Both men hate the United States. Both see themselves as crusaders. And both have a proven desire to destroy what stands in their way.
But Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden do have their differences. Mr. Hussein orders servants. Mr. bin Laden serves the Islamic order. Hussein's portrait saturates Iraqi life. Bin Laden has become the invisible man.
But many Americans, however, perceive the Al Qaeda leader and Iraqi dictator as partners in terror. A recent Knight Ridder survey showed that 45 percent of those polled believe that "some" or "most" of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis. In fact, 15 of the 19 were Saudis.
And when Al-Jazeera recently aired a new audiotape believed to be bin Laden, the US government was quick to argue that it proves a link between two men exists. "This is the nightmare that people have warned about, linking up Iraq with Al Qaeda," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters.
As the US continues to press its case against these two men, US policymakers must identify and understand the differences between them, says Roxanne Euben, a political science professor at Wellesley College. The more they are lumped together, she says, "the more we risk bringing about the collaboration we most fear, thereby making it a self-fulfilling prophecy."
The story of each man's path to power illuminates the values behind their missions.
Hussein was born in the same village as Saladin, the 12th century Muslim warrior who overthrew Western Crusaders at Jerusalem. He was given the name "Saddam," which translates to "he who confronts."
It is a fitting namesake.
Reportedly frustrated with his Sunni Muslim family's impoverished condition and his stepfather's cruel treatment, Hussein left home at age 10 to live with his uncle, Khairullah Tulfah, who later became governor of Baghdad. Mr. Tulfah hated Britain for its post-WWI rule of Iraq. He even wrote a pamphlet Hussein later republished titled, "Three Whom God Should Not Have Created: Persians, Jews, and Flies."
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