Saddam Hussein meets with his boss Donald Rumsfeld
First Pinochet, and now Saddam Hussein.
Two pieces of shit.
Two men drenched in their victims’ blood.
Two men put in power by the greatest war criminals of our age... this December was their last, and yet 2007 remains stained by their legacies.
But what different ways to go...
Augusto Pinochet meets with his boss Henry Kissinger
While people cheered in the streets when the butcher of the soccer stadiums passed away, i was profoundly sad. Passing on peacefully, i felt Augusto Pinochet’s death was just one more defeat for the oppressed. Over thirty years after he did his business for the big boys in Washington, South America’s second-most famous fascist (apologies to Andrew Lloyd Weber & Madonna) enjoyed a kinder end than most on this planet.
But at least we still knew him for what he was.
Saddam Hussein was dealt a more difficult hand to play, and as a reward for his troubles he got set up and stabbed in the back by his imperialist overlords, ending it with all the glory of a show trial, and then the scaffold under the new Iraqi police state... and it just couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy...
(dripping sarcasm for those with poor reading skills)
Whereas the Chilean dictator played on a continent rocked by revolutionary movements, Hussein’s corner of the globe was even bloodier. So while Pinochet set up organizing transnational death squads, supporting genocide throughout Latin America, Hussein had even heavier work to do.
Called upon to attack the Iranian Revolution in 1980, the Iraqi dictator set off one of the greatest bloodbaths of the twentieth century.
Things may not have gone any different for the Revolution had Iraq not attacked, as the left was already theoretically disarmed in its relationship to the Khomeini theocrats. (They thought that Khomeini’s opposition to u.s. imperialism made him a reliable ally... a mistake that would cost them dearly.) But what better way to send people running to line up behind their biggest assholes than to lob poison gas at them? If fascism was already consolidating itself in Tehran, the Iran-Iraq war – a slaughterhouse arranged in Washington DC – put it on steroids.
Which is not even mentioning the one million people who died as Saddam Hussein spent years failing to defeat Iran.
One million people.
Once it became clear that Washington’s butcher in Iraq would be unable to win against the butcher Khomeini – thanks mainly to mass desertions on the Iraqi side – the war was morphed into an investment opportunity as countries throughout “progressive” “peaceful” “Old Europe” gladly sold arms to both sides.
Of course, like in any gangster movie, loyalty to the boss can only get you so far.
Saddam Hussein was set up, in a play worthy of a Le Carre thriller.
In 1990 he asked the united states permission to invade Kuwait – the Beverly Hills of the Middle East, where at the time only male citizens could vote, and even then only the native rulers were considered citizens – and permission was granted.
u.s. ambassador April Glaspie assured Hussein: “We have no opinion on your border dispute with Kuwait. [Secretary of State] James Baker has instructed our official spokesmen to EMPHASIZE this instruction.”
It was a con, and within days of the Iraqi invasion amerika was on the warpath. When Washington’s lapdog was given no way to back down, he tried to put a brave face on events, promising the “mother of all battles,” assuring the gullible that after his victory against the united states he would go on to liberate Palestine. Fishing for support where he could.
Of course, amerika wanted to kick Hussein in the teeth, perhaps even install a new regime... but the Iraqi masses entered the fray. Mass desertions from the Iraqi armed forces are what made Gulf War I so quick, as if providing a cruel answer to that old ditty about “What would happen if they called a war and no one came?”
The Iraqi masses tried to overthrow Hussein in 1990. Refusing to fight for him against the united states, they turned their guns against the regime. There were nationalist and proletarian uprisings throughout the south and the north. Were it not for the intervention of the u.s. and england, Hussein might not have lived to see 1991.
As one left communist group has written:
...the Bush regime openly invited the ruling circles in Iraq to replace Saddam Hussein with the approach of the ground war in March. However, the mass desertion of Iraqi conscripts and the subsequent uprisings in Iraq robbed the American government of such a convenient victory. Instead they faced the prospect of the uprising turning into a full scale proletarian revolution, with all the dire consequences this would have for the accumulation of capital in the Middle East.
The last thing the American government wanted was to be drawn into a prolonged military occupation of Iraq in order to suppress the uprisings. It was far more efficient to back the existing state. But there was no time to insist on the removal of Saddam Hussein. They could ill afford the disruption this would cause. Hence, almost overnight, Bush's hostility to the butcher of Baghdad evaporated. The two rival butchers went into partnership.
Their first task was to crush the uprising in the South which was being swelled by the huge columns of deserters streaming north from Kuwait. Even though these fleeing Iraqi conscripts posed no military threat to Allied troops, or to the objective of "liberating" Kuwait, the war was prolonged long enough for them to be carpet bombed on the road to Basra by the RAF and the USAF. This cold blooded massacre served no other purpose than to preserve the Iraqi state from mutinous armed deserters.
Following this massacre the Allied ground forces, having swept through southern Iraq to encircle Kuwait, stopped short of Basra and gave free rein to the Republican Guards - the elite troops loyal to the Iraqi regime - to crush the insurgents. All proposals to inflict a decisive defeat on the Republican Guards or to proceed towards Baghdad to topple Saddam were quickly forgotten. In the ceasefire negotiations the Allied forces insisted on the grounding of all fixed wing aircraft but the use of helicopters vital for counter-insurgency was permitted for "administrative purposes".
So instead of being overthrown in 1990, Hussein was given an extra thirteen years to suck the blood of the masses. This is still one of the reasons the united states is so hated by the Iraqi people.
There followed years of famine and death, as the Clinton regime tried to put Iraq on the back burner, simply bombing the country and imposing “sanctions” which left hundreds of thousands (according to some estimates, as many as one million) people dead. (Under modern capitalism, when every nation’s economy is connected to so many others’, applying “sanctions” is like cutting off oxygen to a deep sea diver – there is no way any country can simply “rely on itself” to satisfy its own needs, because that’s not how any economy is actually structured.)
Of course, sanctions and bombings were no more intended to remove Hussein from power than were the bombing sorties against deserting soldiers in Gulf War I. Rather, like other “civilized war crimes” (think Hiroshima, think Nagasaki) this was an object lesson to all the world. An example of what could be done at whim – at minimal cost or protest in the metropoles – to any neo-colony, anywhere, at any time.
As Ward Churchill – a man i normally disagree with – notes in his provocative essay Some People Push Back:
...U.N. Assistant Secretary General Denis Halladay, repeatedly denounced what was happening as "a systematic program . . . of deliberate genocide." His statements appeared in the New York Times and other papers during the fall of 1998, so it can hardly be contended that the American public was "unaware" of them. Shortly thereafter, Secretary of State Madeline Albright openly confirmed Halladay's assessment. Asked during the widely-viewed TV program Meet the Press to respond to his "allegations," she calmly announced that she'd decided it was "worth the price" to see that U.S. objectives were achieved.
i remember talking with an Iraqi woman while waiting in line for a movie, just prior to Gulf War II. i was surprised that she was glad it looked like the u.s. would invade, because at least it would end the embargo. She had no illusions about amerikan benevolence, but thought even military invasion was unlikely to involve as much suffering as sanctions. In retrospect, i think she was wrong... but it gives an idea of how bad things were.
Even before September 11th, Bush jr. in the white house signaled a more pro-active u.s. policy the middle east. When the invasion came thirteen years after Gulf War I, many wondered “what took them so long?”
Like most small-time gangsters, Hussein’s fate was not of his own making. This is a case of the big fish determining not only what the little fish do, but even what they mean.
Saddam Hussein lived like a gangster, and met his death like one. He didn’t wimp out, didn’t renounce his path or his legacy – his last words being a curse on Americans, traitors and Persians (and this as Iran faces increasing threats of imperialist invasion itself!). The man who headed a police state which murdered hundreds of thousands has now himself been murdered – by a new police state, one which shows every sign of being just as vicious as the one headed by Hussein himself.
To those who have been blinded in one eye, seeing only jihad and McWorld and nothing else, these male virtues of honour and toughness make Hussein’s undeniable true grit worth a cheer in and of itself. i can just hear some asshole going “He wasn’t no pussy”...
i may not like this, and obviously don’t feel the same way, but like i said before: no better way to get people to line up behind their biggest assholes than to rain death on them 24/7... and isn’t that what imperialism has been doing to the Arab world for generations now?
If Hussein and Pinochet are both dead today, their deaths are being understood in radically different ways. One will be remembered as scum, while the other is being dressed in drag as a revolutionary hero. While i disagree with the kind words they may have for him, the PFLP is certainly speaking the truth of some when they state that Hussein will be “remembered forever as the Arab leader who stood up in the face of American imperialism.”
But to many “ordinary people,” to many oppressed people around the world – and in the Middle East itself – the underlying unity between these two men’s lives is easy to see.
It is in recognizing this unity, and the deep chasm which separates Hussein from those who have actually fought and died for a better world, that we can retain our bearing and claim our ground in the battles to come.