Philadelphia. Although the recent Arab League summit in the Red Sea failed to reach a policy consensus on the impending war on Iraq, the United Arab Emirates was the first Arab state to officially call for Saddam Hussein’s resignation. Bahrain and Kuwait have since joined the United Arab Emirates in this policy initiative. Other Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, are still considering the idea but for political reasons have not yet publicly advocated this position. Proposals for amnesty and exile have been floated for a month or two by a Saudi princess, among others, and most recently by King Abdullah of Jordan.
Granting Saddam Hussein and his generals amnesty and an opportunity for exile would defuse the global crisis without endangering the lives of our 200,000 troops or those of our coalition countries as well as innocent Iraqi lives. Admittedly, Hussein and his generals are heinous criminals, guilty of egregious violations of international law, who surely deserve to stand trial for their crimes. But the terrible costs of war and the unanticipated havoc it would generate in the region may make it worth the world’s while to hold its nose and offer amnesty.
In a New York Times dispatch from Amman, published on February 12, John F. Burns made a striking case for amnesty and exile. Enabling Saddam Hussein, an egomaniacal, brutal dictator, to go into exile in a hospitable Middle East country, would immediately defuse the crisis. It is very likely, however, that attractive as such an offer would be, Saddam Hussein would reject it, preferring to go down in history as a martyr in defense of his country. His generals, however, would prefer to save their skins and accept a graceful exit prior to being crushed on the battlefield by U.S. and allied troops. Faced with a rejection of amnesty by Saddam Hussein, his generals, however, might again attempt to assassinate him and overthrow his regime. What’s more, according to John Burns, Iraqi officials are of the opinion that “Hussein’s sons, Qusay and Uday, would be likely to choose personal survival over a cataclysmic end Uday might be the first to shoot his father if he refused an amnesty.”
This fascinating revelation, if it is true, points to yet another explanation for the impending war on Iraq: a father-son rivalry or — in psychoanalytical terminology — an oedipal struggle.
President George W. Bush arrived at the White House with many strikes against him and without his father’s presidential aura. Nor did President Bush the younger have his father’s extensive experience in the intelligence community or his hands-on-experience as a Vice President. With the outbreak of Gulf War I, his father’s popularity zoomed. In spite of his spectacular victory over Iraq, the elder Bush’s failure to conquer Baghdad, against the advice of some of his generals, left Saddam in power to continue developing his weapons of mass destruction. Whether consciously or unconsciously, President George W. Bush now wishes to outshine his father by destroying Iraq’s regime. This, of course, is not the avowed objective of the U.S. impending war on Iraq.
The father-son rivalry extends to Jordan as well. King Abdullah of Jordan, who is valiantly seeking to modernize his desert kingdom, has also inherited a dubious legacy from his father, King Hussein, who avidly supported Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf War. King Hussein lived to regret his decision and sought to undo the adverse political and economic consequences for Jordan. His son, King Abdullah, wants to avoid his father’s mistake by taking a courageous-and politically shrewd–position by advocating amnesty and exile for Saddam.
Thus, the oedipal struggle rears its head in Baghdad, Amman and Washington as a hidden agenda in the tragic conflict now unfolding in the Middle East. If Saddam Hussein rejects an offer of amnesty and exile, and if his sons act out their Oedipal struggle, they may yet save the world from a very bloody Greek tragedy in the cradle of civilization.
William M. Evan is professor emeritus of sociology and management at the University of Pennsylvania. Author of several books on organization theory and the sociology of law, his most recent book (with Mark Manion) is Minding the Machines: Preventing Technological Disasters. He can be reached at: EvanW@wharton.upenn.edu
Copyright 2003 William M. Evan. All rights reserved.