Sunday, November 13, 2005
conjuring hitler by the pound
Ever since Saddam has been likened to Hitler by Bush I during the first Gulf War (in 1990), skeptics in Europe have come to understand that this Middle Eastern despot was but the hapless set-up of American scheming in the area. It appeared that, as Hitler had been armed by the Allies throughout the thirties in the run-up to WWII, so Hussein was similarly maneuvered to destabilize the Persian Gulf: first by engaging Iran (the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88), and second by invading Kuwait (first Gulf War 1990-1991).
The violence in Iraq that we are witnessing today appears to be the sordid legacy of a long history of damning blunders and senseless brutality: the real blunder, from the western perspective, appears that of not having been able to tame Iraq properly. Overall, we the spectators are at loss for an explanation. Nothing really appears to make sense.
It is my firm belief that the base of a solid, active movement of pacifist dissent should be a clear-headed analysis of the international crises whose death tolls are ever the cause of so much outrage in our hearts.
I should like to suggest a different understanding of this crisis, one that might enable us to organize so to speak our indignation and revulsion for the western intrusion on the Near Eastern theater.
Clearly the Saddam-Hitler similitude does not hold. Unlike Hitler, who was undoubtedly an unknowing set-up long before 1933, Hussein was a conscious stooge that had always depended on foreign plotting since his early days as a hired assassin of the Baath Party: from his exile in Cairo in 1959 Saddam, after the failed assassination of General Kassem, is known to have written the local CIA outpost in 1959 asking for instructions (see Aburish, Saddam Hussein). Ever since he, like every Arab statesman, has always pursued power in the shadow of some foreign protector. It could not have been otherwise: given its oil and position, the area is much too poor militarily and technologically not to be ultimately driven by intrigues of higher level directed by the westerners.
Presumably the tragedy of Iraq assumes international relevance when, with the unambiguous patronage of France, the Iraqi oil company –a foreign-owned cartel—is nationalized in 1973 and its conspicuous rents devoted thereby to an ambitious renovation (above all, a militarization) of the country. In 1979 Hussein emerges as the leader, and the US invites him to fight Khomeini, who had taken over Iran with a facility that was somewhat suspicious. During that war, France had the idea to maneuver Iraq as its chief pawn on the Middle Eastern chessboard by attempting to arm it with nuclear power. These attempts were successfully frustrated by the Israelis in the 80s, though Hussein kept on trying to refurbish his by now infamous arsenal of weapons of mass destructions. Hence was born this grand mythology of Hussein’s factories of chemical and nuclear holocaust. When Soviet Russia collapsed, the nature of the game changed: it seemed that the US were bent on putting an end to this French meddling in Iraq once and for all, and that is when that absurd first Gulf War was engineered. Saddam fell in no trap; not even a complete imbecile would have, least of all a seasoned politico like Saddam that had been in this abominable business for over 30 years. In an interview released 3 years ago to a French journalist, former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz speaks cryptically of an “agreement with the Americans” prior to the launch of Desert Storm. What did he mean?
So far I have construed the situation thus: it seems that the deal that was being struck was 1) to use this phony war to wipe out the sophisticated installations of arms-production in Iraq; 2) literally reduce thereby Iraq to an emasculated zone, semi-deprived of military capacity but, through its oil, commercially exploitable; and 3) share power with France, who was going to retain a major stake in the oil spoil, while the Americans installed themselves in Saudi Arabia ‘for security reasons’. So Saddam played the part of the good Muslim warrior besieged by the diabolic infidels, and they -the French and the Americans together— bombed and bombed (and the death count still remains unknown –the given figures oscillate widely) until they all achieved the objective:
1) Saddam was to remain in power: as we all know the US stood by and watched when Saddam’s Republican guard butchered the post-war rebellions (incited by the rhetoric of Bush I) in the North against the Kurds (betrayed by America yet again), and against the Shiites in the South.
2) his arsenal of chemical and nuclear arms was supposedly wiped out;
3)the preconditions were disposed to set up that front operation known as the UN-sponsored Food for Oil, behind which the big players of world politics were going to share the petrol amongst themselves, and the clique of Hussein enjoyed the kickbacks and much black-market profiteering.
It all appeared a workable compromise: all those inspections of UN arms specialists guaranteed that France would not be tempted to play some mischievous game again; the zone was geopolitically amputated and virtually controlled by the US; and the oil, though at a much reduced rate, kept flowing to the world. That a million people, half of them children, died as a result of malnutrition, lack of UN-embargoed medicaments, illness and ravaging cancer caused by the explosion of US cartridges laced with deplete uranium, bothered no power: not the UN, not the US, no the EU, and certainly not Iraq or Saudi Arabia. Again, this was a workable compromise for the ‘international community’ as a whole. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said with admirable purity: these 500.000 dead Iraqi children were a ‘price worth paying’ for immobilizing Saddam –what she meant was that it was a price worth paying for this precarious equilibrium in the Iraqi theater.
During the Clinton administration, the US establishment seemed to have become sharply divided over the suitability of this arrangement: increasingly, behind the banners of the neo-conservatives hawks, the faction of Cheney-Rumsfeld began pressing for immediate action; they wanted to finish the job in Iraq and abort this makeshift of the sanctions and the periodical punitive incursions, which seemed to be the manifest outcome of a never-ending arm-wrestling match with France over Hussein’s handicapped republic. The subversive coups allegedly staged by the CIA against Saddam in the mid-90s (see Cockburn & Cockburn, From the Ashes) possibly stem from this internal fight within the American administration. Be that as it may by the year 2000, the Neocons were clamoring for the open invasion of Iraq. And 9-11 was the key that could open all doors: the ashes were still smoldering in New York when we read in the papers that the Bush administration was already keen to move in on Iraq. It took little debate and no arguments to start the second Gulf War. We heard the fable of the WMD, the canard of the Nigerian connection, whereby Saddam obtained fissile material from Africa (this was another jibe at France, as Nigeria is her partner), and witnessed yet another theatrical performance of Saddam (playing once again the besieged Saladin at the head of a non-existent army), which was absolutely necessary otherwise the invasion would have lacked any credibility whatsoever –the war as already fake as it was. France, Germany and Russia demurred, but there was little they could do: first because these countries’ ruling elites are as corrupt, cynical and mendacious as those of their American and British counterparts, yet much less powerful; and second, most important, because all actors had to acknowledge that Mesopotamia, as the Washington-London axis seems to have intimated from the outset, had been won at a high price by the British armies from the Turks in 1917: so in the end Iraq is Anglo-American real estate, and ‘the others’ had better keep out. And so they did.
In the meantime ‘democracy’ marches on, and we discover truth in murky videos peddled on the grand web. And so it goes.
Tacoma, 12 Nov. 2005.
in the ever-blossoming get-prepared era
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