January 01, 2007

Baghdad: Still Burning

In her second to last post of 2006, the Iraqi blogger Riverbend posed the following question:

... Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he's wanted to marry for the last six years? ...

In her last post of the year, she shared her thoughts on Saddam Hussein's execution:

It's official. Maliki and his people are psychopaths. This really is a new low. It's outrageous- an execution during Eid. Muslims all over the world (with the exception of Iran) are outraged. Eid is a time of peace, of putting aside quarrels and anger- at least for the duration of Eid.

This does not bode well for the coming year. No one imagined the madmen would actually do it during a religious holiday. It is religiously unacceptable and before, it was constitutionally illegal. We thought we'd at least get a few days of peace and some time to enjoy the Eid holiday, which coincides with the New Year this year. We've spent the first two days of a holy holiday watching bits and pieces of a sordid lynching.

America the saviorů After nearly four years and Bush's biggest achievement in Iraq has been a lynching. Bravo Americans. ...

And who was it that got lynched? The inevitably swinging corpse was once a US ally:

... In 1982, the administration ignored objections in Congress and removed Iraq from its list of countries supporting terrorism. By November 1983, the National Security Council had issued a directive that the US should do "whatever was necessary and legal" to prevent an Iranian victory. Washington did nothing to deter Saddam's use of chemical weapons.

As the 1980s progressed, a clandestine network of companies developed in the US and other countries to help the Iraqi war effort. The conflict between Iraq and Iran ended in 1988, but Saddam continued his Western-supported military build-up until the very moment he invaded Kuwait in August 1990. ... The irony, of course, was that America's previous support encouraged him to think he could get away with annexing Kuwait.

Indeed, just a week earlier, on 25 July 1990, the American ambassador, April Glaspie, had met Saddam. According to a transcript of the meeting, she informed him that Washington had no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts, "like your border disagreement with Kuwait". ...

The formidable Robert Fisk further outlines the crimes against humanity for which Saddam Hussein was never tried, crimes whose investigation would have revealed the neck-deep complicity of the US and other western governments:

... Gone is the man who personally received the CIA's help in destroying the Iraqi communist party. After Saddam seized power, US intelligence gave his minions the home addresses of communists in Baghdad and other cities in an effort to destroy the Soviet Union's influence in Iraq. Saddam's mukhabarat visited every home, arrested the occupants and their families, and butchered the lot. Public hanging was for plotters; the communists, their wives and children, were given special treatment - extreme torture before execution at Abu Ghraib.

... Iran's official history of the eight-year war with Iraq states that Saddam first used chemical weapons against it on 13 January 1981. ... At the time, the Iranians claimed that this terrible cocktail had been given to Saddam by the US. Washington denied this. But the Iranians were right. The lengthy negotiations which led to America's complicity in this atrocity remain secret - Donald Rumsfeld was one of President Ronald Reagan's point-men at this period - although Saddam undoubtedly knew every detail. But a largely unreported document, "United States Chemical and Biological Warfare-related Dual-use exports to Iraq and their possible impact on the Health Consequences of the Persian Gulf War", stated that prior to 1985 and afterwards, US companies had sent government-approved shipments of biological agents to Iraq. These included Bacillus anthracis, which produces anthrax, andEscherichia coli (E. coli). That Senate report concluded that: "The United States provided the Government of Iraq with 'dual use' licensed materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical, biological and missile-systems programs, including ... chemical warfare agent production facility plant and technical drawings, chemical warfare filling equipment."

... I saw the results, however. On a long military hospital train back to Tehran from the battle front, I found hundreds of Iranian soldiers coughing blood and mucus from their lungs - the very carriages stank so much of gas that I had to open the windows - and their arms and faces were covered with boils. Later, new bubbles of skin appeared on top of their original boils. Many were fearfully burnt. These same gases were later used on the Kurds of Halabja. No wonder that Saddam was primarily tried in Baghdad for the slaughter of Shia villagers, not for his war crimes against Iran. ...

And as much of a monster as Hussein was, his death does nothing for the Sunnis who fear the Americans leaving them alone to face the Shiites or any of the dozens of Iraqis found executed every day. I'd link to an article about those executed Iraqis, but I can't be bothered at this point: it would only be 'news' if the Reuters ticker had brought the miraculous tidings that there had been no death squad murders in Iraq today. The lack of due process Hussein was afforded did nothing to help atone for his crimes, only made a mockery of justice and America's commitment to it.

So, happy new year. It's a clean slate. A fresh start. A time for bold resolutions and a break with bad habits. Time to let bygones be bygones. It's morning again in the Land of Opportunity, where we really believe we can put the past behind us.

Lucky us.

Posted by natasha at January 1, 2007 02:26 PM | Iraq | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

Further coverage on the Saddam execution along with unedited footage of hanging along with Letter from Saddam Hussein to the People of Iraq


Posted by: Alan at January 2, 2007 02:55 AM

Thank goodness Riverbend is blogging again. I always get nervous when she's silent for long.

Yes, it's very convenient to have lynched Saddam when and how they did, because he - literally - knows where all the bones are buried. And some of those bones have Rumsfeld's, Reagan's, Cheney's and Bush the Elder's fingerprints all over them.

At least Blair's being publicly castigated for his complicity in this disaster. He'll be losing his job soon. When will Bush and Cheney get their due?

Posted by: mickey at January 2, 2007 11:11 AM