Saddam can get millions to ‘cheer’ for him because he has built up one of the most frightening and paranoid security establishments ever seen. Seriously, the lengths he has gone to are probably even greater than those under Stalin and other despots.
Not only does Saddam’s security apparatus spy on people, but it actively recruits informers, who then go around doing things like complaining about Saddam and seeing who they can get to agree. When people are found that agree with the complaints, they are arrested and often murdered. If the complaints are particularly harsh, their entire family is murdered.
One person who defected from Iraq was sent a video tape from Saddam showing family members being raped at gunpoint. This is not just pure sadism, but this helps restrain others who might think of defecting.
The Iraqi military is organized into rings of increasing closeness to Saddam, with his most trusted people closest to him, and lesser trustees at lower levels. There are infiltrators from each level into others who report back to Saddam.
There have been a number of ‘coup attempts’ which turned out to be engineered by Saddam in order to shake out disloyal members of his military and security apparatus. Mass executions of disloyal officers follow.
The security apparatus also arrests people at random and ‘turns’ them into informants by threatening them and their families. These people are then sent back into the community to report dissent, or even to cause dissent and report on those who do not defend Saddam.
Here’s an example: Saddam’s personal architect was at a party, where some other people were talking about architecture and plying him with liquor. They were trading stories about building construction, and the topic got around to some of the details of Saddam’s residence. The architect said a little too much about the layout of the place, and was subsequently arrested and executed. It turned out that the people chatting with him were security agents who were intentionally trying to get the guy to reveal secrets about palace construction.
Under a system like that, if Saddam says, “I want all the people who love me to appear in the streets and cheer”, would YOU stay home???