AGAINST THE GRAIN
No more the loyal ally of the U.S.
C. RAMMANOHAR REDDY
I DO not have a functioning TV at home. While that meant I did not get to see India's heroics in Adelaide last week, it also meant I escaped watching miles and miles of footage that gloated in victory over the capture of Saddam Hussein. I had, however, the radio tuned in to a news programme last Sunday evening, when I heard that nauseating announcement, "We got him," by Paul Bremer, the head of the U.S. administration in Iraq. Bremer, who reportedly wears combat boots with his suit when at work in Baghdad, must have been overly influenced by John Wayne cowboy films in his younger days. Bremer's language was, however, only representative of the mood of triumphalism that ruled the airwaves and the western newspapers after Mr. Hussein was tracked down. All wars breed an ugly triumphalism in the victor, but what the world witnessed last week was different. The parading of Hussein before hundreds of millions of TV eyes was, to put it mildly, uncivilised. There seemed to have been a need, twice over, for the U.S. to demonstrate its new (not final) triumph in Iraq. It won the 1991 war, but Hussein remained in power. It occupied Iraq in April 2003, but it did not find Hussein. Now it has "got him".
We can, however, share with the Iraqi people, Shia, Sunni and Kurd, their relief and joy at seeing the end of one tyrant. There is now no possibility of Saddam Hussein returning to oppress them. The Saddam Hussein regime terrorised the Iraqis for more than two decades, even if it did assure a measure of basic economic security for all. But does not the U.S. have the responsibility to reflect at least for a moment on its role in creating the monster that he became?
It is rarely said aloud but for a decade, during the 1980s, Saddam Hussein was one of the best friends of the U.S. in West Asia. The U.S. cultivated Hussein, armed him and looked the other way while he went about suppressing his people. The problem with Hussein was that he tried to outgrow U.S. tutelage. It is no secret that in 1980 the U.S. egged on Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, to invade Iran. The motivation was simple: Iraq was to destroy Iran on behalf of the U.S. The Iran-Iraq war went on for nearly a decade, but the U.S. never wavered in its friendship with Hussein. The time line of the Saddam Hussein-U.S. friendship, as it straddled the three presidencies of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr., is a chilling reminder of the depth of U.S. doublespeak. The facts are well known but the roster of U.S. support for Hussein, as listed by U.S. investigative journalist, Greg Palast, tells us who was responsible for creating Saddam Hussein the monster:
"1979: Seizes power with U.S. approval; moves allegiance from Soviets to U.S. in Cold War.
1980: Invades Iran, then the "Unicycle of Evil", with U.S. encouragement and arms.
1982: Reagan regime removes Saddam's regime from official US list of state sponsors of terrorism.
1983: Saddam hosts Donald Rumsfeld in Baghdad...
1984: U.S. Commerce Department issues license for export of aflatoxin to Iraq useable in biological weapons.
1988: Kurds in Halabja, Iraq, gassed.
1987-88: U.S. warships destroy Iranian oil platforms in Gulf and break Iranian blockade of Iraq shipping lanes, tipping war advantage back to Saddam."
And then in 1990, Hussein informs the U.S. that he intends invading Kuwait. He is told in a language that any one would interpret as a green light that the U.S. has "no opinion" on Iraq's quarrel with Kuwait. The Iraqi President, unfortunately, did not realise that when matters relating to crude oil were involved, even a U.S.-friendly country like Iraq could not take liberties with the gasoline-guzzling U.S. Public memory is short and a jingoistic media has aided the U.S. Government's attempt to whitewash the extent of its complicity in strengthening the Saddam Hussein regime during the 1980s, its role in facilitating Iraqi aggression on its neighbours and its aid in material that was used to suppress the Kurds. If the past was murky, the future looks even more so. The U.S. capture of Hussein does not clear the way for the restoration of peace in the country. The occupier is facing a disparate but effective resistance movement, which does not take its inspiration from the former President. There are reported to be as many as 12 different guerrilla groups working against the U.S., of which only one is a Ba'athist group swearing loyalty to Hussein. Independent reports speak of a growing dissatisfaction with the occupying army for other reasons as well. Essentials are in short supply, civic life has broken down and crime has become a part of daily life in Iraq.
Now that Hussein has been captured, one can expect the U.S. to try and cut its losses and leave Iraq by the middle of next year. It no longer concerns the U.S. that there are no weapons of mass destruction to be found in the country.
But the U.S. will not leave an Iraq at peace. It will leave a country where the Shias are pitted against Sunnis, the Sunni against the Kurds and a society in shreds. The possibility is a real one that the U.S. is now imposing a tyranny on Iraq that will be worse than Hussein's 20-year rule. This will be a tyranny of chaos in which the social fabric has been destroyed and where Iraq struggles to cope with the future.
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