With the Iraqi war two weeks old, the fate of Saddam Hussein is still in question. The mystery deepened Tuesday when the Iraqi leader was set to speak to his people in a televised address but was replaced at the last minute by another official.
"There's a big psychological war going on here," author and journalist Con Coughlin told The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith. Coughlin has been following the Iraqi leader for a long time and is the author of a book called "Saddam: King of Terror."
"The Americans are trying to persuade the Iraqis that Saddam is dead. Saddam is not letting anybody know precisely what his condition is. My own view is that Saddam is still around, and that's because of the way the Iraqis are putting up this stiff resistance. I don't think we'd see that if Saddam was dead," Coughlin said.
Another reason why Coughlin believes Saddam is alive is that if he were dead, there would be a lot of fighting within the family. "I mean, the sons have been at war with each other over who's the heir apparent. Saddam has three half-brothers who also see themselves as the heirs apparent. And I think if Saddam had met his maker, then we'd see some severe cracks starting to appear in the Baathist regime," Coughlin said.
Saddam's plan, Coughlin said, is to keep a low profile. After his bunker was attacked by cruise missiles, Saddam might not risk a public appearance for fear of the CIA tracking him down and hitting him again. Clearly, he understands now that he's been spied upon.
Coughlin said, "In the psychological war, the most damaging blow that the coalition forces have made against Saddam was that air strike, not because Saddam was injured in it, but because it's raised all these doubts in his mind. How did the Americans know where I was? Is there a traitor in the inner circle of my regime? How good are these communications intercepts? How safe am I? And these questions will be gnawing away at Saddam."
On March 21, Coughlin told The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith, Saddam was probably shaken by the way the war had started.
"This war is clearly against Saddam personally," Coughliun said. "That is very different from everything else he has faced over the last years. And I think he does not like being a target."
In researching his book, Coughlin said he drew on intelligence gathered by western governments as well as interviews with numerous Iraqi refugees, defectors, and exiles, including former generals, bodyguards, and childhood friends of the dictator.
Con Coughlin, executive editor of London's "Sunday Telegraph," is one of the world's leading experts on Islamic terrorism. He has written two previous books: "Hostage," the first full account of the hostage crisis in Lebanon in the late '80s, and "A Golden Basin Full of Scorpions: The Quest for Modern Jerusalem," a study of modern Jerusalem through the eyes of its citizens.
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