A Scaffold's Dark Portrait of Iraq

Three articles published recently, two in The Washington Post, one in The Guardian. One article is on January 1st by Anne Applebaum, and another one today on January 2nd, by Eugene Robinson. Mr. Tariq Ali's article, Conveniently Forgotten", published on January 1st. Ms. Applebaum who correctly observes the following, "Write that Hussein really was an evil man, and you'll be thought an apologist for George W. Bush. Write that his regime resembled Stalin's, and you'll be called a right-wing ideologue." It's a dilemma indeed.

Overall, there is not much dispute regarding Saddam's brutal regime. Ms. Applebaum eloquently writes Saddam's Iraq was, "a country in which the families of political victims received their body parts in the mail; in which tens of thousands of Kurds could be murdered with chemical weapons; and in which, as Hussein's truncated trial demonstrated, the dictator could sign a document randomly condemning 148 people to death -- among them an 11-year-old boy -- and feel no remorse or regret. As his defense team argued, he believed this was his prerogative as head of state."

On the very next paragraph, Ms. Applebaum recognizes the American and Western complicity, supporting Saddam's war against the Persians, where the American weapons, money and technologies helped prolong a war that had seen millions of death on both sides. Mr. Eugene Robinson gives a better succinct picture of it, "For years, the Reagan administration gave him military and intelligence support to keep the hated Persians from defeating his outnumbered forces in the Iran-Iraq war. In 1983, Donald Rumsfeld was dispatched to visit Baghdad as a special envoy; he smiled broadly as he shook the tyrant's hand."

Tariq Ali was more straight in his writing on The Guardian on January 1st, "That Saddam was a tyrant is beyond dispute, but what is conveniently forgotten is that most of his crimes were committed when he was a staunch ally of those who are now occupying the country. It was, as he admitted in one of his trial outbursts, the approval of Washington and the poison gas supplied by what was then West Germany that gave him the confidence to douse Halabja with chemicals in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam deserved a proper trial and punishment in an independent Iraq. Not this."

While Ms. Anne Applebaum was more caustic toward Hussein's overthrown regime, Eugene Robinson presents a grim image evoked from that grainy cell-phone video so widely circulated through YouTube and GoogleVideo around the world before the mainstream media took a notice of it a few days later in the West. To Mr. Robinson, the very existence and circulation of this disturbing video means "that forces other than the current beleaguered government intend to be the final authors of Iraqi history. That's because they intend to be the ones in charge."

Forces that "intend to be the ones in charge" captured this video at the dawn of a sacred day revered by Muslims around the world, especially, Sunnis whose Eid begins the very same day. The video shows in all its gory detail the taunts once the fearsome dictator received at the very end of his life. Mr. Eugene summarizes it with his observation that "the message is clear: Hear this, Sunni dog. Iraq is a Shiite country now, and payback is sweet."

Somebody chanted, "Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada", obviously sending more taunts to shackled Saddam. Mr. Robinson observes, "I wonder about the man who called out "Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada," though. I wonder if future historians of the Shiite ascendancy will so easily forget the U.S. "tilt" toward Hussein during the war, or America's nonchalant acceptance of the way Hussein's Sunni regime oppressed, persecuted and massacred majority Shiites all those years, or the way America encouraged Shiites to rise up against Hussein after the Persian Gulf War and then backed off and watched as he sent helicopter gunships to slaughter them."

The present Iraq is like a badly directed horror movie, as Saddam depicted correctly in one of his last utterances, "hell", unfolding in slow motion in front of the helpless world audience. Tariq Ali asks, "And what of those who have created the mess in Iraq today? The torturers of Abu Ghraib; the pitiless butchers of Falluja; the ethnic cleansers of Baghdad; the Kurdish prison boss who boasts that his model is Guantánamo. Will Bush and Blair ever be tried for war crimes? Doubtful. And former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar?"

The answer to Tariq Ali's quite silly questions is obvious: Absolutely not. History is written by the victor, present events are orchestrated by the power at the throne. The majority is marginalized, they may even feel queasy, protests on the streets at best, but the overall brutal political game plan remains the same.


A Scaffold's Dark Portrait of Iraq

Tuesday, January 2, 2007; Page A17

Since history is written by those who rule, the annals of the U.S.-supported Iraqi government record that the deposed dictator Saddam Hussein was given a fair trial, sentenced to death for the mass murder of innocent Shiite civilians and duly executed by hanging on Dec. 30, 2006, in accordance with Iraqi law. A tragic era was brought to an end, according to the official history, opening the way for a brighter tomorrow.

But the dark, remorseless, unflinching cellphone video of the execution that quickly surfaced on the Internet tells an alternate history, one that is neither tidy nor hopeful -- and that demonstrates, not just by its content but by its very existence, that forces other than the current beleaguered government intend to be the final authors of Iraqi history. That's because they intend to be the ones in charge.

The grainy footage was apparently captured surreptitiously by someone whose vantage point was near the foot of the gallows. Anyone thinking of watching it should be warned that the camera does not shirk from the inevitable "money shot" -- the grotesque moment when the trap door opens and Saddam Hussein's life is terminated. It's history as snuff film.

Read the full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/01/AR2007010100697.html