As Operation Iraqi Freedom continues its torturous mutation from high-minded moral, political, and economic crusade into a depraved morass resembling most the ugliest street fight imaginable, the world will hear, more and more, the words Fedayeen Saddam.

With luck and God's grace, the fear and sorrow those words inspire will never escape the perverse infernal crescent that has been Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

That villainous dictator, tolerated for decades of course by the authors of America's short-sighted foreign policy, like his sadistically-imaginative forefathers Hitler and Stalin has been endlessly creative in his quest for command and control by terror. His countrymen have suffered under his methods for years, but it has only been of late that the hard truths have begun to come to light abroad.

Like all successful fascists, Hussein has depended on the pack-mentality of those around him for his longevity. It is through an ugly oligarchy of thugs and murderers that coalition forces must finally wade if they are to meet the monster face to face.

If we can consider military and political power in Iraq to be a series of concentric circles emanating outward from its president, then the boys and men who will share Hussein's last breath will be his "Men of Sacrifice," his Fedayeen Saddam.

Taking its name from the fanatical Palestinian guerillas who have raided Israel continuously since the 1950's (and who themselves were modeled after Egyptian President Abdul Nasser's suicide terrorists and sabateurs, literally "one who sacrifices himself"), the Fedayeen Saddam was founded by Hussein's psychopathic eldest son Uday in 1995. Comprised of between 30 and 40 thousand young men who attain membership at the age of 16, this paramilitary organization may be considered to be the regime's "enforcers." Though more active "backstage" up until recently, these are the men who have been staging guerilla attacks in civilian clothes in the south during the first days of the Second Gulf War. Hussein called upon them personally on Tuesday, March 25, 2003, "to put the enemy under continued fire day and night and ambush it and its helicopters in the right time in front of our defensive positions," so one could argue that their day in the sun is finally here.

The unit reports directly to the Presidential Palace, by-passing entirely any military command, and heretofore has been responsible for many of the most criminal acts of the regime, conducting torture, murder and executions on an unimaginable scale. The U.S. State Department accuses the Fedayeen Saddam of beheading over 200 women as part of a so-called anti-prostitution campaign. According to a March 20, 2003 State Department Report, most of the victims were targeted for political reasons.

These are the same men who were ordered to put down uprisings from the Shi'ite Muslim population in Samaweh in the south of Iraq on the west side of the Euphrates River. They are the main reason, sources believe, for the reluctance of the Shi'a to strike back at Hussein's forces immediately after the American invasion. The Americans, remember, abandoned the Shi'a after the First Gulf War, and the people are afraid.

It's fear, basically, that is this gang's stock-in-trade. Though they began as country bumpkins with attitude, it wasn't long before they dressed in all-black uniforms and wore masks as they paraded through town and performed their executions in their victims' own homes.

A special sub-set of the the group, the Fidayi Saddam is nothing more or less than a Death Squad. Accompanied by the leaders of the local Ba'ath Party, the Fidayi will make a night raid on a district and "sanitize" it, to assure there are no weapons, "troublemakers," or other awkward means of dissent. The population is called the next day at prayer time and—as in the case of the above-mentioned "prostitutes"—the victim is taken from her home, stretched out on an iron bench, and—in front of her children, family, and neighbors—beheaded. Relatives are required to display the victim's head for several days after the act.

Women who belong to families that are suspected of being "hostile" to the regime in particular have been singled out, as have the wives of men imprisoned as "opponents" to Hussein. Najat Mohammad Haydar, an obstetrician in Baghdad, was beheaded after criticizing corruption within the Iraqi health services, according to Amnesty International and the Iraqi Women's League in Damascus. Professional women in general are mistrusted by Hussein and his thugs.

As American attacks became imminent, by August 2002, curfews were instituted and Baghdad has continuously been patrolled by Fedayeen Saddam, as well as groups known as Saddam's Commandos and the Special Security Forces.

There's no mystery about why such an apparatus exists. These are men much like the young Hussein himself: impoverished, uneducated, coming primarily from Hussein's own al-Bu Nasser Sunni tribe near his home town of Tikrit. There isn't much else to look forward to in Iraq. "Security work" is steady, the pay is good, the training is practically non-existent, and power is literally just an arm's-length away.

Saddam Hussein has such copious blood on his hands that his every-waking hour has been given over to protecting himself from his own people. If his Fedayeen are the final circle of trust, and if America's war is prosecuted in the manner in which it must be, then—not so very long from now—we must begin to consider the spectre of the Ashbal Saddam, Saddam's Lion Cubs.

These are the 12-year-olds, the youngest members of the Ba'ath regime, founded in 1998 to "arm the child with an inner light." It is no accident that they most resemble the Hitler Youth, the boys who died near the end of the war, just before their leader finally breathed his last.

Inside Iraq's Security Network - Parts One and Two, Sean Boyne, Jane's Intelligence Review Volume 9, numbers 7 & 8, July and August 1997
IRAQ Middle East Security Report Vol 1 No 9 - 5 March 1997

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