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Syed Atiq ul Hassan: Is Saddam Hussein A Scapegoat

Is Saddam Hussein A Scapegoat?

By Syed Atiq ul Hassan, Sydney Australia
14th of November 2006

On November 5, Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging by a special tribunal, set-up in Baghdad, on the charges of killing of 148 men and boys. Saddam Hussein failed to defend the execution, which he claimed as a purported assassination attempt against him by firing from a nearby orchard on July 8, 1982. Saddam has also been held accountable of torture and mass killing of Shias and Kurds during his rule.

During his ten years of tyrannical rule Saddam had problems within Iraq and with neighbours. He always claimed Kuwait as the 26th province of Iraq. In 1990s, he decided to take control over Kuwait. A well-known investigator journalist, Murray Waas, had mentioned in his article 'Who Lost Kuwait' published in the San Francisco Bay Gaurdian on January 30, 1991 that five days before the invasion of Kuwait, William H. Webster, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, briefed President Bush Sr. that Saddam Hussein was likely to invade Kuwait and predicted that Saddam would probably seize only the Rumaila oil fields and the islands of Bubiyan and Warba, not the whole country.

One week prior to the invasion of Kuwait Saddam Hussain was assured by the then US Ambassador, April Glaspie that the US would not intervene in inter-Arab disputes and gave Saddam a go-head signal. Glaspie also assured Saddam that the United States was neutral in all Iraq/Kuwait border disputes and that she had direct instructions from the president to seek better relations with Iraq. The pledge on taking control over Kuwait made sense to Saddam because the US had eagerly courted his regime during that time and in the past, especially in the wake of the Iran-Contra affair.

At one stage when Representative Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) asked Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly if it would be correct to say that, if Iraq invaded Kuwait, the United States would not be obligated to commit its military forces in Kuwait's defense. Kelly replied, 'That is correct'. These statements all sent consistent and accommodating messages to Saddam.

When Saddam took over control of Kuwait through his military might, he found United States turned her back and stood-up with the other members of the UN Security Council asking Saddam to withdraw from Kuwait immediately. When he refused to leave Kuwait by the January 15, 1991 deadline - set by the United Nations - then President of US Bush Sr. launched 'Operation Desert Storm'. Five weeks later, the non-stop bombing on Iraq was followed by a full-fledged ground assault, employing hundreds of thousands of US-led ground troops. Exactly 100 hours after the ground war began Kuwait was freed from Iraqi forces. After the war, Bush Sr. collected the full cost of the war-$35 billion-from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf States. US administration declared that the recession, which US was facing, prior to Gulf War was recovered due to $9 billion dollars arms sale to Arab country in the Gulf War. During 'Operation Desert Storm', the US-led forces dropped over 20,000 bombs and missiles on Iraq's surface, killing hundreds of civilians and destroying homes and other civilian property. It would be worth remembering here that current US Vice President Dick Cheney who was the then defense secretary of Bush Sr. administration was the mastermind behind this Gulf War.

During the ten years of Iraq-Iran war, US fully backed Saddam Hussein. US had sold over 2 billion dollars of sophisticated equipments to Iraq. He was provided mass killing weapons to deal with rising Kurds liberation movement. Recently sacked Donald Rumsfield was the key planner of the deals between the then US administration and Saddam Hussein.

In 2000, US Presidential election, US Republican Party campaigned the removal of Saddam Hussein to get Iraq free from Saddam totalitarianism, bring democracy in Iraq and to make Iraq free from Saddam's WMD. The 2000 election results apparently showed that the people of United Stated trusted him on Iraq and Republican victory in Presidential election made him the President of United States.

In 2003, US and UK used allegations of Iraqi WMDs as a key reason for going war. United States asked international community to take action against Saddam Hussein on the reason that Saddam violated United Nation Security Council Resolution 1441 regarding WMD. United States and United Kingdom attempted to get UN Security Council resolution approved but France, Russia and later China signaled not to use force against Iraq. Despite the historic opposition from the international community through huge demonstrations of millions in almost every major city of the world, President George Bush put United Nation aside, formed a coalition of willing and on March 20, 2003, invaded Iraq through US-led forces. Later the chief US weapons inspector reports and other surveys unveiled that Iraq had no stockpiles of biological, chemical or nuclear weapon..

The invasion of Iraq was called 'Operation Iraqi Freedom'. The proclaiming goals were; disarm Iraq from Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), make a safer place for Iraqi people and free from terrorists' threats to the outside world. Saddam Hussein showed no resistance what he had been claiming prior to the US-led attack. However, Saddam did claim that his Army and the people of Iraq would never let the US Army go back alive and they will be buried in the streets of Iraq. Many analysts had already predicted that, as there was no strategy of getting out from Iraq, if operation fails the reaction could spread in the entire Middle East. Whether President Bush accepts it or not, the ground realities are that since the invasion of Iraq, the death toll of US soldiers has continuously been rising. The suicide attacks and an ambush on United States and Western convoys are the daily business now in Iraq. Iraq has never been so divided and dangerous place. In the last year or so; even in US army head quarters, the army generals claimed that the situation in Iraq is growing towards the full-scale civil war. On average 50 to 60 people are killed with deadly bomb blasts every day in Iraq. According to a study, which was published in wall street journal in October 2006; roughly 600,000 Iraqis have been died from violence since the US-led invasion in 2003. The entire Iraqi infrastructure has been collapsed. The basic civil facilities, water, power, health are near to none.

The retort of Iraqi anarchical conditions has brought reaction internationally. The continuous killings of Iraqi civilian have provided more excuses to the extremist. The world has witnessed more suicide incidents in the last four years in Iraq than anywhere else in the world. The terrorism has increased globally. Osama Bin Laden and his key members are still hiding in Afghanistan. Taliban in Afghanistan are rising again. Several new terrorists groups in Iraq and elsewhere have been established since the invasion of Iraq. The hatred against US has increased, remarkably, not only in the Middle East but Islamic world. US popularity in western world has decreased and US image has also been damaged even among the close allies of United States.

President Bush never accepted the ground realities and the mistake he committed to engage US and other forces into a war, which had no end. Even, one by one, within or outside US, the key architecture and supporter of war on Iraq, either lost their status or had to change their policy. For example; In the US, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfield was sacked recently. Colin Powell and Richard Armitage left after the 2004 election. George Tenet, CIA chief who was the producer of Iraq's WMD issue was sacked. Jose Maria Aznar, Spanish Prime Minister was ousted after Madrid bombs. Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Prime Minister lost his office last April.

Eventually, the people of United States asserted the decision against Bush's military operation in Iraq and engaging US forces in Iraq. Bush's Republican Party received a historic defeat in last week congressional election.

Back to Saddam's death penalty, some international legal experts and human rights groups have already questioned the impartiality of the Iraqi trial court. When Saddam's death sentence was announced George Bush claimed it as a victory of the United States in achieving her goals in Iraq. Now, the point is what were the goals of US as declared by President Bush when Iraq was invaded and how much those have been achieved.

Nevertheless, if Saddam deserves to be hanged; would the death of Saddam bring any change in the present anarchical situation in Iraq? Then, even if democracy and peace is implemented in Iraq which seems impossible in the present situation who will be held responsible for the torture and killing of about ½ million people in Iraq? Will anyone be held accountable and brought to the international court of justice.


(The writer is a Sydney-based journalist and a media analyst).

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