*British authorities have been casting about for some way to deal with Abu Hamza Misri, the fiery engineer-cum-preacher at Finsbury Park mosque who has preached and written justifications of the September 11 attacks. They raided the mosque in connection with their discovery of an Algerian cell linked to al-Qaida that had ricin poison in its possession. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, also worshipped there. Misri as a British citizen has been hard to touch, despite his horrendous hate speech. Now it turns out that he may have come by his British citizenship fraudulently, via a 1980 marriage to a British woman. It seems that the woman was at the time still married to her first husband and had not secured a legal divorce. This may be grounds for stripping him of his citizenship and charging him with polygamy (a crime in Britain), and deporting him to Egypt. Presumably the Mubarak government is looking forward to debriefing him and hosting him. *On a list, the question came up of why Saddam seems so willing to risk everything for the sake of his weapons of mass destruction programs. I replied:1) Saddam is extremely ambitious. He does not want to be dictator of athird-rate country. He wants to be a major Power. Iraq alone cannotprovide the proper platform for a regional superpower. But if he had beenable to keep both Khuzistan and Kuwait, he might have had something.Failing such territorial aggrandizement, WMD is another route to Powerstatus.2) Saddam is paranoid about the intentions of his neighbors. He fearsthat not only will he fail to make Iraq a major Power, but nefariousinterests may harm Iraq itself and thus reduce him to weakness. He rantsagainst the Turks and their designs on damming the Tigris and Euphrates.He fears Kurdish separatism, often backed by outside powers like Iran orthe US. He fears Shiite irredentism and Iran. He fears the conservativeGulf monarchies are trying to undermine him. He fears Israel and Mossad(he has called the inspectors spies for the CIA and Mossad; to be fair,both agencies appear at one time or another to have seriously planned fortaking him out). He fears the US and the UK, even when they aren’tactively planning an invasion. Before the first Gulf War he interpreted aVOA report comparing him to Ceaucescu as a sign that the US planned toarrange his overthrow.My reading is that Saddam’s combination of overweening pride and ambition,and profound fear of everyone around him drives the obsession with WMD.Without the latter, he would just be a tinpot dictator of a small 3rdworld country. It doesn’t suit his self-image. It would be like Napoleonbeing satisfied with just having France. But also without it he wouldfeel weak and helpless before the designs of his nefarious enemies. Itisn’t a completely crazy conviction. After all, we’ve decided thatKhomeini was only repelled with the aid of WMD.The syndrome whereby authoritarian personalities represent themselves asvictims of the scheming of others and think of their bullying andaggression as merely self-defense, is common in history. Milosevic didthis to the Bosnians, e.g. Saddam is not even the only leader in the MEwho thinks this way, and has WMD.
About the Author
Juan Cole is the founder and chief editor of Informed Comment and Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He is author of, among many other books, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires. Follow him at @jricole.