Iraq: President invokes God in tirade against Kuwaiti Emir: Anniversary speech

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THE WORDS 'Bush' and 'Clinton' never crossed his lips. The 'traitors' he talked about were Arab leaders who had opposed him or Iraqis who had rebelled against his rule.

The United Nations was dismissed as a mere satrap of the United States. The 'no-fly' zones were illegal. The 'mother of battles' had not yet ended. Nor the struggle for a 'victorious Iraq'. Nor for a 'liberated Palestine'. And Kuwait and Iraq, of course, were part of 'one nation'.

It was a Gulf war anniversary speech aimed exclusively at what Saddam Hussein called 'the children of Arabism everywhere'; or more to the point, at an Arab world growing increasingly disenchanted with Western air strikes against Iraq.

In some ways, the unsmiling President Saddam on Iraqi television yesterday was the same President Saddam whom the West learned to know and loathe during the occupation of Kuwait. Iraq was glorious, its people steadfast, acting only on behalf of the 'Arab nation'. America and its coalition partners were 'criminals', bent only on the division of a powerful Arab nation prepared to stand alone and on the acquisition of Kuwait as a 'rented oil well'.

President Saddam's olive-green uniform - with the inevitable brigadier-general's crossed- swords insignia on its shoulders - was crudely offset by a bowl of red and white flowers and an Iraqi flag with 'Allahu Akbar' (God is great) sewn across its centre. Indeed, God featured almost as prominently in his peroration as did the iniquities of his enemies.

But for more than half an hour, with a personal animosity quite unsurpassed in previous speeches, President Saddam began his attack not on Washington but against the ruling al-Sabah family of Kuwait. Even though US aircraft were preparing to strike at Iraq for a second time in two weeks, the primary focus of the President's rage was directed at the Emir and his family.

He even addressed his remarks, specifically, to the population of Kuwait in a weird combination of threat, entreaty and apology. It provided a curious insight into the mind of the Iraqi dictator, along with sufficient throwaway asides to chill the heart of any small neighbour.

He urged Kuwaitis to 'learn the lessons', to 'absorb the circumstances' and 'understand' the period of Iraqi occupation that began on 2 August 1990. Iraqis who had committed any act against Kuwaitis had been punished, he announced. 'Those Kuwaitis who remained in their country will remember that one of the (Iraqi) officers remained hanging for everyone to see because of the bad things he did to Kuwaitis. This is the real face of Baghdad.'

There was no mention of the torture chambers, the rape of foreign women, the doorstep executions of resistance men and women (in front of their families, of course); merely a reference to the unfortunate necessity of Iraqi armoured forces to 'return fire' when they were attacked. Kuwaitis should therefore feel 'brotherhood and love in God and in the nation which holds them in its heart in Baghdad'.

Kuwaitis will not remember history quite so romantically, though few will forget the hanging Iraqi army colonel, suspended from a crane in a central square, allegedly - so it was said at the time - for helping the Kuwaiti resistance. The real face of Baghdad was indeed understood in Kuwait.

But the culprit for all this suffering, according to President Saddam, was the Kuwaiti Emir. He had invested dollars 60bn ( pounds 40bn) in Western banks while Arabs endured 'poverty and starvation'. He had failed to heed Baghdad's warnings not to seek Iran-Iraq war debt repayments and to end oil over-production.

Saad Abdullah al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti negotiator at the Jeddah summit with the Iraqis - the meeting whose breakdown led immediately to Iraq's invasion - had received, so President Saddam's tale went, secret orders from the Emir not to settle the dispute. The people of Kuwait should learn their lesson and take control of their own country from a family that allowed foreigners to run Kuwait but who fled from the Iraqi army 'like leaseholders, without saying goodbye'.

And so it went on. The allies had changed their objectives from Saudi defence to the liberation of Kuwait and then again to the destruction of 'the Iraqi regime'.

With just a hint of emotion, President Saddam addressed himself directly to the Western powers of America, Britain and France with the words: 'The infidels will ultimately know who is victorious . . . If the aggressors continue, they will fail. God help you]' Here, without any doubt, was the old President Saddam.