The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

A Better World Without Him

The Shiites comprise 55 per cent of the population, and they have been mercilessly persecuted. In 1980, Saddam had their leader, Ayatollah Mohamed Bakr Sadr, and his sister Bint Houda, tortured to death. Before they died, Bint Houda was raped in front of her brother. Bakr Sadr's beard was burned and nails were hammered into his head - Lara Marlowe

Anthony McIntyre • April 13, 2003

The search is on for Saddam Hussein. And despite the system of government having virtually collapsed in Iraq, leaving the US as the only effective coordinating force, the Osama Bin Laden experience leaves enough room for doubt that Saddam will ever be captured. The US would dearly love to detain and parade him in full view of an international audience - a public spectacle depicting a vain and brutal man whose ‘evil’ was ultimately vanquished by the Western democratic forces of ‘good’. But given his reported comments when almost captured behind Iranian lines as a result of a map reading error - he ordered an associate to shoot him dead if it appeared he might fall into enemy hands - the chances of him ever heading for Guantanamo Bay must look exceedingly dim.

The double standards of US foreign policy which seeks to try Saddam and those who staffed his regime for crimes against humanity while at the same time affording immunity to war criminal Henry Kissinger and refusing to join the International Criminal Court, should not blind those of us opposed to the war on Iraq to the very real crimes of Saddam Hussein.

According to the journalist Lara Marlowe it is not possible to chronicle in detail how violence has been used to terrorise Iraq for the past three decades. In her account the megalomania of Saddam was boundless: ‘he compared himself to the Prophet Mohamed; the ancient Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar; Saladin, the Muslim warrior who defeated the crusaders in Jerusalem.’ In 35 years of ‘absolute power’, a combination of muscle provided by the Baath Party and his own personality cult came to define Iraqi political and cultural life. His 20 palaces summed up the personal corruption of the man. Although having invested very heavily in health and education this was easily funded from the oil industry and was guided by a determination to dilute any possible opposition to his rule.

Having Joined the Baath Party in 1955 it would take only 13 years before he would become the power behind the throne although he did not proclaim himself president until 1979, staging a ‘Stalinist-style purge’ to clear his way. 60 of his colleagues were executed by himself and a close coterie of the like minded in a basement beneath the hall where a Baath Party conference was being held. From this point on rather than being shunned by the West, Saddam Hussein, in the words of Bill McSweeney (who teaches international politics in Trinity College Dublin) ‘became a pawn of Western economic interests and a useful idiot to manoeuvre into battle with Islamic fundamentalism in Iran … He became a political danger to his neighbours only with the encouragement of major powers in the West.’ It was only when the West had a direct interest in maintaining his neighbours that decisions were taken to clip his wings - invading Iran was not objectionable, Kuwait was a different matter. Saddam the dictator did not pose a problem - Saddam the disobedient dictator clearly did. Otherwise the monstrous abuses of human rights would have been allowed to continue unchecked to this day without even the remotest murmur about ‘shock ad awe.’

People do not have to rely on The Republic of Fear by the Iraqi dissident Kaanan Makiya for evidence of the atrocities perpetrated by Saddam. Noam Chomsky has made the point that Saddam ‘is as evil as they come, ranking with Suharto and other monsters of the modern era. No one would want to be within his reach.’ At the same time Chomsky adds to a more fuller understanding of Saddam’s brutality by reminding us that ‘it's useful to ask how frequently the impassioned denunciations and eloquent expressions of outrage are accompanied by three little words: "with our help".’

And without such help the present war may never have taken place. Even after the Gulf War in 1991 the State Department continued to ban all contacts with the Iraqi democratic opposition. Chomsky raises the most pertinent queries:

The world would be better off if he weren't there, no doubt about that. Surely Iraqis would. But he can't be anywhere near as dangerous as he was when the US and Britain were supporting him, even providing him with dual-use technology that he could use for nuclear and chemical weapons development, as he presumably did ... Washington's present justifications to attack Iraq have far less credibility than when President Bush Sr was welcoming Saddam as an ally and a trading partner after he had committed his worst brutalities - as in Halabja, where Iraq attacked Kurds with poison gas in 1988. At the time, the murderer Saddam was more dangerous than he is today.

Soon perhaps, Brigadier General Vince Brooks will have his wish to see Saddam either dead or captured realised. Many things will undoubtedly improve when that happens. But who shall benefit most from such improvements remains to be seen. While the war on Iraq is not only or even mainly about oil, it is in the post Saddam management of oil that evaluations of this war shall be contextualised and judgements made. Bigger and better oil pipe lines and the need to ensure a regime that will protect them rather than build hospitals and schools are unlikely to produce a culture in which human rights will have any more respect than they did under Saddam.


Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
- Thomas J. Watson

Index: Current Articles

14 April 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Maghaberry Update


"We Won The Peace, Now Let's Win The War"

PRO, POWs, Maghaberry


"In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash"

Paul Fitzsimmons


Killer Peaceniks
Henry McDonald


Hillsborough and the Anglo-American Agreement to Wage War
Anthony McIntyre


An English View of the 'Ra
Eamonn McCann


In the Swim with Two Boys
Seaghan O Murchu


A Better World Without Him

Anthony McIntyre


Arrogant Propaganda
Paul de Rooij


11 April 2003


Critique of the Anti War Movement

Liam O'Ruairc


A Diversion from the Task
Eoin O'Broin


Bush and Blair Summon the Irish Contras...
Anthony McIntyre


Not Firm Ground But Wet Sand: Prevaricating for Peace

Paul Fitzsimmons


Irish Leaders Miss Chance to Speak Out Against War
Eamon Lynch


London Update


Baghdad: First They Cheered and Then They...
Anthony McIntyre


America's Dual Mission

M. Shahid Alam


War: It Already Started
Paul de Rooij


Lacking Credibility
Bert Ward




The Blanket



Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices

To contact the Blanket project with a comment, to contribute an article, or to make a donation, write to: