A USEFUL way to start evaluating the disaster in Iraq and more regionally, could begin with the late Tariq Aziz, born on 28 April, 1936 in the town of Sinjar as Mikhail Yuhanna. With his death on Friday came an end to the line of formidable, if
blood thirsty Ba’athist rulers that characterised Saddam Hussein’s rule. It was a rule marked by such individuals of gangster-like proportion as “Chemical Ali” (Saddam’s cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid), and son Qusay, who commanded the Republican Guard.

Aziz’s own position of power said much. He was of the Chaldean Catholic minority. He was also a survivor, one of those who constituted the system of repression he also managed to evade. He became Saddam’s voice to the foreign community, doubling as both deputy leader and foreign minister.

Despite Saddam’s penchant for bloodthirsty excesses against those within and without his inner circle, Aziz never fell to that casual frivolity that so often resulted in death for those out of favour.

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