Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s former President was by all accounts not a figure that inspired sympathy. In the years that he ruled Iraq, ordinary Iraqi people were forced to live with arbitrary arrest, regular tortures and other forms of human-rights abuses. The man had no qualms in using banned chemical weapons against civilians and while his people starved during the years of international sanctions, one of the Arab World’s most learned people ended up living in wretched poverty, while he and his ilk lived in luxury.
However, his execution by hanging was a tragedy and I believe that instead of marking the “Dawn of a New Era,” in a “New Democratic and Stable” Iraq, will only lead more violence within Iraq and greater instability in the Middle East and beyond.
Although Saddam Hussein was nobody’s angel, his removal from power by the 2003, US lead invasion was illegal under International Law. The UN was presented with no evidence that he possessed “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (WMD) and the UN Inspectors found none. However, instead of working to secure real evidence to justify the invasion under the UN’s Sanctions, the USA and UK decided to invade Iraq to “Liberate” the Iraqi people.
Having removed him from power, the Western World chose not to offer the Iraqi people what they had been promised – a free, fair and prosperous society. Iraq’s oil wealth was supposed to be released to build a “New” Iraq, which would be run by a democratically elected executive, reporting to a democratically elected and multicultural legislature and an independent and impartial judiciary. There were some hiccups but when Saddam was captured and paraded in front of the cameras, it looked like Iraqi’s would get the chance to live a decent life in a decent society.
Three-years on, Iraq is on the verge of what incoming US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates calls a “Civil War.” Everyday, ordinary Iraqi’s who used to be united under Saddam’s tyranny had the choice of being shot at by various militias on a daily basis. The USA, the world’s most powerful armed force is seemingly powerless to help Iraqi people, unless they happen to be driving a Haliburton Executive to work on an overpriced contract. The release of oil wealth that was supposed to take place has not gone into the Iraqi economy, unless you count the diversion from building a palace for Saddam Hussein to driving Haliburton Executives as major economic progress.
However, the Western Occupation of Iraq has yielded one or two positive results. Democracy – Iraq has a democratically elected government, which was only elected by Iraqi people because Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani thought it was a good idea. The Judiciary has also proved to be so independent and impartial that Saddam Hussein was denied access to defence lawyers (of which a few were shot, gangland style) and a judge who voiced the opinion that Saddam Hussein was not the “Evil” dictator who messed-up Iraq was removed. Saddam Hussein was actually very lucky, he was allowed to shave, trim down and stay alive for three-years, and even if some of his prison guards liked video taping him, he didn’t have Pte Lyndie England looking after him at Abu Gharib.
Perhaps a few people could argue that Saddam got off very lightly compared to what he did to others. Saddam was not known for his gentle approach to dealing with his opponents, but wasn’t that supposed to stop when he was toppled. Wasn’t the trial of Saddam Hussein supposed to be about showing Iraqi people a fairer form of justice than what they were used to?
Iraqi’s have also been robbed of the chance to discover their history through the trial of Saddam Hussein. Why was he allowed to do what he did? South Africa “Healed” from Apartheid by having a “Truth and Reconciliation” committee that either forgave or punished perpetrators of a regime that abused human rights longer than Saddam Hussein existed. Iraq will never get anything resembling that.
And perhaps that’s what the Western powers want. Saddam, a former US ally (Guess who provided him with those chemical weapons he was supposed to have used against Kurds, Marsh Arabs and others?) had been removed because the person in the White House decided he was no longer fun as the villain to centre foreign policy around. Imagine what other ‘Western Backed’ Arab Governments would do if they realised how supportive the West actually was towards those they backed. To hell with justice, to hell with fairness and to hell due process and national reconciliation, a corpse wouldn’t be able to put a damper on the joys of being ‘Western Backed.’
Iraqi’s have been stoic. They think they’ve merely replaced one lot of thugs for another. Only this time, they’re less patient, particularly with the thugs from outside telling them that being violated is part of the act of being “Liberated” and “Defended.”
So, for Saddam Hussein and Iraq, it’s a case of – The Tyrant is Dead: Long Live Tyranny.