Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Silence of Saddam's

The whole time Saddam Hussein was in custody or in court, he was kept away from any situation which could record his side of the story. No journalists, no stenographers, no questions, no paper, no pen. 60 Minutes was pretty much off the table. Now, I wonder why that would be...?

No doubt Saddam was one bad hombre. But he was
our bad hombre. The United States raised him up, and the United States tore him down. Now his silence is guaranteed, and a thousand secrets will be buried with him. He can't blab any nonsense about his CIA training.

Saddam was, in fact, a C
IA-paid assassin by 1959. He may have surfaced due to the repute of his uncle's operations against the Nazis in WWII, and his uncle had raised him. In 1959 he was 22 years old, a tough kid fond of dive bars, and he was made part of a team tasked with killing Iraqi Prime Minister Qasim. The Prime Minister, who had deposed the monarchy in a CIA-supported coup a few years earlier, had started embracing the communists, buying weapons from Russia and panicking Agency Director Allen Dulles into calling Iraq "the most dangerous spot on earth." Saddam was given a luxury apartment right across the street from the PM's offices in Baghdad. In what was a generally bungled team assassination effort, Saddam seems to have established his reputation by being the bright spot of his squad--managing to wound Qasim in the shoulder and arm and to kill his driver. One of his own team-mates accidentally shot Saddam in the calf, and he was evacuated by his handler to Tikrit, then to Syria, then to Beirut for CIA training, then to Cairo for a lengthy stay. He was attached to Egyptian Intelligence there, but made many visits to the US embassy and is said to have become well acquainted with Station Chief Jim Eichelberger.

Eichelberger must've been impressed, because after Qasim was killed in a CIA-financed coup in 1963, Saddam soon showed up in positions of great authority despite no known experience. There is no history of any part he might've played in that operation, but thousands of suspected communists were summarily executed at some place called "The "Palace of The End." Saddam disappeared for a few years afterwards (it's said he was in prison), yet when he re-emerged in 1967 he was made head of the Baath Party's secret police. Seems like he must've had a track record and powerful benefactors who thought he could be relied upon for dirty work. At the age of 31, he was made Deputy President of Iraq, and eventually took full power by simply scaring or killing everyone else off.

Paradoxically, for an unsophisticated thug, Saddam had a surprisingly benign and progressive vision of Iraq as a nation, one in tune with Baath Party policies. It became a relatively good country to live in, by and large, so long as one acquiesced to what Saddam or his relatives wanted. Some of the economic policies implemented under his rule (this section sourced from Start The Revolution, backed up by Saddam's entry in Wikipedia):
  • Free education to very high levels including a "War on Illiteracy" which saw Iraq's adult literacy rate soar to one of the highest levels in the world.
  • Re-nationalisation of Iraq's oil to ensure that the nation and its people received all of the benefits of its major resource rather than the international oil companies that had control of the oil fields up to that time.
  • Free health care via a public health system that was so good it even garnered him an award from the UN!
  • Massive farming subsidy programs were instigated giving Iraq an agricultural base that was unrivalled throughout the region.
He instigated programs to create an industrialised infrastructure for the country including a state-of-the-art road system, the promotion of mining as well as the development of many other industries in an attempt to make Iraq less dependent on foreign money for its oil and, perhaps his finest achievement, he oversaw the provision of electricity to nearly every city in Iraq as well as many other areas.
In the mid to late 70's Saddam was busy giving massive swathes of land to peasant farmers as well as helping them to mechandise their farming practices and thus increase output and prosperity. People were becoming wealthier across the board and poverty was, in a nation that had been two-thirds peasantry, almost totally eradicated. The economy became so strong that during the 70's over 2 million people came from other Arab nations to Iraq to help fill the massive employment needs of a nation that had more jobs than people!
So, yes, Saddam really was like Hitler in some ways and moreso, being a strong-arm, a murderer, and a desperado--and he was also an ardent nationalist, a capable administrator who engineered an economic miracle in his country. He was a servant of US foreign interests for almost 30 years, and it is rumored his attack on Iran was requested by the Saudi royal family. He was repeatedly given direct aid and military intervention by the US and its allies throughout that conflict, which was the bloodiest since World War Two. Every Iranian and every Kurd who was gassed by Saddam's forces, every last one of them choked, twitched, or died from US-licensed chemical weapons which Saddam was given and strongly encouraged to use. The Ronald Reagan White House approved 771 different export licenses of weapons technology to Iraq, and the US military is said to have directly observed the effects of chemical weapons in action; that and more ugly facts like it are beyond dispute. But not beyond silencing. Most bad things said about Hussein are probably true, but the press is like an anechoic chamber when it comes to these other truths.

When Iraqi forces attacked Kuwait in 1990 over its side-drilling into Iraqi oil fields, Saddam was still in the good graces of the US, and was known as a lion for having attacked and contained Iran's Islamic Revolution. Nonetheless, he was careful to get clearance for his retaliatory invasion from the US. He got it. This fact has been disputed by some people I respect and who have far more authority than I do, except that their arguments amount to saying a US ambassador named April Glaspie wouldn't have misled Saddam because, well, she just wouldn't have. Yet a friend and I predicted Iraq would be betrayed and attacked two years before it happened. Because it made geopolitical sense, because Baghdad was the next best theatre for continuing the Cold War Opera, because it was vulnerable and rich, and because no one misses a scarred-up old pit bull.

The old pit bull's sentencing and secretive execution had the distinctive rushed, hushed qualities one associates with the show trials that went on under Stalin, whom he admired so much. Someone who was probably a sociopath unfit to walk amongst us is no more, but it would be good to remember we once warmly called him "friend" and "ally," and while he may have never been a good lap-dog and wasn't fit for the children, he was one lethally game fighter and we were happy to keep him in steaks. I suspect Saddam, had he been un-muzzled as he should've been in front of an international tribunal rather than some camel court, would've had much to say about Bad Masters.

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