Javert Rovinski, on May 6 2003, 11:14 AM, said:
I guess it was for his own power... it seems a contradiction, but I suppose it's workable.
I don't see a contradiction. You talked about his desire to accumulate capital -- well, Iraq's history gave him invaluable political
capital. His entire power base was built on secular nationalism. Every governing institution needs an ideological base to justify it, and since he rejected Islam as an ideological base, he needed something potent and secular to replace it, and the ancient history of the cradle of civilization is a very, very potent source of symbolism. Imagine the power that comes from claiming to be the direct heir and continuation of the oldest civilization on Earth, the one from which all others (allegedly) sprang.
This has been the trend in the Mideast for generations -- to counter the traditional Islamic basis of power with secular-nationalist ones. Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi did the same sort of thing in Iran, asserting his secular authority by grounding it in ancient Persian and Zoroastrian culture, creating the myth of a continuous Iranian culture stretching back to prehistory and ignoring the more recent Islamic past. This aggressive secularism, in fact, was a large part of what got the fundamentalists so up in arms and drove them to rebel. The modern rise of fundamentalism is a counterreaction to the secular nationalism, the pendulum swinging back the other way again.