The judgment and execution of Saddam Hussein were hailed by Bush as a “victory for democracy”. There’s some truth in this: the bourgeoisie has so often justified its crimes in the name of democracy (see International Review 66, 1991, ‘The massacres and crimes of the great democracies’). With boundless cynicism, Bush also announced on 5 November 2006, when he himself was in Nebraska in the middle of an election campaign, that the death sentence handed out to Saddam was “a justification for the sacrifices willingly accepted by the US forces” since March 2003 in Iraq. So for Bush the hide of a murderer is worth the more than 3000 young Americans killed in Iraq, most of them in the flower of their youth. And the hides of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed since the beginning of the American intervention count for nothing at all. In fact, since the US occupation began, there have been more than 600,000 deaths and the Iraqi government is no longer counting so as not to ‘undermine morale’.
The USA was very interested in ensuring that the execution of Saddam took place before the next round of trials. The reason for this is they would have brought up far too many compromising facts. It has been deemed necessary to obscure all memory of the total support given by the US and the western powers to Saddam’s policies between 1979 and 1990, and in particular during the war between Iraq and Iran between 1980 and 1988.
One of the main accusations against Saddam was the deadly use of chemical weapons against 5000 Kurds in Hallabjah in 1988. This massacre was part of a war which cost 1,200,000 dead and twice as many wounded, and throughout which ‘the Butcher of Baghdad’ was supported by the US and most of the western powers. Having been taken by the Iranians, the town was the re-taken by the Iraqis who decided to carry out an operation of repression against the Kurdish population. The massacre was only the most spectacular in a campaign of extermination baptised ‘Al Anfal (‘war booty’) which claimed 180,000 Iraqi Kurdish victims between 1987 and 1988.
When Saddam initiated this war by attacking Iran, it was with the full support of the western powers. After the emergence of a Shiite Islamic republic in Iran in 1979, with Ayatollah Khomeini denouncing the US as the “Great Satan”, and given US president Carter’s failure to overturn the regime, Saddam Hussein took on the role of gendarme in the region for the US and the western bloc by declaring war on Iran and weakening it through 8 years of war. The Iranian counter-attack would have resulted in victory for Tehran if Iraq hadn’t been given US military support. In 1987, the western bloc led by the US mobilised a formidable armada in the waters of the Gulf, deploying more than 250 war-ships from nearly all the major western countries, with 35,000 men on board and equipped with the most sophisticated war-planes. Presenting itself under the guise of ‘humanitarian intervention’, this force destroyed an oil platform and several of the Iranian navy’s most effective ships. It was thanks to this support that Saddam was able to sign a peace accord which allowed him to keep the same borders he had started the war with.
Even before that, Saddam had come to power with the support of the CIA, executing his Shiite and Kurdish rivals but also other Sunni chiefs within the Ba’ath party, falsely accused of conspiring against him. He was courted and honoured as a grand statesman for years, for example, being recognised as a ‘great friend of France’ (and of Chirac and Chevenement in particular). The fact that he distinguished himself throughout his political career by bloody executions and massacres of all kinds (hangings, beheadings, torturing opponents, use of chemical weapons, slaughter of the Shiite and Kurdish populations) never bothered any bourgeois politician until it was ‘discovered’ on the eve of the Gulf war that Saddam was a bloody and frightful tyrant. We should also remember that Saddam was lured into a trap when he believed that he had been given the green light by Washington to invade Kuwait in the summer of 1990, thus providing the US with a pretext to mount a gigantic military mobilisation against him. Thus the US set up the first Gulf war of January 1991 and from now on Saddam Hussein would be deemed public enemy number one. The Desert Storm campaign, presented by the official propaganda as a ‘clean war’, a kind of video war game, actually cost 500,000 lives in 42 days, with 106,000 air raids dropping 100,000 tons of bombs, experimenting with the whole gamut of murderous weapons (napalm, cluster bombs, fuel-air bombs…). Its essential aim was to make a demonstration of the crushing military superiority of the US and to force its former allies, now becoming potentially dangerous imperialist rivals, to take part behind the US at a moment when the old bloc alliances were in the process of falling apart.
With the same degree of Machiavellianism, the US and its ‘allies’ carried out further machinations. Having called upon the Kurds in the North and the Shiites in the South to rise up against the Saddam regime, they left him with the elite troops he needed to drown these rebellions in blood since they had no interest in threatening the unity of the country. The Kurdish population in particular was subjected to the most atrocious massacres.
The hireling European media, even Sarkozy in France who has been very pro-American up till now, are now hypocritically denouncing the “poor choice”, the “mistake”, the “botched job” of Saddam’s hurried execution. It is true that the circumstances of the execution will further exacerbate hatred between the religious groupings. It may have pleased the more fanatical part of the Shiite grouping but not at all the Sunnis, while the fact that it took place at the beginning of Eid, a very important festival in Islam, shocked most Muslims. What’s more Saddam Hussein may now be seen by generations who have not lived under his iron heel as a martyr.
But none of the bourgeoisies had a choice in the matter because they had the same interest as the Bush administration in seeing this execution rushed through in order to hide and erase the memory of their utter complicity in the atrocities of the past and their responsibility in the worsening barbarism going on today. Wm January 07 (Adapted from article in International Review 128)