Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Business Diplomacy

Global corporate communications

ND Batra
The Statesman

Global companies have a lot to say and promises to keep, whether it is the new AT&T ready to deliver the world to your touch pad, Cisco’s human network making you the centre of creativity, or Intel with its new wondrous nanometer chip that will make 30,000 angels dance on the head of a pin.

Communication is the key in the conduct of successful corporate public affairs. Without a comprehensive communications strategy that takes into account all stakeholders who interact with the company and form its business environment, corporate communication cannot be effective. At the heart of communication is persuasion, even when a company is simply trying to inform the public about a new product, for example, a new nano-nano-transistor. Information is never neutral.

Power to persuade is the soft power that companies exercise to win the hearts and minds of the people.But to do so in a multi-channel environment over which a company does not have much control needs finesse, especially when the company has to operate in a global environment. Companies like AT&T, Cisco and Intel have become de-localised. They are no longer woven into the fabric of local communities as they used to be in the pre-digital age.

Company employees do their work in a virtual environment and their mobility makes them less concerned with what is happening in their neighbourhood. In an environment where companies are spread globally, it becomes difficult to communicate locally because companies don’t have local roots and they are not embedded in local cultures.

In an environment such as this, it would take extraordinary effort by global companies to communicate and present their position in a persuasive manner. Perception is reality and many people look at global companies as more powerful than the government, which draws enhanced critical scrutiny from the news media and NGOs. The image of power that global companies project raises expectations and fear in the minds of the people.

Growing expectations of corporate responsibility create unusual challenges for corporate communications and diplomacy. Because of the recent corporate scandals in the USA, which have put many senior corporate executives in jail, the Americans expect greater transparency from companies.

This may not be true of other countries, for example, China, where companies such as Cisco, Intel, Google and others may get away with behaviours that would not be acceptable in the USA, Japan or Europe.Since expectations of corporate behaviour differ from country to country, corporate communications strategies must take such cultural differences into account. Since effective communication takes place in a cultural context, understanding the host country’s political culture is important for corporate communications to be effective.

Culture includes the legal system as well as rules, which must not be violated in the host country. Keep in mind that good corporate behaviour is seldom rewarded; on the other hand, bad behaviour is punished as it sullies the company’s reputation. Companies should be problem-solvers and not become part of the problem.

Look at BP (Beyond Petroleum). It says it is an energy problem solver. Yet not much green has come out of its entrails. Each country has abiding cultural icons, its sacred cows that make global corporate communications quite a challenge. What is culturally and politically correct in one country may not be so in another.

Not understanding national cultural sensitivities and differences can create a nightmare for companies doing business abroad. While these general observations in the context of global communications are important, for corporate communication to be effective, it must be aimed at specific groups or audiences, especially, relevant to the company. They are: customers, financial analysts, government authorities, and non-business stakeholders such as NGOs.

Customers are the most important constituency for a company. They are the reason for the company’s business and the most important source of its strength. In a competitive environment, where one product may not be qualitatively much different from the other, keeping the customer coming back to the company requires communication at multiple levels, including what affects the product, price, image, and most of all the company’s reputation.

Let’s see who else, apart from Intel, can push Moore’s Law to the extreme. How a company presents itself publicly, through images, symbols and slogans, and how customers perceive the company would determine its place in the crowded marketplace. Trust and reputation are the basis of communication with customers. Wall Street analysts and financial journalists have become important because through their writings and analyses, they inform the investing public how valuable is the company in the marketplace and thereby sustain and promote shareholder values.But as many, recent, corporate scandals have shown, to raise the market value of their shares, companies sometime make false promises.

Analysts and financial journalists, instead of being impartial and objective reporters and critics, sometime become a part of the vicious conveyer belt, destroying public trust, and provoking harsh regulations.Communicating honestly with market analysts and financial journalists is important because it is through them that a company manages its image of financial strength and growth. Raising false expectations for short-term benefits can destroy a company’s reputation.

Corporate behaviour is regulated by rules which are framed in the public interest and in consultation with the industry. But once the rules are in place, not only the authorities but also public interest groups, many of which have established global networks to monitor compliance, closely watch companies’ errant behaviour. The Microsoft ordeal in the USA and Europe for anti-trust violation is a case in point. There are thousands of NGOs who have made it their business to scrutinise the behaviour of local, regional and multinational companies to protect the public and environment from exploitation. With well-defined demands, global NGOs with their huge and broad-based financial and legal support system can swing into a campaign mode against a corporation quickly.

Cooperating and communicating with them requires special diplomatic efforts. What and how to communicate is important. The importance of global reporting initiative is that it lays the foundation for transparency and trust. It provides guidelines for reporting on non-business matters, especially, sustainability and environmental concerns.

Such information eventually impacts business and a company’s reputation.One might argue that not every country is concerned about environmental and sustainability issues, so why bother. Global NGOs such as Greenpeace have no international borders and they make it their business to scrutinise every global company, including, one day, Google, Intel, Cisco and others.

The voice of Shantiniketan

The Artist
A poem (1938) by

Rabindranath Tagore

[Translator’s Note: The number of songs composed by Tagore is about 2500. I am not aware of such statistics as regards his poems, short stories, novels, essays, letters etc. which, however, far out-volume his songs. As regards the number of his sketches, I understand that it is also about 2500. The bulk of his sketches are preserved in the archives of his Viswa Bharati University (means- World University, which has been a pilgrim place for the academics and the aesthetes since Tagore’s days till now from various countries) at Santiniketan (means: Abode of Peace-4 hour train journey from Calcutta). But Tagore took to visual art with enthusiasm only in the last decade of his life which has possibly saved him from a reputation as a painter to his great relief. His ever mounting fame in literature which was his life long dedication was indeed a rod held at him, as he felt, to keep up his standard which left him ill at ease with his literary exercises. But it was not so with his painting, where he was a free bird to fly at his will. In his own words – “In defiance of that fame my brush is free to-day as Nature’s”. Let experts judge if Tagore was an authority or a quack in painting. But did anybody appreciate canvas better than Tagore? The following poem, which he wrote three years before his death, will possibly answer this question.]

O Artist, for ever a traveler
Thou move on ceaseless, an astute observer;
Thine impressions in sketches
From far and wide the canvas fetches;
Countless trivia and momentous around
To thee blue blood and pariah are equally sound.

In the hovel there,
Only a few shanties bare;
Beyond, the arid land vast
Parched in the summer blast.
Do those ever entice a look humble
Or allure one to ramble?
Said thou, “By no means they’re low” –
This truth thine brush flashed aglow –
And we sit up and say, “Ah indeed,
These do deserve some heed”.
There they trot, some take rest,
Hardly they exist, their name none will quest;
Said thy brush, “They’re very much there” –
At once we say, “Ah yes, all beware.”

And only they are there,
Not the monarch of the empire;
To live in the dust of the earth
They are used to since their birth.
For his portrait the king spends a lot,
Alas, the maestro’s notice it draws not.
Its glamour dazzles the fools though,
Trite’s true self art heightens so.
O Artist, strange is thy bias,
To draw a banal goat slighting those uproarious;
The creature is not esteemed high
In its vegetables’ sneaky pry
So they chase it off
With due scoff.
But as thou exalt its goatish spree
I sit up to ask – “Who is he?”
There the goat-men wonder –
“Who is its owner?”
Yet, despite its claimant’s evasion
I know, it is thy heart’s creation.


‘Thou Hast Made Me Endless’ (3)

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941 AD) the Nobel Laureate of 1913 was introduced to the West primarily through the collection of English translation of some of his poems/songs captioned as ‘Gitanjali’ (=Offering of Songs). More translations of his works followed by the poet himself and others after he had won the Nobel, including poems/songs, dramas, short stories etc. However, such efforts were sporadic and sluggish, mostly on individual initiative, which still remain so. As a result, a vast volume of the poet’s works remains un-translated while, it appears, it is an impossible proposition to translate even a substantial part of the poet’s total works to permit those, not privileged by the knowledge of Bengali language, a reasonably broad view of his myriad creations where unfathomable perceptional depth of top grade aesthetics runs through, literally true to his song “Thou hast made me endless / Such is Thy pleasure”. Notwithstanding this, an upsurge of Tagore translation took place in the last decade of the twentieth century by virtue of a good number of eminent poets/translators e.g. William Radice, Joe Winter, Ketaki Kushari Dyson, to name a leading few, all of whom left their valuable contribution to this oeuvre and my book THE ECLIPSED SUN is a modest addition to this. I have put stress on a few aspects of the poet’s works, particularly those in his twilight years, which seemed to me quite inadequately covered so far. The followings are presented mostly based on this book.

RAJAT DAS GUPTA e-mail: rajarch@cal3.vsnl.net.in ]

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Behold! China is shooting stars now

US imperium under Chinese brolly

ND Batra
From The Statesman

About two weeks ago, China shook the world when it destroyed one of its own ageing, weather satellites by hitting it with a ballistic missile 500 miles into space, thus, signalling its intentions to weaponise space. Satellite networks are the global eyes and ears of the USA, without which it would be deaf, dumb and blind.

The USA cannot ignore the threat. Nor can any other country, including India. Through its trade surplus and growing currency reserves, more than a trillion dollars, mostly held in the US treasury, China has established a financial stranglehold on the USA. By becoming a financially dependent nation for cheap Chinese loans, the USA has little leverage left against China today. Borrowers cannot dictate terms to their lenders. Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Myanmar and others can safely look up to China for succour, support and protection. The USA cannot do much about it.

British historian Niall Ferguson, who left Oxford for greener pastures and is now the Laurence A Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University argued a few years ago that the USA may not have much choice but to assume the British imperialist mantle to maintain peace in the world.“True, the war against terrorism has a novel character ~ it is remote both geographically and technologically. It will nonetheless be Clausewitzian in principle, the wholehearted pursuit of a legitimate political objective by, regrettable but necessarily, violent means,” he wrote in the Times Sunday Magazine in December, 2003.

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) was a Prussian General, whose posthumously published treatise, On War, advocating a policy of total war had a transformative influence on European military thinking, especially in Germany, with terrible consequences for Europe and the rest of the world. But that was some 170 years ago, when Clausewitz wrote that war is another method of carrying on international political discourse and diplomacy.Keeping in mind that in 1832 there were no weapons of mass destruction, nor were there any dirty bombs, anthrax and suicide bombers, total war might have been affordable.

Prof Ferguson argued that the USA should do what the British did during its Victorian heyday when Britannia ruled the waves. Americans could do better, he thought.While Russia and Britain failed to achieve their goals in Afghanistan, the USA speedily defeated the Taliban and established its military and political presence in the region. The temptation for the USA to make its presence felt in Iraq was much greater, in fact irresistible, because of its huge oil reserves, the second largest in the world, after Saudi Arabia.Saudi oil control has been creating a feeling of helpless dependency in the USA. The lure of Iraq opening up its oilfields to Western companies was an underlying force, though the Bush administration talked of spreading freedom and democracy in West Asia.

The Clauswitzian view of the world political situation is that the most dominant political power, in this case the sole superpower, the USA whose GDP is more than the total GDP of the next three economic powers combined, must maintain world peace at all costs.“Since 9/11, there has been an unmistakably Clauswitzian flavour to American foreign policy,” wrote Prof Ferguson; and that’s true, especially when you consider the Bush misguided doctrine of pre-emption. “Liberals, most prominently will fret about the violation of national sovereignty, enshrined in the United Nations charter. But it worked for the British,” he said.
No, the war doctrine did not work always.

Consider the French-British-Israeli (1956) attack against Egypt to wrest back the control of the Suez Canal, which ended in disaster. Or the Vietnam War, which still haunts the Americans. And now Iraq.

Imperial Britain could ignore the world opinion, which was not as well articulated as it is today in the age of global mass media and the Internet. According to the Pew Research Centre’s findings, anti-Americanism has been growing in Arab-Muslim countries.

Prof Ferguson has become a prisoner of history and seems to be incapable of fresh thinking. “The existence of a military ‘hyperpower’ that really means business that is able and willing to use its superior force may in fact be better for world peace than any number of international treaties,” he said.

This dangerous and impractical neo-imperialistic doctrine has brought the USA into a no-win situation in Iraq. The USA might have succeeded in buying support from General Pervez Musharraf and his ruling clique in fighting the Taliban and Al-Qaida, but it has not been able to win over the Pakistani people, without which there can be no lasting peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan, as we observe today.

Then there is resurgence of nuclear activity from North Korea. Can the USA impose its will upon North Korea without cooperation from China and Russia? Or on a defiant Iran bent on its nuclear ambitions, a rising West Asian power ruled by a kind of mullah-controlled democracy?

Add to the simmering witches’ brew, the defiance of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, who is using his country’s oil reserves as a tool for building an anti-US international block.Prof Ferguson’s advice that British imperialism “can teach us how to match Random War with Remote War” has proved to be unwise.

The only way the war against Al-Qaida terrorism and rogue nuclear-states can be fought is through international alliances, not through superpower unilateralism advocated by a dead man walking the Harvard Square, the ghost of Karl von Clausewitz.
Those who remember history too much are likely to repeat it, to update an old saying.

While the USA has been pursuing superpower unilateralism and “old Europe” Clausewitzian imperialism, and consequently finding itself bogged down in Iraq, China has been spreading its power and influence in Asia and Africa through trade and commerce, and massive investments in fields, farms and factories.

Prof Ferguson could not have imagined that the American imperium would come under Chinese space and financial umbrella. Probably British schools don’t teach such arcane knowledge, do they?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Corporate blogging as PR

Blogging as a communications tool

ND Batra
From The Statesman

The other day I wandered into bloggers’ land and came across an interesting blog by Jonathan Schwartz, CEO and president of Sun Microsystems, which truly made me like the man, albeit, I never met him. Schwartz talked about five things that he wanted the readers to know about him and he got many friendly responses.

Americans are fond of enumerating things: counting steps on a ladder to some place up and down, such as 10 ways to lose a girl friend; eight simple rules for innovation; seven habits of highly unsuccessful leaders; and the tenth rule for whatever… American society is predicated upon metrics. Everything has to be measured and assessed, including the American dream of an immigrant like Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of “Kaalifornia”.

Schwartz’s five-point list about himself is revealing and makes him look like just an average genius, Joe extraordinaire; for example, once upon a time he was a security guard in a museum (that must be before the Americans learned how to spell Al- Qaida); that he is a mongrel, one quarter an India man (no wonder he is so good with computers), and the rest (especially his handsome youthful looks) of East European stock; that 20 years ago he was in a train crash and to prove it he put up a picture on his blog; that he loves cooking, which is not an uncommon American boast; and the last blah, blah: “I sincerely believe technology improves the world ~ from the solar panels on my home, to my choice of employer….”

Schwartz must have read How to Win Friends and Influence People. It won’t hurt if you praise your employer, especially if you happen to be the CEO of the company. Sun Microsystems says that its employees might say anything to explore “the magic of hyperlinking and the Web” while blogging, but issues a clear warning that “it’s not OK to publish the recipe for one of our secret sauces…. Talking about revenue, future product ship dates, roadmaps, or our share price is apt to get you, or the company, or both, into legal trouble”.

Schwartz’ blog is an exemplar of employee blogging. It puts a human face on the man who must think of the next quarterly performance or else….

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Corporate Diplomat

Corporate India & the news cycle

ND Batra
From The Statesman

The news media, including the Internet, has begun to play a significant role in the conduct of international business. Television news is converging with the Internet, making events live and spontaneous beyond anyone’s control. The rise of bloggers, online anonymous whistleblowers and other public interest groups who present alternative views of what companies are doing is another serious challenge.

Gone are the days when a business could be conducted beyond the public view. The heightened interest in companies is due to the impact on people’s lives, even if they are not directly invested. The very presence of Posco or Arcelor-Mittal in a poor state like Orissa raises fears and expectations, hence the intense scrutiny by the news media.

The news media in democratic countries have a privileged position regarding freedom of speech. In the USA, it is difficult to win libel damages against the news media because of the legal provision called “actual malice”, or “reckless disregard for truth”, as defined by the US Supreme Court. The burden of proof in defamation cases involving the media lies on the plaintiff, for example, on the company that sues the media. And because of the inescapable fact that our economic life, pensions, retirement savings and environment and quality of life have become dependent on the marketplace, no business can escape media attention.

The bigger the company, the more intense would be the scrutiny by the news media about its activities. Add to it millions of blogs that feed upon each other. But how should global companies deal with unconstrained global news media especially when for professional and competitive reasons bad news makes a good story? Companies have to become media savvy, understand how news media organisations work, how they produce stories and their reporting methods, and how to influence them by providing them with correct and timely information.

Companies have been using adverting as a major method of persuasion, which is still a powerful mode of direct communications with stockholders. But advertisement cannot beat headline news, breaking stories, or special reports with which the news media try to draw the public attention distracted by the infoglut. It is a big challenge for companies to be heard in an environment of always-on news media and the Internet.

Accounting scandals, obscene pay packages, golden severance parachutes, and personal misconduct of some CEOs have created an air of diffused distrust in the global corporate. Nevertheless, companies must learn how to create good media relations. Let’s keep in mind that no news media outlet or a reporter would turn a bad story into a good one, especially in the time of crisis. News is a competitive business and no one can afford to keep silent over a story that impacts the public. In good times, a company that has excellent working relations with the news media can strengthen its reputation by presenting positive stories and thus enhance its reservoir of public goodwill.

Consequently, when a crisis hits a company, the company could draw upon the public goodwill. The traditional method of issuing Press and video releases is still relevant, especially in the local news media outlet, where the paucity of resources might prompt a local television station or a newspaper to repackage a company’s story as news.But national news media organisations are inundated with e-mail news tips, and video and Press releases; consequently they hardly pay attention to the daily junk mail. It is important to know the right people in the news media. It is equally important for companies to pay heed to the Global Research Development Center guidelines on dealing with the news media in a productive way.When the news media come calling for information and comments, the company should offer full cooperation and the spokesperson should be ready with facts; or promise to provide the data promptly to meet the reporter’s deadline.

Whatever information is provided, it should be done thoughtfully and judiciously. It is difficult to undo or correct the information once it is out. Providing reliable and prompt information is one of the best ways to build bridges with the news media. Media interviews should be approached with great preparation and caution. Especially in a crisis situation, the interview need to be handled with great care and circumspection, and as much information should be given as it is necessary. There should be no room for misinterpretation. In other situations, for example, in the case of a new product being launched or a new business policy being implemented, the company CEO or the spokesperson should be able to answer the reporter’s question succinctly in a memorable way. This is the age of brevity and sound bites.

The ability to communicate comprehensively in a few words is a great asset, which a company spokesperson needs to develop. Another point to be kept in mind is that a television interview is different from a print media interview. For a television interview, the company’s CEO or the spokesperson, must do a few practice sessions with experienced experts in media relations before he appears before the television camera.

Television can be very unforgiving if one is unprepared. Handled properly, a television interview enables a company to reach millions of viewers without cost.A media smart company would look at the news media as a most important stakeholder and build good relations on which it could count upon in case of a crisis. It is a difficult task to accomplish because the news media’s interests do not necessarily converge with those of a company.

Keeping ongoing socials relations with important personnel in the news media such as publishers, editors, and various important reporters can be helpful to the company.

Top corporate leadership must incorporate the news media into their strategic planning.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Tagore: Thou Hast Made Me Endless

Cultural Notes From Rajat Das Gupta, Calcutta

Thou Hast Made Me Endless

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941 AD) the Nobel Laureate of 1913 was introduced to the West primarily through the collection of English translation of some of his poems/songs captioned as ‘Gitanjali’ (=Offering of Songs).
More translations of his works followed by the poet himself and others after he had won the Nobel, including poems/songs, dramas, short stories etc. However, such efforts were sporadic and sluggish, mostly on individual initiative, which still remain so.
As a result, a vast volume of the poet’s works remains un-translated while, it appears, it is an impossible proposition to translate even a substantial part of the poet’s total works to permit those, not privileged by the knowledge of Bengali language, a reasonably broad view of his myriad creations where unfathomable perceptional depth of top grade aesthetics runs through, literally true to his song “Thou hast made me endless / Such is Thy pleasure”.
Notwithstanding this, an upsurge of Tagore translation took place in the last decade of the twentieth century by virtue of a good number of eminent poets/translators e.g.
William Radice, Joe Winter, Ketaki Kushari Dyson, to name a few, all of whom left their valuable contribution to this oeuvre and my book THE ECLIPSED SUN is a modest addition to this. I have put stress on a few aspects of the poet’s works, particularly those in his twilight years, which seemed to me quite inadequately covered so far. The followings are presented mostly based on this book.

Poem: Biswashok (The Universal Grief) of the book PUNASCHA written in mid-thirties.
[Translator’s note: When the child of a woman died, she approached Lord Buddha with the dead body imploring him to restore life to it. Buddha said he would be able to do so if the woman could bring him a grain of rice from any home where sorrow had never entered. In spite of her frantic search when she failed to locate one, Buddha could explain to her that her grief was only a tiny part of the universal grief designed in God’s creation for our ultimate welfare, though not obvious to the obscured human vision.

Tagore was afflicted by the severest tragedies; including the death of his children and other near and dear ones, very often throughout his life. With amazing calmness he faced all these. More amazing, his personal grief never found an outlet in his vast literature, leaving aside his personal diaries, letters etc. which happened to be published. In this poem we get a glimpse of his saint like perception of the universal grief which enabled him to regard his personal losses as trivial. A poet is the voice of all mankind. He is not meant to mourn his own losses like a miser. He asks his pen to save him from such degradation in the days of his sorrow so that he remains true to the poet’s mission. Sharing this view will surely open up a broad vision for us lesser mortals also to gain strength amidst all our weal and woe.]

On the day of sorrow, I tell my pen
Put me not in shame,
Hold not before the eyes of all
The grief that is not universal.
Hide not your face in the dark
Blaze light flamboyant
Be not a miser.

Vast is the Earth,
Dazzling is its glory
Un-grieved is its nature;
Raising its head in the
Sun’s domain obscure,
Unmoved, severe is its unblinking stare,
Wide stretched its chest un-quavering
Across the hills, rivers and meadows.
It is not solely mine
But of the countless,
Its trumpet sounds in all directions
Its light burns unhidden;
Its flag flutters in the vault of heaven.
Disgrace me not before this panorama;
My loss, my pain
In this context is but a grain.
The moment I forget it is solely mine
It will take the Universal form.

I’ll perceive floods of sorrow
Pour down the Time
In various branches;
Rushes the great river of pathos,
Feeding Man’s life stream in every home.

The Brahmaputra (*) of tears (*)
Swells up in billows;
At the bank of every household
Proceeds its cataclysm
From country to country.

The warmth of that eternal sorrow,
Man’s eternal grief,
Suddenly finds its way into my heart,
Its deluge gives a severe jolt –
Strikes me to the bone;
Immersed in the universal anguish
Mine floats into oblivion –
Who knows why!

To-day I invoke my pen –
Put me not to shame.
Let its gift overflow the banks,
Its bounty hide calamity, my very own,
Link my mourning
With the vast universal melody
In thousands of cadence.
(*) Brahmaputra is known as the river of sorrow in Assam, the Easternmost state of India, as its devastating flood is the cause of misery of a large populace there nearly every year.

DAS GUPTA e-mail: rajarch@cal3.vsnl.net.in

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.