Inside Saddam's World

The U.S. likes to portray Iraq's regime as shaky. But TIME's reporting inside Iraq suggests Saddam isn't losing his grip

The mad hatter might feel at home in the Wonderland of Iraq. The day is already growing hot as lines of ramshackle buses and black-windowed Mercedes jam the normally empty highway to Tikrit, the rural hometown of Saddam Hussein. It's April 28, Saddam's 65th birthday. Crowds of military men with fat moustaches, sheiks in flowing robes and farmers in shabby pants spill onto the expansive parade ground Saddam has built for special occasions like this. High-ranking guests fill up chairs in a large pseudohistorical reviewing stand where Mussolini would have felt at home.

As the guest of honor arrives, groups of...

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