Mark Bowden's portrait of Saddam Hussein focuses on Saddam as a person, what Saddam loves and what Saddam fears. Bowden spent many hours interviewing people that knew him and researching from public records to compile a highly detailed portrait of a tyrant driven by ambition and cruelty. I would love to know how Bowden arranged his article, deciding what order to put it in, what information to include, and what information to leave out?
For myself, Bowden's nut graph paragraph is on page 277, the one that starts off with "Saddam is a loner by nature, and power increases isolation." The most important sentence in this nut graph is "One might think that the most powerful man has the most choices, but in reality he has the fewest."
I could have titled my review, "Stalin's student Saddam," yet direct references to Stalin only appear on pages 281 and 298. (1) There are many indirect Stalinesque references Saddam achieved, such building statues and self-portraits. Bowden would have written a stronger article if he had given his reader some background on Stalin's personality cult to better understand why Saddam built so many palaces, statues, and self-portraits. It appears that Saddam wanted to create an Iraqi nation where no one could live an entire day without seeing an image of Saddam, his palaces that dominated the landscape, or see his image or hear his name on state controlled media. I think I saw on CNN that it was required by Iraqi law that all homes and apartments have at least one framed picture of "Great Uncle" displayed in their private homes.
Today, nearly all of the statues and self-portraits have been pulled down, while his many palaces either are in ruins or being used as American military bases. The reality of 2010 says much for Saddam's ambition to build his legacy.
I looked up the May 2002 article online, which made it easier for me to research topics.
(1) Joseph Stalin lived was born on December 18, 1878 and died on March 5, 1953. Saddam Hussein was April 28, 1937 and died December 30, 2006. Therefore, Stalin was alive and ruled the Soviet Union during Saddam's first sixteen years of life.