I’ve been reading a book from 1986 called Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam. It’s by Robin Wright, who now works for the Washington Post and is one of the better reporters around on the Mideast. Here’s an excerpt:
After the 1979 Iranian revolution, the Middle East had begun witnessing a virulent new strain of terrorism that spread like an infectious virus…
The early targets were not Western. Many incidents were spectacular and well publicized: the 1981 plot to overthrow the government of Bahrain and install an Islamic republic; sabotage and assassination attempts over an extended period against the President of Iraq; the 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, and uprisings that year and the next in the oil fields of Saudi Arabia; the assassination Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.
Did you notice that sentence in the middle?
…sabotage and assassination attempts over an extended period against the President of Iraq
I hope you did, because we’ve put Saddam Hussein on trail and will almost certainly execute him for his response to this “virulent terrorism”â€”specifically, ordering the executions of 148 people after a 1982 assassination attempt against him in the Iraqi town of Dujail.
And Sacred Rage is par for the course. From 1982-90, the New York Times mentioned Dujail exactly zero times, while very occasionally saying things like “[Saddam] has survived a number of assassination attempts.” (Don’t even ask about U.S. television.)
By contrast, Nexis shows 386 references to Dujail on TV and radio since we invaded Iraq. Paula Zahn did a segment on the hideous treatment of one woman from Dujail.
BEFORE SADDAM DISOBEYS ORDERS: Not only does the U.S. media maintain total silence about Saddam’s ghastly deeds in Dujail, on occasion they actually adopt his perspectiveâ€”i.e., that he’s dealing with “virulent terrorism.”
AFTER SADDAM DISOBEYS ORDERS: Great wailing and gnashing of teeth about his hideous crimes in Dujail, filled with details about the suffering of people whose lives (all of a sudden) have some value.
You can understand why Saddam may be a little bitter about this.