So, he learned early in life that a small kid with an iron bar is equal to a teenager. Around the age of 11, he obtained a gun and fled his mother and went to his uncle -- maternal uncle. He was a very violent man, and he assisted his uncle at the age of 14 of killing an opponent, and it was only his age that spared him going to a jail sentence.

Therefore, he actually grew up in a very violent climate, and he knew that to rely on the family connections and on the clan is some kind of protection, and it's exactly what he is relying on for survival at the moment.

BLITZER: Adel, as we speak, I want to show our viewers some pictures of Saddam's palaces -- various palaces that he has built over the years. This first one, for example, the presidential palace, his office is there. It's about 1.7 miles square and surrounded by guards. It has tripled in size since the late 1990s.

What do you make of this penchant that he has for these huge palaces?

DARWISH: I think that there are two issues -- or three really. One, because of his deprivation, as he actually grew up in a one- bedroom hut, when he used to be kicked out of bed at 4:00 in the morning by his stepfather to go and light the fire and feed the chickens. So, he's actually had a hunger for grandeur.

Another thing, of course, when I met him back in the '70s, he was very much influenced by Francis Ford Coppola, the film, "The Godfather." And as we see how the Godfather, Michael Corleone, who was actually moving from smaller houses to bigger and bigger palaces. That's actually part of the power growth.

And thirdly, the tribal mentality in this part of the world that the head of the family, the head of the tribe, actually lives in a massive, big palace; that at one point, he would actually give shelter and give room to the poorer members of the clan under his roof, like a big medieval fortress.

BLITZER: Adel, there's another palace, the Tartar Palace. It's about 150 miles from Baghdad. It was built in 1993. I'll show our viewers that picture, as we continue to talk about Saddam Hussein.

The relationship that he has with his sons, presumably one of them might emerge as his successor one day. It's a very strange relationship, isn't it?

DARWISH: Yes, because he has got two sons. In the years of the underground struggle and underground movement when Saddam Hussein was at one point in jail, his younger son, Uday, used to actually come with his wife to visit him, and his (UNINTELLIGIBLE) his diaper be used actually to hide the secret messages.

And in the 1968 coup, Saddam Hussein takes pride in writing in his memoir that his little son, Uday, was playing on the floor with two hand grenades.

So, again, the elder son, Uday, grew up in a very violent climate. And he grew up to be pathological killer and a pathological violent man.

While the younger son has got more brains and more wisdom, and, therefore, Saddam is actually preparing and grooming the younger son to be a wise statesman, to follow him in his footsteps or to follow him in leading Iraq.

BLITZER: Adel Darwish, thanks for joining us from London. Very interesting. We'll have you back, as we continue to study Saddam 101 here on "Showdown Iraq."


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