Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

The Return of Saddam Hussein?

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Saddam, back in the game? Credit: US Defense Department

A group of influential tribal leaders in Iraq has come up with a solution for the sectarian violence and imminent partition/civil war in Iraq. They want the occupation to end, and their president to be freed. Yes, some prominent Iraqis still regard Saddam Hussein as their rightful president, and want him released from prison. Note they don’t say they want him returned to power, for millions of Iraqis Saddam Hussein is still their leader, unjustly imprisoned and tried by foreign invaders. Will Saddam ever return to power? Seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened. This does illustrate a few interesting points though.

One thing I find of particular importance here is the fact that Saddam still has millions of supporters. Americans in particular are beholden to the idea that Saddam was some sort of world class monster whom everyone in Iraq despised. No, Saddam was a brutal dictator and like all other brutal dictators he punished his enemies and rewarded his friends. That’s how dictators stay in power for decades. Saddam didn’t come to power and stay there because he had some secret death ray hidden in his closet, he was a shrewd and ruthless man who power-brokered his way into rulership. In a very real sense dictators have to worry more about pubic opinion than elected leaders, because they don’t have the luxury of knowing they are safe until some election day. If Saddam had been universally despised in Iraq, the Iraqi people would long ago have dealt with the situation themselves.

So if in analyzing Iraq the Bush Administration thought that virtually all Iraqis wanted Saddam gone, which was manifestly untrue, could other parts of their strategy have been based on falsehoods? I’ll leave that to the gentle reader’s contemplation for now.

I also point out that if some Iraqis want Saddam back, it seems obvious we aren’t doing such a great job. Someone asked if I thought all the current sectarian strife would have happened under Saddam? It’s an interesting question, though a misleading one, because it subtly implies that the current violence somehow may not be the occupying power’s fault. The question ultimately is meaningless or rhetorical because there is a huge difference between Iraq under Saddam and Iraq under the coalition occupation. Under Saddam Iraq was a nation state with a functioning government and civil infrastructure. We destroyed that and replaced it with…nothing. The resulting anarchy was predictable.

Isn’t there a coalition government? Occupying forces? Etc? Not really. The USA engaged in possibly the boldest social engineering experiment of the last century in Iraq, far more radical than Mao’s disastrous cultural revolution in China. Other conquerors take over the civil administration of a nation when they occupy it, this is what the USA did in Germany and Japan when we occupied them after ww2. We rounded up and tried their leaders and the people who were involved in war crimes, but left the rest of their government ministries intact. Guess what, they managed to keep their countries running just fine, ultimately transitioning to the fairly democratic parliamentary democracies we see in Japan and Germany today. American soldiers killed or wounded by hostile action in post World War Two Germany and Japan: Zero.

In Iraq we simply fired everyone and told them all to go home. Overnight the biggest employer in the nation was out of business. In fact we literally sat by as every government ministry in Iraq but the oil ministry was sacked. Instant anarchy, and we wonder why it went downhill from there? Whether it was out of stupidity, overconfidence, racism, or an overwhelming sense of western superiority, the Bush Administration simply assumed it could sweep away the existing Iraqi regime, pass out a few suitcases of cash, and all would be well. Worked in Grenada and Panama, didn’t it?

Maybe, but Iraq is not some postage stamp sized state like Grenada or Panama. Iraq is a large and diverse land with numerous tribal and religious authorities who hold local power based on centuries of tradition and custom, these not only did not go away, they became the true government of Iraq after we toppled Saddam. And they’ve grown stronger and bolder since then, and are openly fighting each other in the streets now. Meanwhile our brave cavalry sits in their forts and helplessly watches the carnage, only in control of what is in range of their guns.

Is the current sectarian violence in Iraq the USA’s fault? In the sense that the USA wants it or planned for it to happen, no. But for good or for ill, Bush created this situation when he marched into Baghdad. We broke it, we bought it. Is it any wonder that some of the natives want Saddam back?

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is an historically important image, it is not being used for profit, and it is central to the subject of the post.)

Written by unitedcats

October 28, 2006 at 9:39 am

Posted in Bush, Iraq, Politics, Propaganda, War

One Response

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  1. It seems that Iraq is a political pawn. Republicans seem to be pro-war and anti-gun control, which doesn’t count for much in this highly advanced age of business and technology. Why can’t we just have virtual wars?


    October 28, 2006 at 12:08 pm

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