Bush and Hussein
U.S. and Iraq
While President Bush and President Hussein surely
differ in many respects, this piece of homespun
philosophy argues that they also display surprising
similarities. Bush and Hussein, as well as their
respective bands of cheering supporters, try to convince
the rest of us that they share absolutely no
characteristics and have nothing in common with each
other. This is undoubtedly part of the (subjective)
truth, but it is never the whole truth about a
While not denying the differences, this article turns
the spotlight on the similarities.
Conflicts usually put the disagreement between the
parties on display, and the parties to a conflict usually
emphasise how different they themselves (the good guys)
are from the others (the bad guys). Thus, it is perfectly
normal that conflicting parties deny that there could be
any similarities between "them" and "us"!
But professional conflict-analysts know that no
conflict is possible unless the parties also share
something. A quarrelling wife and husband may share the
fact that they are married or have children; they quarrel
because these things are important to them, because the
other is an important person in their lives. Why should
they engage in conflict and sometimes even violence if
the thing fought for is not important? Two countries
struggling to control the same territory may share an
interest in, say, the resources within that
It must be permissible to speak about these things
even if most of us, including this author, have met
neither George W. Bush nor Saddam Hussein in person.
Modern visual media can be very helpful when we try to
analyse their ways as politicians-cum-human beings, but
that is not to deny that the scholar would feel better if
he or she had also met them in person.
No doubt, it is easy to see that they are different.
Bush is a Christian, Hussein a Muslim. Bush has had a
short experience in being president; Hussein's been there
for a long time. Bush's father is still alive, whereas
Saddam never knew his father who seems to have
disappeared, died or was killed before he was born. Bush
lives in a nuclear family; Saddam's family is an extended
one, clan or tribe-based.
But let's try to sketch some of the similarities
between them and their countries.
Similarities between Bush and
1. They are men, Bush born 1946, Hussein in
either 1937 or 1939.
2. They are both presidents at the peak
of their career; sooner rather than later, life is
likely to go downwards for them.
3. They are likely to be concerned about their
image in future history books.
4. They have children and marriages of long
5. They believe in military strength as an
important instrument in their exercising power and to
achieve their nation's goals. They share the philosophy
that "might makes right."
6. They have members of their own family
involved in politics and make use of them.
7. They came to power without being democratically
8. They strongly believe that they are themselves
Good and that the other represents or is Evil.
9. They believe they have some kind of mission
- namely to stand up to or eradicate Evil.
10. They are political fundamentalists in the
sense that they believe that they are 100 per cent right
and the other 100 per cent wrong, morally and
11. They are both deeply religious
personalities. Their God is guiding them, and in a
crisis this God, and the mission He has handed down to
them, becomes even more important.
12. A certain degree of macho attitudes. Saddam
Hussein likes to be portrayed as physically strong,
athletic and usually handling swords, guns and rifles.
Bush doesn't match that but plays on being at the helm of
the strongest military power in history.
Similarities between the U.S.
1. Monotheism. They are based on two Western
religions that propagate that there is only one God and
one Truth, which could lead to a low level of tolerance
with those who are different or "against us."
2. Militarism. Militaristic political cultures.
One has a military-industrial-scientific complex with a
global reach; the other has sought to develop a similar
complex at least on a regional level.
3. Mass-destructive weapons. Both governments
believe in the utility of mass-destructive weapons.
4. Acceptance of war and interference.
Propensity to fight wars on somebody else's territory or
otherwise interfere in foreign countries to serve various
kinds of national, historic or other interests as well as
5. Civilising mission. A clear sense of
civilisational, moral superiority vis-a-vis countries and
nations assumed to be lower ranking.
6. Great power ambitions. One global, the other
7. Chosen people. Convinced about being a
culture and society that is chosen by God to play a
particular role, a leadership role, in history. Thus, one
vis-a-vis other Arab nations, the other of the West or
8. Modernisation. High level of modernisation,
achieved through education and investments in modern
science and technology.
9. Fascination with the West. Everything coming
from the West, including its science and technology and
modern consumption and cultural production.
10. A sense of being hurt - wounded lion. The
Americans feel hurt and humiliated because of September
11. Iraqis feel misunderstood, that they are treated
without respect and as lower-ranking. The West never
really cared about their suffering, for instance due to
11. Israel. Both see Israel as very important
in the Middle East; the US sees it as an ally, Iraq as an
enemy, the main threat.
12. Civil liberties and human rights. After
September 11, civil liberties have been reduced
considerably in the United States. As a foreign policy
actor, the Bush regime cares very little for
international law. Civil liberties have consistently been
subordinated to power and expansion in Iraqi politics,
and international law ignored, e.g. at the moment of the
invasion of Kuwait.
13. Multi-cultural and multi-ethnic. While
everybody knows about the cultural diversity of the
United States, few seem to be aware of the ethnic,
religious, national, clan-related and other aspects of
the Iraqi society.
14. Oil is essential to both countries. Iraq
needs oil to get rid of its huge debt and develop Iraq in
the future. The U.S. needs oil to maintain its
life-style; that implies that its dependence on imported
oil will increase from a good 50 per cent today to over
70 per cent by 2025.
15. Few-party system. There are basically two
political parties in the United States. In Iraq, the
Baath Party is the de facto ruling party, but there do
exist a few other parties too. In neither Iraq nor the US
is it easy to create new political movements and
institutionalise them, although the methods through which
fundamental political change is prevented differ.
So, 27 individual and collective similarities. There
are surely many more. How come they are virtually
overlooked in politics and media? Could the reason be
that we still know too little about conflicts and the
methods of analysing and understanding them.
Knowledge about the other. The Iraqis know much
more about the West than we do about them. Many speak
French and English, have been educated in the West, watch
American movies every evening on TV and have learned
about the West in school.
Free education and health. Iraq's government
provided this to all its citizens in the 1980s.
Classes. There used to be very few poor people
in Iraq; it used to be virtually one big middle class
that was built on a welfare state ideology. The U.S. has
never emphasised such justice-based, socialist or
semi-socialist principles, nor is it a welfare state.
Length of civilisation. The United States has
had a somewhat brief period of civilisation compared to
Iraq, which is based on a civilisation of some 7,000
De facto military capabilities and
interventionism. US military expenditures are more
than 300 times that of those of Iraq. And it is the US
that is now invading Iraq, not the other way around.
In short, the parties share many underlying
assumptions, cultural characteristics and aspirations.
They share fundamentally important images of themselves
and the other. One may say that they are, to quite an
extent, mirroring each other. They seem strengthened when
they have an enemy onto which they can project,
psychologically, their own dark sides.
More about that in a forthcoming PressInfo.
© TFF 2003
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