Friday, December 29, 2006

Don't cry for me Mesopotamia: no tears for Saddam. Yet again, the Bush administration looks stupid exactly when it thinks it is being smart, or when it thinks it is being strategic in its actions. Saddam Husayn was not your typical tyrant: he was not even a consistent ideologue; unlike what his supporters would like to think. Saddam switched his views and stances, all depending on the interest of his tyrannical regime. He flirted (and more than flirted) with the US and Israel for much of the 1980s. He was a pagan and atheist in the 1970s: you can see that in the commissioned biographies from that time (Iskandar, Matar, etc), before discovering piety after his defeat in 1991--see my article in the Muslim World journal in which I compared Nasser after 67 defeat with Saddam after 91 defeat, and how they both discovered religion and Jabriyyah in their political thought. But what was always consistent about him: was his deep jealousy of Nasser, and his deep eagerness to emulate Nasser (this is similar to the deep jealousy that characterizes Walid Jumblat's attitude to Hasan Nasrallah). Yet, he had none of Nasser's qualities: he was not modest in his lifestyle, and nor was his family--to put it mildly, and he had none of the oratorical skills of Nasser. Saddam had to pay to get support outside of Iraq, Nasser did not have to pay a mallim. Lebanese columnist Samir `Atallath tells the story of the Arab journalist who visited Saddam during the tough years of the Iran-Iraq war. When the journalist was in Saddam's office, a huge massive bomb was heard, and it shook the building where they were seated. Saddam did not move nor did he show any emotion. He then turned to the journalist and asked: Do you think that Nasser would have acted as calmly, or words to that effect? The Iraqi people of course has the right if they wish to exact a punishment on Saddam for his crimes against Iraqis (and against others). But the execution has been marred by a number of issues that will later serve to backfire against the ruling puppet government of Iraq, and its backers in the US. 1) the entire course of legal and political processes in Iraq, including the weekly or monthly elections, are not legitimate in the presence of the American occupiers. All day long, administration propagandists kept stressing that this was an Iraqi decision. Yeah. Sure. This year, Iraqi puppet officials, including the former puppet prime minister, admitted that in fact the ruling prime minister of Iraq can't order a police officer on a mission without the authorization of US occupiers. And they now want us to believe that the Iraqis acted entirely on their own, as if they can. And the timing itself: it was not dictated by US calculations? And Iraq is not supposed to be sovereign and independent? And the 140,000 US troops are merely there for purposes of traffic control around the country? Whether they are elections or trials, the processes under foreign occupation are not legitimate or valid, certainly not in the eyes of Arab public opinion. 2) The trial itself, like everything that the US managed in Iraq, were bungled. If the US occupiers wanted to show Arabs a legal system or a court proceeding unlike what they have in their own countries, the US failed miserably, just as it failed miserably in translating any of its empty rhetorical promises. The trial was in fact as cartoonish and as politically managed as trials in neighboring Arab countries. From the changes of the judge (and whatever happened to that judge who went missing as soon as he said in "court" that he does not consider Saddam to be a tyrant?), to the selection of the crimes--clearly intending to spare Gulf countries, Europe, and US embarrassment from their association with the crimes of Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war years. That was why Dujayl--of all his crimes--was chosen. And notice that the Anfal trial was rushed in order to not link it to his other crimes during the time. 3) The decision to execute Saddam will further aggravate sectarian tensions in the region. Sistani had to even change the day of `Id Al-Adha. Even the `iD can be changed by that most cowardly of clerics--who was cowardly under Saddam and is cowardly under US occupation. Of course, this could not have been inevitable. In other words, had the puppet governments of Iraq not act in blatantly sectarian ways and forms--and the US occupation was clear from the beginning on utilizing--typically unsuccessfully--and exploiting sectarian differences in Iraq, the people of Iraq could have come together to condemn the crimes of Saddam and to accept a fair and legitimate trial. But the successive Shi`ite sectarian governments of US-occupied Iraq, and their sectarian Shi`ite militias, brought many of the Sunnis of Iraq closer with Saddam. And the support that the puppet government of Iraq receives from Iran and from Hizbullah--openly or not so openly, it does not matter--only serves to reinforce the sectarian cast of the ruling puppet government. This execution will go down as a sectarian decision and not as a political or legal decision, as it should be, because the ruling government a) relies on a foreign army of occupation; and b) because the ruling government employs sectarian death squads that have been killing Sunni Iraqis and Palestinians; c) because the ruling death squads are inspired by a Grand (not at all) Ayatollah who left his house only once in 6 years. AlArabiya (a virtual arm of the propaganda apparatus of the occupation) thought it was being smart when it asked a Shi`ite cleric to first appear and praise the execution. But that cleric is known to be an advocate for occupation. 4) This will not represent the end of the Ba`th Party. In fact, the Iraq Ba`th Party got rid of its worse baggage. Now the Ba`th can unfortunately rally and re-emerge without having to answer or account for the crimes of Saddam. Now they can claim that they did not know, and did not authorize--that it was all Saddam and his two sons who are all dead. The Ba`th Party will come back, just as the Taliban seem to be returning--yet another sign of the failures of the Bush Doctrine. Not a single element of that doctrine was fulfilled, or will be fulfilled. And the Ba`th party, I always argued, is as brutal in the underground as it is in government. 5) Arab regimes are more secure than ever--not from their people (who are either sleeping or outraged over Danish cartoons) but from the wrath of the US. All Arab regimes now know that the option of another US war against any other Arab regime is ruled out for a long time to come. That option was squashed by the stupidity of this administration, and the abysmal failures of the Bush doctrine. Arab regimes are now secure in the belief that the US will resort to threats but threats of a different kind. This explains the recent self-confident tone of the Iranian and Syrian regimes. 6) The quality of the US puppets in Baghdad have in a weird (and unfortunate way) increased the credibility of Saddam in the eyes of some Iraqis and more non-Iraqi Arabs. 7) Revenge attacks will be planned and executed, in Iraq and beyond. The execution of Saddam will be seen by Ba`thists and non-Ba`thists alike as killing of a "leader" and will be used to justify the assassination of Middle East leaders, especially those who are close to the US. 8) People in the region will look back at Saddam with some nostalgia because Arab leaders are now more submissive and subservient than ever to US/Israel, and Saddam's bombast and bluster in his last years will be remembered. 9) It is a sign that the Bush administration has nothing to offer but same of the same. Some brilliant mind in the White House I suspect came up with this idea of the execution hoping that it will galvanize American public opinion--they don't think beyond that. 10) It may be a sign that the US is ready to leave Iraq. It may be part of tying the knots before leaving; they are trying to make sure that Saddam will not be there after they leave. 11) It is because Saddam was such a brutal tyrant, he deserved to be tried in a legitimate and real court; where a non-sectarian government can make him account for his crimes. But that was not to be in the presence of a sectarian puppet government, backed by foreign occupiers. 12) I personally am most happy that Saddam will no more be producing novels and poetry. (I can't believe that `Abdul-Bari `Atwan in his most (grotesquely) hagiographic tribute to Saddam today referred to Saddam's court fulminations as "eloquent")! 13) I am not happy with the coverage that I am watching on AlJazeera now. It is way too somber and way too melancholic, and they ran non-stop a statement by Saddam's nephew, all day long, just as AlArabiyya coverage is way to celebratory and fake in trying to deny the sectarian undertones of the perception of the execution (that is perceived of an act by Kurdish and Shi`ite militias (backed by US) against a "Sunni". Is it not ironical that Al-Arabiya was trolling out Shi`ite voices to legitimize the execution on the same day that a senior Wahhabi cleric in Saudi Arabia officially declared the infidelity of Shi`ites? AlJazeera needs to add footage and coverage of Saddam's crimes. 14) The contemporary history of Iraq will continue to be bloody. I once asked my professor, Hanna Batatu (search the archives of this site for my entry on his great book on Iraq) as to why he was late in producing his book on Iraq. He told me that when he finished his dissertation, he was ready to turn it into a book. But the bloodshed of the early 1960s, and the hanging of communists from electricity poles by Ba`thists, bitterly distressed him. He could not come back to his notes, he told me.