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July 20, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 748

Syrian Newspaper Hints: Saddam Better Off Committing Suicide

July 20, 2004
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 748

With the opening of the trial of deposed Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, the newspaper of the leading Syrian party, Al-Ba'th, published an editorial by the paper's editor-in-chief Mahdi Dakhlallah. Although Saddam is not explicitly mentioned in the article, the author gives examples of leaders from throughout history who preferred suicide to humiliation at the hands of the enemy. The following is the article: [1]

What Did Leaders Whose Life's Work Culminated In Historical Disaster Do?

"When you tire of understanding the present, you can return to the past, whether recent or distant, to search through books for events and experiences and to use parallels to help you explain matters you are hard pressed to explain.

"These days many may have felt a need to imitate the fate of commanders, presidents, and leaders, and to find out how they acted when their life's work culminated in great historical disaster. [1] am referring to the psychological dimension of the man in question, [not his] ideology or politics. For when a man meets his fate he is ultimately alone, whether the idea in which he believed was a good one or not, or whether he was a common [man] or a senior [official]."

Queens Cleopatra and Zenobia, Hitler, Allende, and Field Marshal 'Amer All Preferred Death to Disgrace

"Let us begin with Cleopatra, the famous queen of Egypt, whose fate compelled her to collaborate with the greatest power of those bygone days – Rome. This legendary woman refused to submit to the victorious power, and found the 'solution' in the company of poisonous snakes. This was an easier burden for this brave soul to bear than the disgrace awaiting her from the leaders of Rome.

"Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, chose the same fate. [2] Although there are different accounts of this courageous woman's end, the most reliable is that the Palmyrene leader drank poison to avoid being led in shackles – albeit golden ones – through the streets of Rome, before a crowd toasting the victory.

"Two great queens in our ancient history exemplify the profound desire to choose one's own destiny. Examples abound in the modern era too; we shall mention a few regardless of their subject's ideology or politics.

"Upon seeing Berlin fall to his enemies, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler asked his bodyguard to burn his body after he had taken poison, and to scatter his ashes to prevent their falling into enemy hands. Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president of Chile, also determined his own fate. He faced a violent coup led by the U.S.-supported General Pinochet, and when the attackers besieged the presidential palace Allende refused to flee; instead, he called for his helmet and rifle, although he was an old man not adept in the use of firearms. The outcome was predictable, and the attackers entered the palace 'over his dead body.' These days, in Santiago's central square opposite the palace, there stands a statue of Allende raising his arm in pride and honor, with Pinochet desperately seeking shelter. Which was historically victorious? The one who sacrificed himself, or the dictator?

"Even Abd Al-Hakim 'Amer [3] committed suicide in his prison cell, when he realized that nothing remained for him but disgrace.

"Ancient and modern history alike are replete with other names and examples, in which death was preferable to disgrace."


[1] Al-Ba'th (Syria), July 7, 2004.

[2] An ancient Roman city in what is now Syria.

[3] The Egyptian military commander in the 1967 War.

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