Adding to an endless list of imbecilic comments ( 'you're either with us, or with the terrorists', 'wanted dead or alive', 'bring 'em on ..' the latter, George W. Bush from the safety of Washington, effectively saying that young troops were delighted to die for Bechtel, Halliburton, Carlisle, oil, and Bush and his pals other interests, no matter how uninformed policies escalated increased resistance) we now have Viceroy Bremer (resplendent in suit and desert boots, who cowers in a fortified palace virtually twenty-four hours a day) adding to the list. 'We got him', he announced of the capture of Saddam Hussein. The subsequent baying of the US troops was reminiscent of wild west lynch mobs, when 'wanted dead or alive' posters were nailed to trees. The whoopings, bayings and facile comment flashed repeatedly round the globe, unfairly reinforcing for much of it, the impression that Americans are crass, simplistic, murderous, cowboys. Further, that Bremer, the US top terrorist 'Czar', should adopt and trigger such triumphalism, further humiliating the entire Islamic world, already largely explosive as a result of the Iraq invasion, is an act of near madness.
The further act of releasing pictures of Saddam Hussein undergoing a medical examination - almost certainly in breach of the Geneva Convention and a swath of human rights laws - with the memory of his slaughtered sons displayed near naked, legs apart, and left unburied for days - unthinkable acts, insulting Islam, however unloved they were, still raw - is further lunacy. Ominously, Algeria's President responded instantly, saying the acts were: ' ..a humiliation for all Arabs.'
In a further insult to the Middle East, the world was treated to a legal treatise on the apprehension, by the founder of the CIA-funded Iraq National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi, now a member of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Chalabi was sentenced in absentia in Amman, Jordan's, Central Criminal Court in 1992, to two consecutive sentences of twenty years for massive embezzlement and would be arrested instantly if he crossed Iraq's western border. The Jordanian authorities are currently seeking ways to have him finally serve the sentence.
Another unfortunate error which will create anger and hostility in even the most anti-regime Iraqis, was that the Kurdish war lord, Jalal Talabani, now also a CPA member, announced that Kurdish forces and intelligence had contributed to the capture. The Kurds are regarded (not without some justification) by the Iraqis, as allies of arch enemy Israel, an enmity which literally goes back to Babylonian times and also of the CIA. Israel has been training US troops on their methods, now being carried out in Iraq, of demolishing homes, cutting off populations and generally killing and terrorizing. The CIA have long had bases in Kurdistan which triggered attacks by the Iraqi army in 1996, causing them to temporarily flee back to the USA, taking a number of Kurdish collaborators with them for fear of their lives (for their trouble they were instantly jailed in America for considerable time, until a rare bit of Administration embarrassment set in.) Mr Talabani better watch his back.
Of further resonance for the Iraqis is that in Bush's declared 'crusade' - a word which sent a shock wave around the Islamic world - Saddam was apprehended close to his home town of Tikrit. The great Muslim leader Salahuddin (Saladin in the west) was born in Tikrit in A.D.1137. As King, he ruled over Egypt, Syria and Palestine and was ferocious in defeat of invaders in Arab lands. His army defeated the Crusaders at Hittin in Palestine in 1187. Tikrit is also mentioned in some of the earliest cuneiform writings (i.e.: wedge shaped characters on stone) by the Assyrian King Tukulti Ninnurta in the ninth century BC and by Babylon's great King Nebuchadnezzer nearly six hundred years BC.
Saddam from captivity though, may prove a burden to far for troops and Washington. Those who did not attack in the occupiers for fear of Saddam's return if they left, will now do so with impunity. In this most fiercely nationalistic of countries, visitors are welcomed with open arms. Invaders are not. As an ex-military pointed out recently, the Pentagon keeps repeating the mantra: 'Failure is not an option, I agree, it is not an option, it is an inevitability.'
An impartial, internationalized trial, subject to transparent legal norms would go a long way to healing wounds and fresh beginnings. It would also include Donald Rumsfeld explaining about his meetings with Saddam in the early eighties, the chemical and biological weapons sold by the US to Iraq and since the gassing of the Kurds at Halabja is high on the list of crimes, it might be a bit embarrassing. There is ample evidence the US both sold Iraq the chemicals used and even advised which were the most 'effective.'
Britain's David Mellor, was an M.P. who also had close dealing with Saddam. as did Lord Howe. Britain even built a chemical factory at Falluja, paid for with export credit guarantees and kept secret from Parliament. France and Germany too sold some pretty dodgy stuff, so the trial and testimony of eminent witnesses would be uniquely enlightening. Thus, it is vital the venue would not be in Iraq, not alone to guarantee impartiality, but with the new 'democratic' regime shooting, disappearing and expelling journalists, closing news outlets who don't write what they like (sound familiar?) the world might never have access to this unique learning curve.
Then there is another little local difficulty. If Saddam is to be put on trial for using chemical weapons, how long before human rights organizations start calling for something similar for those in the US responsible for napalm and a host of horrors used Viet Nam, Laos and indeed in Iraq in 1991 (and maybe in 2003.) Depleted uranium too has been three times unanimously declared a weapon of mass destruction (along with napalm, fuel air bombs and just about everything used by America in Iraq) by UN Sub-Committees.
Then there is Saddam's cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners. How long before someone points out that at least he kept lists. The occupying powers count neither apparently, list those they disappear, or those they shoot. They 'do not list Iraqi dead.' Iraqis consistently say there are more disappeared under the US than ever under Saddam and families' frantic efforts to find where they are, rend the heart. And heaven forbid anyone might mention Guantanamo Bay, or executions of the mentally ill in Texas. 'This event brings further assurances that the torture chambers and secret police are gone for ever'. said the President of the capture. Well no - and his Iraq Administration is re-employing the secret police.
It would be embarrassing too if there was pressure brought to have those responsible for the countless hundreds killed and maimed by illegal bombings by the US and UK, the two rogue states on the UN Security Council, over the last thirteen years. Patrols which had no mandate from the UN. Someone might even bring up the cases of the little child shepherds minding their flocks, who were routinely blown to bits in these actions. Asked why they targeted flocks of sheep their child minders, the British Ministry of Defense told this writer: 'We reserve the right to take robust action if threatened.' Their Ministers surely deserve a chance to explain such fascinating military insights in a legal setting.
Someone might even think to query because two buildings were wiped out in New York, two countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, were virtually reduced to rubble - neither whom, it would seems, had a national on the hijacked 'planes. They did, however have oil, gas and minerals coveted by the US. On apprehending Saddam, the coalition might have 'got' a little more than they bargained for.
No wonder we are now told that the de-briefing of Saddam might take some considerable while. Lets hope his health doesn't give out on the meantime as a result of all that time allegedly down a hole. If he died of a heart attack the word would certainly be deprived of unique insights in to 'history being a chronicle of lies agreed on'. But the relief in Washington and London would be palpable.
Felicity Arbuthnot is a freelance journalist who has visited Iraq 26 times since the 1991 Gulf War. She worked as senior researcher on the film Paying the Price—Killing the Children of Iraq, which investigated the devastating effect of United Nations sanctions on people of Iraq.