BAGHDAD, IRAQ—Reflecting on his time as Iraq's president in a pre-taped television address, Saddam Hussein expressed pride Tuesday that, despite the success of the U.S. invasion and the civilian casualties it has inflicted, he still has killed far more Iraqis than President Bush.
"George Bush believes he is so powerful, so strong," Saddam said. "But even with all of his bombs and missiles and Marines, he has not even come close to killing as many Iraqis as I did."
While estimates of the number of Iraqi civilians killed by the U.S. ranges from 500 all the way to 10,000, Saddam and his associates are believed to have murdered somewhere between 100,000 and 250,000 civilians since 1968.
"The international press counts off on their fingers every Iraqi that dies by Bush's missiles," Saddam said. "The papers make a big story of it when six Iraqi civilians are killed by American GIs near Basra, or when 15 Iraqi civilians are killed in air strikes on Baghdad. What paltry death tolls. I cannot even begin to add up how many died in Basra upon my orders, how many in Baghdad I killed with my own gun."
Throughout his presidency, Saddam said he routinely had political opponents arrested and put to death without trial, sometimes along with their entire families. He also summarily executed countless citizens for crimes as minor as petty theft and "monopolizing rationed goods."
"The race between myself and Bush is not even close," Saddam said. "I easily killed 100 times more men than Bush, not to mention women and children. That's right—women and children."
In his suppression of the Shiite Muslims alone, Saddam said he can lay claim to thousands more Iraqi kills than Bush.
"My officers did more damage rounding up students at [the Shiite Muslim theological institution] al-Hawza al-'Ilmiya in al-Najaf than the entire American 3rd Infantry did roaring through all of southern Iraq in their billion-dollar tanks," Saddam said. "And my men did not put down their guns just because someone asked for mercy. They finished the job like soldiers. They did not serve food to their enemies as if they were women at a picnic."
Saddam boasted that the 1988 Anfal campaign against the Iraqi Kurds added another 50,000 to his tally.
"In Anfal, we rounded up the battle-age men and put them in front of firing squads," Saddam said. "Even today, when you travel through rural Kurdistan, you notice the high proportion of women. That is not because of the U.S. Army. That is not because of the 101st Airborne Division. It is because of me—Saddam Hussein, President of Iraq, the Glorious Leader, the Anointed One, Direct Descendant of the Prophet, Great Uncle to the People."
In his campaigns against the Kurds, Saddam crushed unrest with chemical-weapons strikes against civilian populations—a tactic he said Bush "would never have the nerve to do."
"I remember the day my cousin [Commander of Southern Forces] Ali [Hassan al-Majid] dropped chemical weapons on the town of Halabja," said Saddam, referring to the March 1988 slaughter of 5,000 Kurds. "That is how he got his nickname, 'Chemical Ali.' Much better nickname than 'Dubya,' wouldn't you say?"
"The total number of Kurds we killed could be as high as 110,000, and that is not just an idle boast," Saddam said. "The United Nations Sub-Committee on Human Rights has been keeping extensive records of my actions for years."
In fairness to Bush, Saddam conceded that he has had a significant head start killing Iraqis, beginning his political career in the late '60s as a torturer for the Ba'ath party.
"Back in 1969, I turned the execution of 14 alleged anti-government plotters into a major public event, hanging them in a town square and leaving their bodies on display," Saddam said. "Already everyone knew my name, and this was still a good 10 years before I would carry out the wave of executions that signaled my rise to power."
In addition to killings, Saddam said he bests Bush in the torture department.
"There is a certain type of torture, which is called al-Khaygania—so named in honor of its creator, former security director al-Khaygani—in which the victim is handcuffed and suspended on a piece of wood between two chairs like a chicken," Saddam said. "Then, we attach an electric wire to the man's penis and toes. Can you see Bush doing this? Can you see Bush smashing a man's skull with a brick? Can you see him calling for the deaths of his own family members? Pah, he is too weak."
Saddam closed with harsh words for his American rival.
"I recently heard a critic of President Bush say he is a dictator," Saddam said. "That made me laugh. George Bush, a dictator! My sons Uday and Qusay showed more viciousness at 10 years of age."
"Bush has a long way to go before he can match me," Saddam added. "My hands are red with the blood of the innocent. His are merely a light pink."