30 December 2006

Life of the average Iraqi has been reduced to identifying corpses, avoiding car bombs and attempting to keep track of which family members have been abducted

Meantime, Saddam Hussein has been executed and as our state genuflecting media drones on, thought I'd share a few thoughts and links. First, an excellent history of how the U.S. enabled Hussein through the years.
The tendency to treat Saddam and Iraq in a historical vacuum, and in isolation from the superpowers, however, has hidden from Americans their own culpability in the horror show that has been Iraq for the past few decades. Initially, the US used the Baath Party as a nationalist foil to the Communists. Then Washington used it against Iran. The welfare of Iraqis themselves appears to have been on no one's mind, either in Washington or in Baghdad.

Next, a perspective from an Iraqi, along with an assessment of the state of Baghdad, circa 2006.

This last year especially has been a turning point. Nearly every Iraqi has lost so much. So much. There's no way to describe the loss we've experienced with this war and occupation. There are no words to relay the feelings that come with the knowledge that daily almost 40 corpses are found in different states of decay and mutilation. There is no compensation for the dense, black cloud of fear that hangs over the head of every Iraqi. Fear of things so out of ones hands, it borders on the ridiculous- like whether your name is 'too Sunni' or 'too Shia'. Fear of the larger things- like the Americans in the tank, the police patrolling your area in black bandanas and green banners, and the Iraqi soldiers wearing black masks at the checkpoint.

Again, I can't help but ask myself why this was all done? What was the point of breaking Iraq so that it was beyond repair? Iran seems to be the only gainer. Their presence in Iraq is so well-established, publicly criticizing a cleric or ayatollah verges on suicide. Has the situation gone so beyond America that it is now irretrievable? Or was this a part of the plan all along? My head aches just posing the questions.

What has me most puzzled right now is: why add fuel to the fire? Sunnis and moderate Shia are being chased out of the larger cities in the south and the capital. Baghdad is being torn apart with Shia leaving Sunni areas and Sunnis leaving Shia areas- some under threat and some in fear of attacks. People are being openly shot at check points or in drive by killings… Many colleges have stopped classes. Thousands of Iraqis no longer send their children to school- it's just not safe.

Why make things worse by insisting on Saddam's execution now? Who gains if they hang Saddam? Iran, naturally, but who else? There is a real fear that this execution will be the final blow that will shatter Iraq. Some Sunni and Shia tribes have threatened to arm their members against the Americans if Saddam is executed. Iraqis in general are watching closely to see what happens next, and quietly preparing for the worst.

This is because now, Saddam no longer represents himself or his regime. Through the constant insistence of American war propaganda, Saddam is now representative of all Sunni Arabs (never mind most of his government were Shia). The Americans, through their speeches and news articles and Iraqi Puppets, have made it very clear that they consider him to personify Sunni Arab resistance to the occupation. Basically, with this execution, what the Americans are saying is "Look- Sunni Arabs- this is your man, we all know this. We're hanging him- he symbolizes you." And make no mistake about it, this trial and verdict and execution are 100% American. Some of the actors were Iraqi enough, but the production, direction and montage was pure Hollywood (though low-budget, if you ask me).

Columnist and long time middle east correspondent Robert Fisk, on the questions not being asked in the wake of an execution of a dictator created then destroyed by America.

Who encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in 1980, which was the greatest war crime he has committed for it led to the deaths of a million and a half souls? And who sold him the components for the chemical weapons with which he drenched Iran and the Kurds? We did. No wonder the Americans, who controlled Saddam's weird trial, forbad any mention of this, his most obscene atrocity, in the charges against him. Could he not have been handed over to the Iranians for sentencing for this massive war crime? Of course not. Because that would also expose our culpability.

I'm a bit puzzled too, over how easily the following truths are swept aside, even amidst the non-stop chatter over Saddam's execution:

  • How can this execution not be perceived as directed and orchestrated by the U.S.? How can Iraq be possibly perceived as a "sovereign democracy" when foreign occupiers are in charge, and it's the commander-in-chief's desire to increase our presence there, not exit. Even though it's been established that the justification for the invasion of a country that posed no threat to the U.S. was fraudulent.

  • The crime Hussein was tried (in a sham court more concerned with revenge than justice) for aided and abetted by American leadership at the time. In fact, as Professor Cole and others have pointed out, the Reagan administration knew full well of Hussein's crimes, yet strove to cover-up and/or trivialize these events, and continued to funnel financial support and weapons to him throughout the 80's. Terry Nichols sits in prison for his role in aiding Timothy McVeigh for the criminal act of bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. But individuals at the top of power hierarchy are never to be judged by equivalent criteria. No, they aren't directly responsible, but they do deserve blame for enabling a butcher to carry out injustice.


Robert Baer, on the execution of Saddam Hussein:

Now was not the time to execute Saddam Hussein. With Iraq still under coalition occupation, as far as Iraqis are concerned the rope around Saddam's neck was American. The Shi'a and the Kurds may not care whose rope it is — they just wanted the man dead and their pound of revenge. But for the Sunni, Saddam will become an instant martyr.

You'd be hard pressed to find a Sunni — or for that matter anyone else — who thinks Saddam's trial was fair or impartial. The Coalition Provisional Authority, the institution dedicated to dismantling Saddam's regime, established Saddam's tribunal. Its first head was the nephew of Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi exile who dedicated his life to destroying Saddam. The tribunal's presiding judge is a Kurd from Halabjah, the Kurdish city Saddam gassed in 1988. How could the man vote other than to execute Saddam and still expect to go home to Kurdistan?

The list goes on. Iraq's judiciary clearly is not independent — the Shi'a-led council of ministers has appointed and removed the tribunal's judges according to political whim. Saddam's trial was conducted inside the Green Zone, protected by American forces and paid for by American money. The U.S. Department of Justice was integral to the prosecution's investigation and training the tribunal's judges and lawyers.