We are asked to support Bush’s War because of evil Saddam Hussein.
The War was justified by a sequence of statements by Bush that have proven false or unwarranted. By unwarranted, I mean statements asserted as true but not known at the time to be true, or statements not verified but also not falsifiable.
The “weapons of mass destruction” for example. (Did they get that phrase out of old sci-fi comic books?) The USA have weapons of mass destruction; so I take it that merely having them is not a crime.
None have been found; but Bush’s amen corner chirps, “you can’t prove they weren’t there.”
Of course not. Therefore, the assertion is non-falsifiable; coupled with no positive evidence, it is simply unwarranted: gaseous.
If chemical weapons are “weapons of mass destruction,” and if Hussein had any left, they were doubtless left over from the ones given him by Ronald Reagan. Norm Dixon pointed out a couple years ago:
Not only did Ronald Reagan’s Washington turn a blind-eye to the Hussein regime’s repeated use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and Iraq’s Kurdish minority, but the US helped Iraq develop its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs…
Using its allies in the Middle East, Washington funnelled huge supplies of arms to Iraq. Classified State Department cables uncovered by Frantz and Waas described covert transfers of howitzers, helicopters, bombs and other weapons to Baghdad in 1982-83 from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait.
We Americans forget fast. In 1979, revolutionaries in Iran overthrew the US-backed dictator Shah. They captured the US embassy, leading to a year of shame ending in Jimmy Carter’s defeat for re-election.
Through the 1980’s, the administrations of Reagan, and even, for a time, Bush 41, armed Iraq to the teeth and said, “go get ’em.”
What changed 41’s mind so suddenly and violently is something I would love to see a competent historian treat of.
The Charges against Saddam Hussein
With this background in mind, let us examine the seven basic charges against Saddam Hussein being prosecuted by the new US-installed puppet regime in Iraq. These come from an MSNBC article about two years old: if you can find something more recent, let me know. I will have another word on sources at the end of this post. I indent the summary of each charge as given by the article, to distinguish it from my commentary.
1. Killing of religious figures in 1974. Five Iraqi Islamic activists were executed in 1974 and hundreds more were arrested. During the following 10 years, at least 50 clerics were condemned to death, with several others assassinated in exile. The total number of religious figures executed along with Shiite Muslims killed in uprisings against the Sunni-dominated government during that time period is unclear, although estimates range between 1,000 and 30,000.
The five in 1974 sounds factual. It is a hard number and a hard date. The specification gets more and more vague as it proceeds. By the time it reaches somewhere “between 1,000 and 30,000” I become skeptical. Numbers that vary over a factor of 30 are suspect.
Note that even this number is identified as involved in uprisings against the government. Lincoln killed 300,000, claiming they were uprising against the government; and he is treated as a hero.
Moreover, this allegedly all occurred during the decade prior to Reagan’s rich funding of Hussein’s military machine. I guess if someone is the enemy of my enemy, his atrocities are not to be mentioned? at least until times move on?
2. Killing members of political parties in the last 30 years.Within weeks of formally taking control of Iraq’s ruling party, Saddam forced many Baath Party leaders to confess to invented crimes and then executed them. Their families were held hostage to ensure their confessions, and firing squads were made up of remaining Baath party members to foster loyalty to Saddam. Ruling with an iron fist, Saddam put to death anyone suspected of fomenting opposition to his rule.
Not nice at all. You can read of middle-eastern kings killing off their rivals upon ascending the throne in the Bible, starting with David.
Is this our business?
“Fomenting opposition to his rule” sounds like the sort of thing that, if Bush found it occurred here, he would identify as of an unlawful combatant, and detain without habeas corpus, and perhaps torture.
We get to wage war against such a person?
3. Killing the Kurdish Barzani clan in 1983. Thirty-two immediate relatives of one of the main Kurdish leaders, Massood Barzani, of the Kurdish Democratic Party, were killed along with up to 8,000 members of the Barzani clan. The northern Iraqi village of Barzan was also flattened. The attack was launched to exact revenge on the clan for aiding Iran and to harm the Kurds as a whole.
This is a particularly delicious one. This was right at the peak of the time Hussein was doing our dirty business for us against Iran. Evidently, he retaliated against people that were aiding and abetting the enemy! What has Bush promised to do against Americans so identified?
4. Anfal campaign of displacing Kurds. “Anfal,” meaning spoils or extermination in Arabic, was used to describe a genocidal campaign against Kurds and other ethnic minorities that resulted in 50,000 to 100,000 deaths, according to Human Rights Watch, and many more were systematically removed from their homelands.
It sounds pretty bad. But given point #3, I want to hear more.
Was the crime, not allowing the Kurds to secede? Up to 100,000 were killed rather than allow them to secede?
Again, what hero of American history does this remind you of?
5. Gassing of Kurds in Halabja. As part of the Anfal campaign, Saddam’s cousin Gen. Ali Hassan al-Majid, widely known as “Chemical Ali” was in charge of a 1988 chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja in northern Iraq, which resulted in at least 5,000 deaths.
In 1988: still undoubtedly using chemicals supplied by us.
He was still our ally.
Also, see response to #4.
6. 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
This one is too good to be true.
World history is the story of tribes pushing their borders back and forth.
Look at a map; it is obvious that the bogus West-created state of Kuwait is part of the natural domain of Iraq.
I guess some of the items detailed as heinous in the article in connection with Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait are rarely mentioned any more, since they are now routinely used by Bush, or justified by Bush.
7. Suppression of the 1991 uprisings by Kurds and Shiites. Immediately following the invasion of Kuwait, Shiite Muslims in the south and the Kurdish minority in the north staged uprisings against Saddam’s regime. The dictator’s henchmen retaliated by killing tens of thousands of Iraqis, and around 2 million Kurds were forced to flee their homes. The bodies of many of those who “disappeared” in 1991 have only recently been exhumed from mass graves.
Isn’t the key phrase here, Suppression of uprisings? What would Lincoln do? What would Bush do?
My heart goes out to the Kurds and other dissidents of Iraq no less than it does to the Confederates of our own history. Except: the Confederates had a true Constitutional basis.
I doubt that Saddam Hussein would be qualified to teach Sunday School at the average Baptist church.
But that’s not the question.
The question is, given his culture and its history, is he the metaphysical personification of evil?
Clearly not. His atrocities, even when fully exaggerated, still fall short of Lincoln’s.
They may even fall short of the wrongful deaths that have come about because of Bush’s actions.
Considering that the evil cartoon-character of Saddam Hussein is trotted out every so often as the final trump card to overcome objections to our War against Iraq, it is surprising how little hard information is available to the ordinary man.
The specific charges and their context should be common knowledge to all. It should not be something hidden. I have had to sift back to 2004 to even find specifics mentioned in detail.
I listen regularly to BBC world news hour, and last time I heard them cover it, evidence was being taken for the murder of some people back in the early 80’s. Most of the witnesses were dead.
The raging, seething factions at each others’ throat today in Iraq as a result of our allegedly good-willed intervention, is proof that Hussein’s hard measures may have been exactly what was necessary to maintain something like peace.