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Saddam Goes on Hunger Strike: Skips Breakfast
BAGHDAD Saddam Hussein was absent from his trial this week after being hospitalized because he had gone on a hunger strike. The hunger strike began when he refused to eat his breakfast.
By lunch time he was being forcibly fed intravenously in a U.S.-run military hospital in Baghdad.
It is believed that Saddam resorted to this desperate move because he was concerned about his low support at home and his increasing isolation abroad. Saddam has become a pathetic figure, with most of the world regarding him as a dangerous leader who is prone to taking unilateral action and who fails to build international consensus. Domestically, Saddam has fallen to such a low level of approval that he risks becoming a lame duck, and his own party is running away from him.
Before he skipped breakfast, Saddam's approval rating had fallen to 30% among his fellow Sunnis, a record low for an Iraqi dictator. Following his heroic hunger strike in protest at the illegal American occupation, Saddam's rating soared to 34%, with his strongest support coming from the religious right, the oil lobby and rural rednecks. However, his approval rating among Kurds and Shiites remains at 0%.
World leaders are distancing themselves from Saddam. Condaleeza Rice visited the Middle East last week, but did not meet with Saddam. Even Tony Blair, who used to frequently mention Saddam by name, now hardly ever does, preferring instead to talk about the situation in Lebanon and the going price in the United Kingdom for peerages.
Saddam needed to distract voters from his current woes. He tried shifting the focus away from his record in government to issues which appeal to the religious right, such as calling for a ban on funding for stem gun research, a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning and the toppling of statues, and larger food portions for deposed Presidents who are being held in jail, but these proposals met with little support beyond his base.