Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Waiting for another Saddam Hussein?

No light at the end of the tunnel

From The Statesman
ND Batra

The death by hanging of Saddam Hussein would not immediately provide the USA with any opportunity to win the hearts and minds of the people, especially in the Arab and Muslim world, unless the sectarian violence and insurgency were suppressed and peace returned to the streets. But that would be a long time coming.

About four years ago, Iraqis were violently catapulted from the tyranny of a ruthless dictator with the promise of freedom they had never heard of before; but instead they landed into the raging chaos of decentred street violence. If the American troops were to leave the country suddenly, as some misguided people in the USA want, Iraq would plunge into a black hole that human beings have never seen before, that would suck the whole of West Asia into it. The defused and random tyranny of the social disorder, when a social system breaks down, is worse than any other form of tyranny.

The removal of a tyrant does not mean the dawn of freedom.
Don’t expect that to happen in North Korea.
The world knew Saddam Hussein’s monstrous crimes, the torture chambers, the gassing of the Kurds, the disappearance and murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis buried in unmarked graves, and much worse, even the killing of his own two sons-in-law. When television repeatedly showed us in a glaring light the haggard, bedraggled, haunted, pitiable face of the captured Hussein that twisted and turned on command for examination for lice and saliva, we wondered, how did this man create the social apparatus, the machinery, and the network of collaborators that sustained his ministry of fear that lasted so long.

We need to understand how organised and systematic violence by the Sunni-dominated Baath Party under the dictates of one man subjugated Iraqis, most of whom are Shias, for more than three decades. How does tyranny perpetuate itself? Even though we saw pictures of the mutilated bodies of children, men and women, young and old, lying helter-skelter after they were gassed to asphyxiation, the ex-dictator was given the presumption of innocence until he was proven guilty.

Hussein’s crimes against his people were proven beyond a reasonable doubt. He could have been let go on the street or given up to his enemies and been done away with speedily, but that’s not the way justice should be done. Iraqis who lived in mortal fear of this man for such a long time succeeded in putting aside their anger, hatred and overpowering desire for revenge and allowed the conduct of a fair trial, which lasted for more than a year. The rights of an accused in the USA are enshrined and hallowed in the Bill of Rights, the greatest document ever written by the human mind, which is the ultimate source of American values, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and fair trial, all that is good about the USA, all that makes it a unique civilisation in the annals of mankind.

It is only by judging the worst amongst us in a fair and open trial that we test our values, affirm our faith and renew ourselves as an open society. It was a fair trial, open to international scrutiny, conducted by Iraqis with the help of international jurists.A new era of transparency in Iraq based on the rule of law might open up one day; and as a corollary, a great challenge to closed West Asian societies based on absolutism showing them how life could be better for them under a different system.

Through Hussein’s trial, we might understand one day when more information is available on how he built such a durable one-man command-and-control system, the tyranny that lasted for decades, and which might have continued but for the intervention of an outside power. The trial based upon the rule of international law should be a warning so that in future, no one could abuse power without fear of punishment. And what is true of Iraq is also true of other countries where tyrants hold their sway.

While Saddam Hussein is dead and gone from the scene, daily violence and killings continue in Iraq.

There does not seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.
But one cannot give up hope.
President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair would be judged by history whether they were justified in invading Iraq and if so why they failed to establish a new system that ensured law and order for the common people, whose need for security in the beginning weighed more than their hunger for freedom.
So would be judged American journalists and think-tankers who wrote volumes and uncritically supported the White House’s war against Iraq without foreseeing the consequences of the system breakdown; and UN’s oil-for-food underhand traders, who illegally enriched themselves while Iraqis suffered, and are now showing a holier than thou attitude.
Iraq’s tragedy is now a global responsibility.

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