Ibrahim Ebeid: Saddam Hussein and the Revolution of 1968




By Ibrahim Ebeid watanarabi@gmail.com

When The Revolution led by the Ba’ath Party took place in Iraq in July 1968, two undesirable careerist politicians attached themselves to it. They were non-Ba’athists, nor were they socialists or revolutionaries, but they were dangerous self-seeking opportunists of a reactionary bent who were fully capable of sabotaging the revolution in order to promote their narrow self-interests. They happened to be on the scene when the Leaders of the Ba’ath were meeting to make their move; there was no alternative for the leaders but to co-opt them into the leadership in order to forestall any counter-revolutionary intrigues on their part. Of these two men, Abdul Razaq Al-Nayef was the Head of Intelligence and Ibrahim Al-Daoud the Head of the Republican Guard. They had to be dealt with but preferably in a peaceful way and without any bloodshed.

It was decided to send President Abdul Rahman Aref abroad peacefully. His supporters were treated similarly, in spite of the crimes they had committed against Party members and the leadership was very careful to avoid bloodshed, giving instructions to avoid violence except in extreme cases where the Revolution and the Party were exposed to danger. No such cases arose at that stage.

The Party was under unprecedented stress. For reasons of security the leadership could not explain matters to Party members as to why Al-Nayef was named Prime Minister and Al-Daoud Minister of Defense. The Leadership had to depend mainly on its self-confidence and discipline during the thirteen tough days that followed the Revolution. The plan devised on July 16th had to be carried out in full to get rid of them.

Getting rid of Al-Nayef was not expected to be easy. He had supporters in the Presidential Guards and inside the Palace, where the Regional Secretary General of the Party resided. Any miscalculation by the Party might arouse the suspicions of Al-Nayef and Al-Daoud or any of their supporters and thus lead to the liquidation of Party leaders and supporters alike. Saddam Hussein believed that getting rid of Al-Nayef was bound to clear the situation and the risk had to be taken, after the necessary military and psychological measures were carefully drawn up to ensure the success of the operation.

On July 30th, 1968, the plan was put into motion. Ibrahim Al-Daoud had left Iraq for Jordan to inspect the Iraqi forces there, at 3pm on that day. A number of Party leaders under the Command of Saddam Hussein arrested Al-Nayef inside the presidential palace in such a careful and decisive way as to leave no trace of suspicion on the doubtful elements inside or around the palace. Minutes before the operation took place, instructions were given to Hammad Shihab to encircle the palace with the Tenth Brigade and secure complete control of the Guards. Precise arrangements were also made quickly to send Al-Nayef abroad. At 6 p.m. the Regional Secretary of the Party, Ahmad Hassan Al-Bakr, made the historic July 30th announcement over the radio. The salvation of the Revolution from a potentially dangerous conspiratorial element was successfully accomplished.

After everything was in place and the two men were sent abroad as ambassadors, Saddam Hussein declined to accept any position in the Government; he had no ambition for any position but to work for the Party. President Bakr and the Leadership insisted that Saddam accept the Post of Vice President and the Vice Chairmanship of the Revolutionary Command Council. Ahmad Hassan Al Bakr became the President of Iraq and the head of the Revolutionary Command Council.

The Revolution was not met with any strong reaction or resistance. No tension materialized, and the Party was able to conduct itself peacefully through the initial stage of the Revolution and get off to a good constructive start.

There was very little violence or bloodshed on this momentous occasion in Iraq’s history, which marked a turning point in the advance of the Arab cause. It was subsequently referred to in a popular slogan as the “White Revolution”. In this instance, “White” indicated a peaceful, enlightened event, in contradistinction to the “Dark” forces of reaction and servitude which this revolution supplanted and defeated in an extraordinarily orderly and well-planned manner, without negative side-effects and consequences which often can accompany revolutionary upheavals.

Of course, the Ba’ath is also opposed to other connotations of “Whiteness” such as the “White” racism promoted by Western racist hate groups and is also a dogged opponent of such entities as the so-called “White Armies” which were supported by Western Imperialism against the Russian revolution in 1917.

Thanks to Saddam Hussein, the humble man and true revolutionary, who was the leading planner and exercised his matchless qualities of calm fearlessness, intelligence and dedication, the Revolution enjoyed a successful outcome.

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