Let's Be Reminded

By: M.N. Dean - 05/23/03


The Near East, it seems, has started filling up with Osamas -- and the future, therefore, with untellable violence. Who'd have thought even the Bushes, father and son, could have engineered a 'myth of Saddam'? 

No one knows exactly what happened in Iraq. It will take us several weeks' months and maybe years to come up with the answers to the enigma of the regime's sudden fall. The question is not how the mightiest military power in history defeated an impoverished Third World country with an arsenal of World War II weapons that had been reduced to one third of its size since the 1991 Gulf War. Instead, the questions that demand to be answered surround what really happened on 9 April. Where did the entire Iraqi leadership and all the Republican Guard units disappear? Could the fabled underground tunnels really have swallowed all Saddam Hussein's Rolls Royce's and his son's Ferraris plus the entire contents of their palaces? 

President Bush, has on his plate both the important business of Afghanistan - Bin Laden and Mullah Omar remain free and the newly installed government stage managed by the U.S. is still not in control of much of the country - and several critical domestic economic concerns, notwithstanding this dilemma, as the U.S. President you continued in the comical pursuit of war, you succeeded, and add to the list Saddam and his sons, but now the U.S. occupies Iraq. And their administration shows neither remorse for the savage massacre of innocent human life, nor indeed any embarrassment for the looting and destruction of everything that's considered irreplaceable value by the entire civilized World. 

The inevitable conclusion to which one is drawn is that Rumsfeld and his friends in the Pentagon simply didn't care enough about Iraq's cultural and artistic heritage to make any effort to protect it. And they cannot even say they are sorry or take any blame for its destruction, because they cannot admit to any flaws in their battle plan."To try to pass off the fact of that unfortunate activity to a deficit in the war plan strikes me as a stretch," Rumsfeld said when asked if the looting reflected a military mistake. But there seems no doubt that, if it had wanted to, the military could have spared the men to stand guard over Baghdad's great cultural institutions. Rumsfeld went on to say, and declared on national Television, he's merely an omelette maker and broke some eggs! Such is the level of intellect. 

Professor McGuire Gibson, an American expert on Mesopotamian archaeology, pointed out that American soldiers had been made available to chip away an insulting mural of Bush in Baghdad's al-Rashid hotel. None, however, could be spared to protect the treasures in the National Museum while they were being looted up the road at the same time. 

Here is one area in which the American, Bush administration have proved themselves less sensitive than even Saddam Hussein, who showed a keen interest in his country's archaeological legacy. Since he was also a brutal dictator, he went so far as to make the smuggling of antiquities punishable by death. 

The Arabs of being in league with art smugglers, on the other hand, suspect the US government, since it is being claimed that some of the most valuable items in the museum were stolen to order. Such rumours may not be true, but they are an inevitable consequence of this huge American screw-up, which will turn out to have been the greatest public relations disaster of the war and a major defeat in the battle for Arab hearts and minds. 

Ever since the fall of Baghdad, everyone's been asking where's Saddam and where are the weapons of mass destruction he allegedly had. Fair enough. But the question that intrigues me the most is this: Where on earth are his famed look-alikes? If Saddam is dead, did they all, to the last man, die with him? And if he's slipped out of the country -- to Syria, Belarus, wherever -- did he manage to take each and every one of his replicas with him? Are there, even as we speak, a dozen Saddams sadly sipping vodka (doubles, no doubt) in some seedy bar in Minsk or Vitebsk? 

We remain, in shock and awe and continue to ponder the future of the next generation of Iraqi children who will come into this World that Mr Bush, with all his Military clout, cluster bombs and hideous weapons that leaves behind depleted uranium. This next generation of babies that will be on his conscience, we hope. Your forces dropped around 1,500 cluster bombs from the air and fired an unknown quantity from artillery pieces. British troops fired 2,100. Each contained several hundred bomblets, which fragment into shrapnel. Between 200 and 400 Iraqi civilians were killed by them during the war. Others, mostly children, continue to killed by those bomblets, which failed to explode when they hit the ground. The effects of their deployment in residential areas were both predictable and predicted. This suggests that you have breached protocols to the Geneva conventions, which prohibits "violence to the life, health and physical or mental well being" of non-combatants. 

America was good at conquering Iraq, but is not good at governing it and may prove worse at shaping its future, so clueless it seems about Iraqi political aspirations. Four weeks after the capture of Baghdad, there are few signs of the restoration of law and order or essential services. Hospitals are, in fact, in worse shape than during the war, says the Red Cross. 

About the only security and social benefits available are being provided not by the 135,000 Anglo-American troops but by tribal leaders in the rural areas and clerics in the urban centres. 

About the only humanitarian aid extended, beyond the first choreographed arrival of the British ship Sir Galahad, has come from Iran, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The oft-cited reason for the American failure on the civilian front is that Saddam Hussein's regime collapsed quicker than expected. While true, it does not cover up the real reasons: There was no coherent post-war plan. 

The Bush administration, having worked mainly with Iraqi exile groups, totally misread post-Saddam Iraq, just as the Kennedy administration got misled by Cuban exiles over the Bay of Pigs. 

Washington has been distracted by two political battles: the Pentagon fighting the State Department on who controls Iraq, and both, together, resisting any useful role by the United Nations. Given its vast experience in building post-war societies, the U.N. would arguably have done a better job by now than the U.S. 

Petty and vindictive, George W. Bush is also freezing out France, Russia and Germany at a time when Iraq can use all the international assistance it can get. Also, the Canadian offer of Mounties, police officers, transport planes and humanitarian aid is yet to be taken up. 

The welcome toppling of Saddam has receded in Iraqi consciousness under the burden of the invasion itself, with its inevitable civilian deaths, injuries and dislocation; the weeks of chaos right under the noses of American and British troops; and the American preoccupation with finding pliant leaders. 

Caught flat-footed with the assertiveness of the majority Shiites, especially their religiosity and nationalism, Washington has reacted by lashing out at "Iranian agents" and by speeding up the process of forming an indigenous government before unfriendly forces become too strong. 

Four of five Iraqis named to a core group by U.S. administrator s (where are the women, general?) are decidedly pro-American. 

They are Kurdish leaders Jalal Talebani and Massoud Barzani (perhaps well-deserved choices), Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress and Iyad Alawi of the Iraqi National Accord, another exile group. 

The latter two are secularist Shiies, while most Iraqi Shiites are not. Three clerical factions are vying to represent the faithful. Yet only one, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Iran-based Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has been included. 

This may prove problematic. Shiite clerics have clearly shown themselves to have moral authority and a mass following. Many have filled the post-Saddam vacuum and now control several key institutions. 

The candidate most liked by the Americans is the least liked by Iraqis. Chalabi, who left Iraq as a child in 1958, was flown back by the Pentagon, which has assigned him a military liaison officer and helped train his 600-strong militia. 

Granted, inventing a government out of the chaos of a fallen regime is not easy. Also, having taken control of a country - ignore the debate on the right or wrong of the invasion - America is not going to hand it over to forces inimical to it, or its regional ally, Israel. Still, whatever it does must be credible. America dreads religious Muslim politicians. (Never mind Bush's own religiosity in "fighting evil" and invoking God's blessings over his warmongering). But elbowing out religious Shiites is asking for trouble. Look at Algeria and Egypt, where the sidelining of moderate Islamists led to the rise of militants and much murderous mayhem. 

Invoking the name of God at every turn, as is done by Mr Bush is valueless unless, the under noted wise commentary is also practised. But, first one has to notice the wisdom. 

"Man cannot worship God and at the same time despise his fellow-beings. The two are irreconcilable." - Mahatma Gandhi 

"The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers." - Martin Luther King Jr 

"When your neighbor's wall is on fire, it becomes your business." - Horace


M.N. Dean, a contributing writer for Liberal Slant, lives in Canada.


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