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3/9/03 - STALIN AND SADDAM - 2003-03-10

Fifty years ago this month, the death of Soviet tyrant Joseph Stalin was announced. After decades of brutal oppression and economic deprivation, the people of the Soviet Union could start to breathe a little easier. It would still be decades more before Russia and the other former Soviet republics would break free of Communism, but the worst was over.

In all of history, few rulers can match Joseph Stalin for cruelty. The figures speak for themselves. Millions of people shot by Stalin’s secret police or other forces. At least six-million killed in a government-induced famine. An estimated eighteen-million sent to forced labor camps, where large numbers died of starvation, cold, disease, or overwork. Hundreds of millions who lived their whole lives in fear.

That record is hard to match. But there are those who try. One is Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein. Stalin is reported to be one of Saddam’s heroes. And indeed, Saddam’s career parallels that of Stalin in many respects. Like Stalin, Saddam has consistently employed terror and killing to strengthen his rule. Like Stalin, he has concentrated absolute power in his hands and perpetuates a cult of personality. And like Stalin, he imprisons, tortures, and kills not only individuals, but entire groups perceived, or defined, as threats.

Said Aburish once worked in Iraqi government positions that brought him into close contact with Saddam Hussein. “Everything Saddam did,” says Mr. Aburish, “had Stalinist overtones. In particular, the reliance on the security system rather than the armed forces. . . . The use of criminal elements. . . [in] the security system. And those people,” said Mr. Aburish, “were sort of semi-literate thugs whose loyalty was to Saddam -- and without whom, they were nothing. . . . Anybody [Saddam] wanted to get rid of, he got rid of.”

That is the nature of the regime in Iraq that confronts the world today. A Stalinist-type tyranny that oppresses the Iraqi people, threatens Iraq’s neighbors, and defies the United Nations by refusing to eliminate its programs for weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles.

As President George W. Bush said, the people of Iraq have “suffered too long. . . . Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it.”