Paul  Kengor

The U.S. visit of Iranian theocrat-despot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has prompted some strange statements from critics of the war in Iraq. Specifically, it is confusing to hear that George W. Bush wrongly focused on removing Iraq's Saddam Hussein when, say the critics, Iran's Ahmadinejad is the bigger problem. As proof of the dangers of Ahmadinejad, these critics cite not only the Iranian dictator's support of terror, pursuit of the bomb, and general fanaticism—all of which Saddam was likewise guilty—but, most notably, his raging anti-Semitism and rejection of the nation of Israel.

Well, if you fear Ahmadinejad because of his views on Jews, then there's no reason why you wouldn't have feared Saddam just as much. In both word and deed, Saddam was worse than Ahmadinejad. Saddam walked the walk in his anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel. Long before Ahmadinejad was denying the Holocaust, Saddam was calling for a new one, and in fact was firing up the gas chamber.

This inherent hatred of Israel was part of Saddam's being. Saddam was bred a genocidal racist. When the budding despot was an adolescent, the uncle who served as his role model and surrogate father published a pamphlet titled, "Three Whom God Should Not Have Created: Persians, Jews, and Flies." Saddam lived that credo. Later, as a dictator in the late 1990s, he ramped up the country's printing presses and reissued his uncle's pamphlet. It was circulated in untold numbers throughout the nation.

It is no exaggeration to say that Saddam's hatred of Israel was of literal Biblical proportions. From the start of his regime, he pursued the grandiose goal of rebuilding the ancient Biblical city of Babylon. This fit with his thinking of being the modern incarnation of Nebuchadnezzar, the most important of the Chaldean or Neo-Babylonian kings, who ruled from 605 to 562 BC. In 597 and 586 Jerusalem was besieged and captured by Nebuchadnezzar; the second time, the king destroyed the city and carried the Jews off into their Babylonian captivity. Saddam hoped to do the same to the Jews of his day.

In Babylonia, and most conspicuously in Babylon itself, Nebuchadnezzar engaged in numerous extravagant building projects. Picking up the mantle some 2,500 years later, Saddam embarked on a $200 million remake of the ancient city. In this re-erected Babylon, every tenth brick (among the 60 million) was inscribed, "Babylon was rebuilt in the reign of Saddam Hussein," as they had once carried Nebuchadnezzar's name. This was Saddam's most precious project—his apotheosis, his crowning touch. He invited the world to his spectacle when in the late 1980s he began hosting an International Babylon Festival.