Editor's Note: The following feature was published in the March 17, 2003 issue of SPIEGEL in the run-up to the Iraq war. SPIEGEL ONLINE International is reposting the story as part of its coverage of the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war.
It almost seems as though George W. Bush was enjoying the free time his advisors have given him during the past two weeks. Because of the Iraq crisis, the president has been essentially relieved of his normal ceremonial and domestic travel obligations.
He spends an hour a day jogging. He watches baseball on his favorite network, ESPN. He prays. The first thing he reads every morning is the latest "threat scenario," a summary of current terrorism warnings prepared by the intelligence services. He keeps his strategy meetings with his closest advisors brief and spends a lot of time on the telephone with foreign leaders. He regularly speaks with his father, and the current joke is that "43 is calling 41," a reference to their positions in the chronology of American presidents. He eats low-calorie dinners. He avoids alcohol. He claims that he's sleeping well, and he says: "If anyone can make their peace with something like this, then I've made my peace."
The thing with which he has made peace is the war with Iraq. George W. Bush is apparently convinced that it is inevitable. Everyone who knows him well says that the American president is not someone for whom making such a serious decision comes easily. For Bush, however, the war against Saddam Hussein is a moral and political impetus. Whether it is waged on the strength of a UN resolution and in keeping with international law, together with a "Coalition of the Willing," or alone is a secondary issue. "When it comes to our national security, we don't need anybody's permission," says the president. "I swore to protect and uphold our constitution. I placed my hand on the bible and took the oath of office."
But did he also swear to forcibly disseminate American values, to elevate the constitution of "God's own Country" to the new basic law of the world? To conquer foreign powers, a charitable act for the benefit of all mankind, with the exception of a few hundred thousand dead civilians? America, the new home of a benevolent imperialism?
The world is filled with skeptics. Last week, one after another, the world's doubting Thomases, those who refused to be converted, lined up to criticize the world's superpower at the United Nations. Many of their pleas were impressive, in spite of the fact that these fiery apostles of justice also included many hypocrites who routinely witness many a breach of the law in their countries without raising a finger. Of 28 speakers whose countries are not represented on the Security Council, only two, those representing Australia and Kuwait, were in agreement with Washington's war logic.
The justifications for an attack on Iraq brought to the table by Bush and his Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, were too contradictory, running the gamut from a desire to protect American citizens from the weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein is supposedly hiding somewhere, to linking unproven Al Qaeda contacts to Osama bin Laden, which would establish a connection between Iraq and the attacks of September 11th and, finally, to a focus on saving the Middle East's enormous oil reserves from the capriciousness of an aggressive dictator.
At times, Washington has created the impression that it would be sufficient to disarm Iraq's brutal dictator, and that he no longer poses a threat to his neighbors. But the more evident it becomes that Saddam Hussein - faced with a threatening US military buildup and diplomatic pressure exerted by the UN - finds himself forced to engage in substantial disarmament, the more clearly are leading US politicians formulating their true objectives. What they want is regime change brought about by military action, a geopolitical new order throughout the entire region. What they are planning, critical in terms of international law, is not a defensive war in which they have been forced to engage, but a self-styled preventive war. No one has the right to do so, not even the United States, the world's vain superpower.
While many issues remain unresolved, such as the details of American scenarios for the post-Saddam era, exactly who in Baghdad would qualify for amnesty, and which roles could be played by exiled Iraqi politicians, George W. Bush has essentially committed himself to one issue: The United States will occupy Iraq and its oil fields. It will make it a bridgehead for its interests in the Middle East. According to Washington, the well-being of this global power coincides with that of the local population. A prosperous Baghdad, complete with democratic institutions, is to be transferred to local control "as fast as possible" (Bush), and is to serve as a beacon of reform for the entire Middle East.
Anyone can take some element of the American chain of thought and apply it to his own agenda. The argument for idealists: The emerging model republic will make democracy attractive in all Arab states, which, like dominos, will become part of a "Pax Americana." The argument for political realists: The new, liberated Iraq will no longer pose a threat to Israel, which will make it possible to exert greater pressure on Sharon's right-leaning administration to come to terms with moderate Palestinian factions. The argument for cynics: Iraq has the world's second-largest oil reserves. Even if democracy fails to materialize, they can assure the Americans a reliable, cheap source of energy and destroy the OPEC price cartel. In the opinion of the hawks, Iraq, as a test case, will give Washington free rein to remove unfriendly regimes in other countries. Some members of the military already view the Americans as the indisputable masters of the world, and the future as a series of conquests in the realms of rogue states: today Baghdad, tomorrow Damascus, Teheran, Pyongyang. Others do not believe in this omnipotence. They already see the seeds of decline in George W. Bush' actions. "Superpower USA - An Obituary," is the title of a provocative book by French political scientist Emmanuel Todd, in which he attempts to show that "Washington is losing its grip on power." At first glance, those who would predict triumph for the United States seem to have every argument on their side. Throughout the history of mankind, certainly no country has existed that has so thoroughly dominated the world with its politics, its tanks and its products as the United States does today.
The United States is number one in every decisive element of power politics. With 4.5 percent of the world's population, it is responsible for 31 percent of the world's total economic output. This year, it is spending more on defense than the next ten countries combined. It dominates the industries of the future, and it employs a substantial share of the world's Nobel prize winners in its elite universities. The US's highly successful "cultural exports" range from Big Macs to Baywatch and Britney Spears. And sometimes the Third World's angry youth, as they burn American flags and condemn "Coca-Coca Colonization," happen to be wearing original "stone-washed Levis."
Virtually none of the world's conflicts can be resolved without the Americans, and this is something that even those unwilling to see this as something positive are forced to concede. All of the parties to conflicts in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Far East are aware of the US's critical influence. And even if George W. Bush is humiliated by the United Nations, everything speaks for the fact that America will prevail militarily in Iraq, a country torn by tribal and religious conflict. The only remaining superpower can afford - at least without incurring visible damage in the short term - to pay no heed to world opinion, to ignore the supreme council of nations, and to bend international law.
But everything points to a Pyrrhic victory. Others could use the same justification in applying the Bush doctrine of preventive war and subsequent regime change, with unforeseeable consequences for world peace. Examples include India, in its battle with the (potentially) deadly threat from Pakistan, Russia, in its conflict with neighboring Georgia, which (presumably) is still harboring terrorists, and China against the (once-upon-a-time) aggressive Taiwanese renegades.
For America itself, its planned attack on Iraq without the backing of international law would represent a geopolitical turning point that has not occurred since the end of the Cold War.
During the past 60 years, Washington has been at the forefront of developing international organizations, defense and commercial alliances. The system of rules and partnerships created, at least among democratic nations, common interests -- and dependencies -- from which everyone benefited. The Americans agreed to provide military protection to their European and Asian allies and gave them access to markets. In return, they received diplomatic and logistic support from generally reliable partners. "The result was the most stable and prosperous international system in world history," says Professor John Ikenberry of Washington's Georgetown University. All of this no longer applies. The United States is building a new world order for itself, one in which international treaties must play second fiddle to America's own best interests and their propagation. It is a risky and very dangerous path: An imperious Gulliver is about to shake off the Lilliputians (led by the Gauls and the Russians) who would fetter him to a UN table and force him to comply with international law. But isn't it possible that the giant, in the long term, will need more than just footmen, that the world power will need more than just vassals?
Whether Washington, after succeeding militarily, will also be able to achieve peace in the Middle East without such partners as France, Germany and Russia is questionable. Unlike the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, which took place with the UN's blessing, this time the international community will not pay the costs of war. And the tremendous costs of reconstruction that will be incurred in a defeated Iraq will even exceed the budget of a superpower.
An extended military occupation (the military occupation of Japan lasted seven years) is not a viable option, and not just because of Arab sensitivities. The American public, fixated on short-term solutions and a personalized concept of the enemy, will not be prepared to leave its soldiers in Iraq for an extended period of time to perform the costly task of "nation-building," that is, once Saddam Hussein, "along with the Taliban, has been relegated to the garbage can of history" (Rumsfeld).
New, dangerous conflicts that urgently require the attention of US policies are already in the making. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, unlike Saddam Hussein of late, is provoking the United States by tossing out the UN inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Association and building nuclear weapons. According to Bush's principles, the US army should have marched into Pyongyang long ago. Nowhere else in the world is the risk of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction so great.
As a Pentagon spokesman vehemently announced, it would be "no problem" for the US military to attack two different countries, and aircraft carriers and bombers have already been brought into range. Ultimately, however, the US president will have no choice but to yield to nuclear blackmail and enter into direct negotiations with North Korea's Stalinist regime. Waging war with a nuclear state is too risky, and these reservations are soon enough likely to apply to Iran, number three in Bush's "Axis of Evil."
The overwhelming majority of people in the Middle East believes that the US president is also applying a double standard in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To the considerable embitterment of the Arabs, Bush has given free rein to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in his efforts to build settlements in the occupied territories, has repeatedly used his veto to prevent Israel's condemnation in the UN Security Council, and has placed the schedule for a Palestinian state on the back burner for many months -- until suddenly making a "Middle East Peace Initiative" one his chief concerns late last week. And then there is the most pressing conflict of all, America's unfinished "War Against Terrorism." The superpower's resources are being spread very thinly, especially as a result of this conflict. This not only applies to combat helicopters, aircraft carriers and smart bombs. The costs of fighting terrorist networks are tremendous, and range from conducting conventional military campaigns to smuggling in agents, wiretapping, and monitoring bank transactions. The recent wave of successful arrests of terrorists cannot conceal the fact that most of the key planners are still at large, and that the Al Qaeda hydra keeps growing new heads.
American anti-terrorism units are currently deployed in more than a dozen countries worldwide, from Yemen to Somalia to Pakistan, from Columbia to Indonesia and the Philippines. And then there are the UN peacekeeper missions, in which Washington continues to be involved, from the Balkans to East Timor. At probably no other point in history has Washington fought on so many fronts -- and at the same time.
Great empires tend to take on too much, wrote British historian Paul Kennedy in his bestseller "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers." Some, like the Roman Empire, probably decayed from within and were then destroyed by a multitude of pinprick-like attacks by "barbarians." Many others, however, such as the Habsburg Empire at the end of the 17th century, failed because they overestimated their powers and overtaxed themselves, failed as a result of having too many obligations -- an "imperial overextending." In the late 1980s, Kennedy, a professor at Yale, wrote that the United States was also in a state of "relative decline." In a 1997 SPIEGEL interview, when confronted with the fact that under Bill Clinton's administration, with a budget surplus running into the billions and economic growth in all sectors of the economy, from the military to Hollywood, the country seemed to be on an unwaveringly upward course, Kennedy said that he would give the Americans "another five years to keep feeling good about themselves." The prophet seems to have been correct, at least with respect to the national budget: Under George W. Bush, the government is now running a record deficit, and the deficit forecast for the next 10 years comes to an unimaginable 1.8 trillion dollars. Nonetheless, the president still continues to expand America's imperial ambitions.
A foreign policy doctrine that bears the name of George W. Bush: If a political observer in Washington had dared to predict such a thing just two years ago, he would have been made a laughing stock.
An Oil Businessman from a Backwoods Town
Before running for president, this oil businessman from the backwoods town of Midland, Texas, showed virtually no interest whatsoever for the great wide world. He once visited Beijing, because his father was the US ambassador to China, and was practically unfamiliar with Europe and the Middle East. In a television interview during the 1999 presidential campaign, he was unable to name the Pakistani head of state. Even his inaugural speech contains only vague references to foreign policy: He will, of course, abide by international treaties, the deployment of America's troops will be kept to a minimum, and he will bring his soldiers back home when in doubt.
The fact that, in terms of foreign policy, George W. Bush has become the most ambitious president of the past few decades is primarily the work of 19 men who hijacked airplanes -- and of a handful of men who have hijacked America's foreign policy. The story, without which the current developments only make partial sense, begins during the administration of Bush senior.
The Soviet Union has collapsed and the Cold War is coming to a close, and Richard Cheney (now the Vice-president) is the Secretary of Defense. He asks his two top strategic thinkers, Colin Powell (now Secretary of State) and Paul Wolfowitz (now Deputy Secretary of Defense), to assess this historical turning point for Washington and to formulate proposals for the future. The internal working title? "Cheney's Song for America."
Powell's basic melody in the 1991 working paper sounds upbeat: In his opinion, the United States is the sole remaining controlling power, and it must prepare itself for poorly defined regional conflicts and "unforeseeable surprises of any nature." Powell, a military man, recommends further increases in defense spending and that other efforts be directed toward maintaining and expanding America's preeminent position. At the same time, however, Powell stresses the importance of allies and international organizations.
In contrast, civilian Wolfowitz's world view is filled with pessimism. According to Wolfowitz, every effort must be undertaken to take advantage of the "unipolar moment in world history," as other states can be expected to conspire against the United States. The supreme objective is to prevent potential competitors such as China from gaining power. In Wolfowitz's opinion, international institutions and treaties will only unduly constrain the United States. He believes that Washington must actively deal with rogue states and, if necessary, conquer them with preventive wars.
Bush senior tends to favor Powell's approach. Even Cheney, then Secretary of Defense, feels that Wolfowitz's "Guideline for Military Planning" is too radical, and it disappears into a drawer. For the time being.
The two political strategists with different points of view are not just opponents in the development of a doctrine for an imperial America. They have also been in different camps ever since the United States has been at odds with Saddam Hussein. In the wake of the US's rapid victory on the battlefield, Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War, argues for ending the war and not marching on to Baghdad. He is convinced that the Iraqi dictator, after having suffered a crushing defeat, will be unable to survive military humiliation.
Wolfowitz disagrees, but does not prevail. Once again, Bush senior pays heed to the more thoughtful man, a decision viewed at the Pentagon as the biggest miscalculation since the Vietnam War. Saddam Hussein intensifies his power, defies America and the UN inspectors, and apparently attempts to have Bush senior assassinated by special commandos in Kuwait in 1993. In spite of occasional imperial solo efforts, President Bill Clinton essentially abides by the prevailing principles of US foreign policy since the end of World War II: military containment of potential adversaries, integration into international treaties.
Even in George W. Bush's administration, "containment," a form of peaceful coexistence backed by deterrence, is still the guiding principle in the year 2000. Back then, in an essay in the publication "Foreign Affairs," Bush's current National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice, wrote: "Saddam Hussein's regime is isolated, and his conventional military power has been severely weakened. If the Iraqis and North Koreans do in fact acquire weapons of mass destruction, they will be unable to use them, as any attempt to do so will result in the annihilation of their countries." Her summary: "These regimes are living on borrowed time, so there need be no sense of panic about them."
Then panic acquired a different name, the World Trade Center, and it acquired a date: September 11, 2001. Only days after the mass murder by Al Qaeda terrorists, old adversaries Powell and Wolfowitz face off again in a new showdown: the war about war. This time, the agitator wins. In addition to the Taliban's Afghanistan, Iraq is also mentioned as a target.
George W. Bush proclaims his "War on Terror," and expands it to include all nations that -- in America's opinion -- "provide safe haven to terrorists." In a speech at the West Point military academy in June 2002, the president says: "Our military must be capable of attacking in every dark corner of the world, from one moment to the next." In his September 2002 national security strategy, Bush finally abandons the containment strategy, stating that he will "preventively" counter dangers in other countries. And: "Those who are not with us are against us."
One of the most vocal of the preventive warmongers, in addition to Wolfowitz, is Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He makes it clear that Washington places only a very limited emphasis on international treaties and common actions by the community of nations. "The mission must determine the coalition, and not the other way around. Otherwise we end up with no more than the lowest common denominator, and that's something we cannot afford." Whether weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq or a link exists between Saddam and Osama bin Laden is irrelevant, in the opinion of the hawks. After all, the United States makes its decisions unilaterally and on its own authority.
But the hawks are unable to prevail entirely. Secretary of State Powell convinces Bush that the United Nations must be involved in an attack on Baghdad. He is firmly convinced that the permanent members of the Security Council will not use their vetoes, and that the remaining members can be won over to the US point of view with a little arm-twisting and a few injections of billions of dollars -- an expression of hubris that has become the trademark of the entire Bush administration.
While the US Secretary of State steadfastly continues to stress that the US's only concern in Iraq is "disarmament," the US Secretary of Defense is already in the process of explaining "regime change." And the president makes it clear that he views the UN as little more than a chat room, one that can only be relevant, if at all, when it votes in a manner consistent with Washington's aims. America has been disdainful of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Protection, contemptuous of the International Criminal Court, and shown no interest in a global convention on biological weapons. Most nations already seemed to have accepted the arrogance and unilateralism of the United States. But the Bush doctrine of aggressive defense, which takes Article 51 of the UN Charter and its criteria regarding the rights of armed self-defense to absurd heights, does appear to have triggered acts of defiance in many. It's as if they were saying: No one can do anything about the overwhelmingly powerful position of the United States and the arrogance resulting from it. Nevertheless, no one can force us to give our blessing to Washington's attempts to bend international law. This approach has not been without impact, even with the American president.
It is not just European critics, such as France's Todd, who feel that George W. Bush is overstepping his bounds with his foreign policy doctrine. In terms of economy policy, the United States is dependent on a patchwork of binding treaties and quotas; if they are violated, Washington runs the risk of being just as severely penalized by its trading partners as it would penalize them.
In this respect, the Bush administration values international organizations, at least as long as they are clearly of use to Washington. This is already evident in the fact that it supported the People's Republic of China's admission to the World Trade Organization. Economic interdependency requires compromises. Even some of America's weapons systems are difficult to imagine today without components manufactured in Asia. And it is precisely in the international, computerized fight against terrorism that the "soft power" of other nations is so important.
A look at Africa and Central Asia shows just how selectively the Bush administration pursues its quarrels with dictators. The West African nation of Liberia, a republic founded by idealistic black Americans and modeled on the principles of the US founding fathers, is ruled by Charles Taylor, probably the most horrible of despots. He is responsible for tens of thousands of murders, has women tortured, and forces children to fight in his civil war. An American incursion into the poorhouse is out of the question, and Washington supports the UN embargo of Liberia.
In Central Asia, a strategically important region on the far side of the resource-rich Caspian Sea, the Bush administration supports authoritarian rulers whose human rights violations become progressively worse from month to month. Unlike Saddam Hussein, Presidents Emomali Rachmonow of Tajikistan, Islam Karimow of Uzbekistan, and Askar Akajew of Kirgyzstan should not expect a US attack. In fact, they even profit from the military bases they have made available to the US army.
According to a classified document leaked from the Pentagon last month, the Bush administration is planning a secret meeting in August at the "Strategic Command" headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, and the topic on the agenda will be further development of the US nuclear program. The objective is to develop smaller, tactical nuclear weapons and neutron bombs, weapons to be deployed in preventive attacks against "rogue nations." According to Pentagon chief Rumsfeld, potential targets include North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Libya.
Even the pro-American British press has voiced its criticism of US military campaigns, based on the motto "praise God, and pass the ammunition." In France, the papers are filled with furious editorials against the aggressive Rumsfeld, King of the faux pas, claiming that another ally falls by the wayside whenever he opens his mouth. Attacks by American columnists against "cheese-eating capitulating monkeys" have become commonplace. Is it possible that only 18 months have passed since the Paris newspaper Le Monde wrote, as a caption to images of terror from New York and Washington, that "We are all Americans"?
A US professor who has been living in Brussels for many years and is familiar with both sides no longer believes that the countries on both sides of the Atlantic have very much in common. "We should no longer pretend that we share the same world view. The Americans are from Mars, and the Europeans are from Venus," says political scientist and best-selling author Robert Kagan. In Kagan's view, Europe operates in a functioning world of laws and rules, transnational negotiations, and international cooperative agreements, while the United States lives in an "anarchic world," mistrustful of international law and of all treaties that would constrict its actions. "In our eyes, true security, as well as upholding and promoting an order based on the principle of liberty, depend on the possession and use of military power."
It seems that the devastating experience of September 11th has not so much changed America, but has helped it to find itself. To find its roots. Even the founding fathers, who embarked on a mission to tame the wilderness, sought to dominate their environment. Benjamin Franklin once said that "the affairs of America are the affairs of all mankind." Against this historical background, Washington's multilateralism of the past 60 years seems like a period of history digression.
Americans also believe that it is normal for their country to take the law into its own hands, to break the rules on occasion, and to act unilaterally. When they have sought -- and continue to seek -- legitimation for their actions overseas, they have not called upon transnational institutions, but instead have invoked their own principles.
In Paris, Moscow and Berlin, experiences with international ambitions have been entirely different, and different conclusions have been drawn from history. But even in Italy, Spain and Great Britain, where the administrations are leaning toward a US attack on Iraq, millions of people have taken to the streets to protest the Americans' Messianic military ambitions. Whether in the Far East, South America or the Arab world, virtually no one believes that Washington is mainly interested in democracy in Iraq. Once again, everyone is talking about the "ugly American."
Anger is even beginning to escalate in the US's otherwise friendly neighboring countries. Mexican president Vicente Fox has publicly criticized the brutal pressure being exerted by the Americans, and in Canada leading politicians are talking about "tangible alienation." The new Paris-Moscow-Berlin axis is more decisive in terms of power politics. If it lasts, it could also serve as a counterweight to the United States on the global political stage.
Deeply religious President Bush is especially hurt by the concerted opposition of churches. The Pope in Rome, the Archbishop of Canterbury, America's Baptists: all have called into question the moral and legal legitimacy of the Iraq war. As South African Archbishop and Noble Prize winner Desmond Tutu has said, "President Bush is a man of faith. Let us hope he is also a man of justice." Will an ideological counter-argument to American militarism materialize? Is the giant truly on such shaky ground as European authors have steadfastly claimed, precisely those authors whose books critical of Bush have been appearing on a weekly basis?
Against the background of its overwhelming military might, Washington may find the unipolar world to be rather comfortable at the moment. Bush on top of the world, an entirely different scenario than on that traumatic September day 18 months ago, as the world's most powerful politician was forced to spend hours circling over American airspace in Air Force One, his advisors unable to agree on where to land. But signs of a possible long-term decline of the hyper-power, the United States, are popping up everywhere: Bush and Co. could be overtaxing themselves. The greatest risk for the United States is probably what historian Kennedy calls "imperial overextending," and what has resulted in the downfall of vast empires, from the Habsburgs, through the British Empire, to the multiracial state of the Soviet Union. But the "Roman model" of decline is not far behind. Not unlike the empire of the Caesars, the empire of the Bushists could also decay from within. America has begun, smugly and even self-destructively, to forsake its own ideals in its own country. The civil rights, of which those in the land of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington are so proud, are beginning to soften.
For fear of ever more devastating terrorist attacks, US judges have taken it upon themselves to routinely monitor "racially suspect" citizens. The Americans apply the term "illegal combatants" to those suspected terrorists who, after one year and without any access to legal counsel, are still in detention at the Guantanamo Bay naval base. The Geneva Convention, which protects prisoners of war, is not applied to these detainees. Even freedom of expression is being restricted. Those who openly oppose the war are currently having a difficult time of it in the United States. American actors who publicly oppose Bush's war course risk losing their contracts. Only a few newspapers, such as the New York Times, are publishing critical reports on plans to deploy troops in Iraq. The recommendation of an anchorman at the American Fox News Network, which has taken a particularly aggressive stance, is to "either support the military or keep your mouth shut."
Former President Jimmy Carter has warned against the erosion of civil rights: "Now a group of conservatives, under the cover of war, is attempting to pursue the ambitions it has harbored for years." And Carter has voiced a fiery appeal against the Iraq adventure: "There is no justification for an attack. We are undermining the United Nations and destabilizing the region. This will certainly lead to a further decline in America's standing in the world."
The neo-imperial Bush doctrine is supposed to force the world to accept its good fortune. But even before the first bomb has been dropped on Baghdad or the first shot has been fired in Basra, the new doctrine has already produced tremendous collateral damage. The UN has been gagged, Europe is split (partly of its own making), and it is quite possible that international law is about to be broken -- and all of this because of a war for the benefit of mankind. The Prussian military strategist Karl von Clausewitz once said: "In such dangerous affairs as war, the gravest mistakes are those that stem from benevolent intent."
And Saddam Hussein? He will be deposed, and yet he has achieved far more than he could ever have hoped: the Western world split in two, its principles in disarray. As he once told a biographer, "I am not interested in anything they write about me today, but in what they will be saying about Saddam in 500 years." And now the dictator has the opportunity to at least go down in the annals of history as an important destroyer.