Empire marches on
Empire marches on
THE hastily confected judicial assassination of Saddam Hussein, the last President of independent
In the process, Bush has signed into law the most far-reaching limitations on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He has dismissed key members of his own team at the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as well his principal military commanders in the West Asia and
Not just his father, not just Colin Powell but even Donald Rumsfeld has turned out to be much too circumspect, and not manly enough, in his reckoning. Only pliant courtiers who shall shield him from the bad news and go on doing his bidding to prop up his own delusions of manliness, such as Condoleezza Rice, are now good enough. Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, among key neocon architects of the
In a delusion so grand, the hanging of Saddam Hussein must have appeared to him as just a detail in one morning's work, but also as yet another sign of his own manliness. As Governor of Texas, he signed more death sentences than any other Governor of a U.S. State in recent memory. Some of those who worked for him in
A death foretold
That Saddam would be killed had been a foregone conclusion ever since he was captured by
Most of the world was impressed, rather, by the fact that he decided to stay on Iraqi soil, instead of getting himself smuggled into safety in foreign lands, and that he managed to dodge the American forces, 140,000 of them on the ground with all sorts of gadgetry of surveillance probing for his hideouts, for a full nine months. He took the risk of getting tortured by the Americans, who had amply demonstrated their capacity for torturing captives not just in
The sort of court in which the show trial was staged has been described by some well-meaning people as a "kangaroo court". That is an insult to the essential decency of real-life kangaroos. Occupiers simply appointed their clients as prosecuting lawyers and judges. Lawyers who dared to defend Saddam in this court, which had no legitimate status in international law, were defamed, intimidated and, at times, simply murdered. The corporate media punctually ignored the fact that among the lawyers who sought to defend Saddam was also the former Attorney-General of the
It was quite clear that the Americans deluded themselves into believing that Saddam in their captivity was some bargaining chip they could use in getting what came to be known as "The Sunni Resistance" to negotiate with them in lieu of a sentence for Saddam milder than death - life imprisonment, some years of hard labour, even a contrived "escape". Zalmay Khalilzad, who served as the
Saddam was never tried for the most spectacular of his crimes, and evidence incriminating him directly for ordering the killing of 148 people in the village of Dujail many years ago was simply not there; from the legal standpoint, his responsibility was at best indirect, for which the sentence of death was obviously excessive. His lawyers had been given less than two weeks to appeal against a judgment of 300 pages. Before the judgment, Saddam was not allowed to cross-examine the witnesses against him and his lawyers were not given access to much of the information that the Judges were privy too. After his lawyers filed the appeal, the appellate court confirmed the death sentence within three days. The judgment of the appellate court had given 30 days for the execution to be carried out; he was executed on the fourth day after that verdict.
The original sentence itself had been announced hurriedly the day before the Congressional elections in the
Every single thing the
Heads of Arab states piously `deplored' the timing, since Saddam had been hanged on the first day of the Eid al-Azha - the great feast of the sacrifice which symbolically re-enacts the myth of Abraham and Ishmael, and when the grand Muslim ritual of the Hajj in Mecca is concluded - but not much else about this victor's justice.
Even the judgment delivered by the court composed of clients had to say that there was no evidence that Saddam had actually ordered the actions which had led to the deaths for which he was accused, and that it was his description of those actions as "mistakes" which could be construed as his implicit responsibility for them - and therefore he had to be awarded the penalty of a death sentence. On such grounds, there is ample reason to sentence Bush, Rumsfeld & co. to death by execution for the documented tortures of Abu Ghraib alone, not to speak of much else. Neither the United Nations, supposedly the upholder of international law, nor any head of state anywhere in the world (with rare exceptions such as Hugo Chavez) who is assigned the task of protecting the very principle of national sovereignty, said anything of the kind. The worldwide democratic loathing of courts and sentencing of this kind was instead to be contained in virtually all the capitals of the world, from
The victor's justice is a many-headed monster. Saddam was undoubtedly a ferocious dictator and should have been brought to justice in a court duly constituted in an independent and sovereign
Most of his crimes had been committed when he was a close ally of the Western powers, especially the U.S. and Britain, which supplied him with arms, chemical and biological weapons as well as technologies to produce them, aerial photographs and other intelligence materials regarding countries that he invaded; the whole world needed a trial of him in which crimes of such collusion could be documented and the relevant criminals, of whatever nationality, could be prosecuted; highest officials of the U.S. and Britain would have been exposed to prosecution in that case - and rightly so. All such possibilities ended with Saddam's execution by a gang of thugs in the Americans' pay.
Saddam was a bloody dictator but hardly the only one in his time, and probably not the worst either. General Augusto Pinochet, responsible for thousands of deaths and for siphoning off unaccounted millions upon millions of dollars out of the Chilean treasury, had been in British custody, and even a Spanish court could not get hold of him when it invoked the hallowed principle of universal jurisdiction against people charged with crimes against humanity; upon relinquishing office Pinochet lived happily enough in a supposedly democratised Chile and when he died, the newly elected socialist President who had herself been tortured under his dictatorship saw it fit to wear black, the colour of mourning, and send her Defence Minister to the torturer's funeral.
In a similar case, when human rights lawyers tried to bring cases against Ariel Sharon and other Israeli war criminals in courts of countries, such as Belgium, which had extensive laws based on the principles of universal jurisdiction, the U.S. forced them to change their laws; and when, in a similar instance, its Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was to attend a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) conclave in Brussels and it was surmised that he may be served with a warrant of arrest as a war criminal, the U.S. had no difficulty in persuading all its European allies to change the venue of the meeting. There is little to choose between Saddam and Pinochet, but one was on the wrong side in the ultimate `clash of civilisations' and the other was on the side of the victors.
All of that was foretold and predictable. Surprise was in the manner of the execution itself and the details that were quickly divulged. Like everything else that the Americans have done in
From the strictly religious point of view, though, the worst of it came at the precise moment when his neck was snapped and the plank drawn from underneath him - as he was in the midst of saying his last prayer. The video that sent that image around the world simply immortalised him as a Muslim being executed on the first day of the Eid, with none of the most basic respect for words of the prayer, by henchmen of an alien - not only nationally but also religiously and culturally - occupying force, while the hired executioners are shown to be mere brutish thugs. That image is likely to reverberate throughout the Muslim and especially the Arab world for an incalculable length of time. What has been said by many since then is actually true: a despised tyrant, whose tyranny the Americans claimed to be fighting against, has been rendered a martyr, by American fiat.
That image of a man calmly dignified and deep in prayer at the very moment of his death is rendered especially poignant by the videographed recording of the preceding few minutes. Saddam appears erect and defiant, answering the braying executioners with irony and conviction, stepping up to the gallows unflappably, and beginning to pray as the noose is tightened. Some of the printed stories in major newspapers of the world, including the key American ones, were to further confirm those images of exit with calm dignity.
He is said to have been woken up early, to have sensed what was coming, to have shaken hands with all his guards and to have thanked each one of them, individually, for the good care he had received from them. He walked gravely toward the helicopter that was to take him to the place of his execution. Formality required that the verdict be read to him. He responded in a high-pitched voice: "Long live the nation! Long live the people. Long live the Palestinians!" A little later, and equally in fulfilment of formalities, the National Security Adviser of the puppet regime enquired of him if he had any remorse, and he said, "I am a militant and I have no fear for myself... "
At some point, inexplicably, his U.S.-paid executioners raised slogans in praise of Moqtada al-Sadr, the young Shia cleric whom the Americans hate the most and have often fought, in Kufa and elsewhere. Saddam is said to have been surprised and shook his head. Soon after that he was led to the gallows, tied up, and hanged. That was on December 30. The next day, the very last day of 2006, The New York Times began its story on the execution with the sentence: "Saddam Hussein never bowed his head, until his neck snapped."
It wasn't long before Washington began waking up to the huge global impact of Saddam's dignified behaviour, as contrasted with the crassness of his execution - the choice of day, the menacing rowdiness of his executioners in the solemn moments before his death, the snapping of the neck as he prayed silently. Such things are hard to verify, but it does seem to me that it is only after the facts had had an impact exactly the opposite of what the Washingtonian spinmasters anticipated that they decided to pretend that the successive videos had been produced clandestinely and that they had actually tried to dissuade the "sovereign" Nouri al-Maliki government from executing Saddam on such a holy day.
It was now said that it was the "sovereign" Iraqi establishment - much too "sovereign" to listen to the
All that, I believe, is plain hogwash. Only a month earlier, that same "Prime Minister" had complained publicly that he is not allowed to move even a platoon of policemen without prior
The hanging as well as the spectacle staged and taped at the time were meant to exacerbate the Shia-Sunni divide and to have the Sunnis turn against Moqtada even as the
Nausea of Empire
Even Saddam, held in secluded captivity for three years, probably did not know the full extent of what his captors had done to his country. This is not the place to go into details but a few outstanding facts can be assembled.
Reliable estimates suggest that a million and a half Iraqis, most of them women and children, had died as a result of the sanctions against
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) says there are 1.6 million internal refugees in
Tens of billions of dollars have disappeared into the coffers of the new, U.S.-made ruling elite, but the vast majority of the surviving population has been pauperised in a country that was once the Arab world's most advanced welfare state. Before the U.S. invasion, Iraq was also a highly secular polity; it is now a murderous cesspool of sectarian militias and communal strife in which a hundred corpses may be picked up from the streets of Baghdad on any given day, the daily toll of death across the country runs at roughly 1,000, and members of the Shia-administered Ministries may abduct members of the Sunni-administered Ministries. In Saddam's secular
These extremities are by no means limited to Baghdad but envelop the entire country with the exception of the more solidly Kurdish areas; even Mosul, relatively a more secure city, has witnessed the exodus of 75,000 Kurds toward the safer regions of Iraqi Kurdistan.
That a civil war of huge proportions, with all the characteristics of mutual ethnic cleansings, is fully in progress is beyond debate. Yet, most Iraqis hold the U.S. responsible for this descent of their country into hell; in the most recent polls, over 90 per cent of Sunnis and over 60 per cent of Shias said armed attacks on U.S. personnel are legitimate and necessary, and over 70 per cent of all Iraqis, including Kurds, want U.S. troops to leave their country. (Significantly, in the same poll, 50 per cent identified themselves simply as Muslim, not Shia or Sunni.) It is into this hellish mix that Bush wants to throw in more troops and the hard core of the neocons (Kagan, Kristol and Co.) argue in favour of unlimited escalation.
Over the past 12 months, the
The Abrams program was initially conceived last February by a group of White House officials who wanted to shape a coherent and tough response to the Hamas electoral victory of January. These officials, the authors were told, were led by Abrams, but included National Security Advisers working in the office of the Vice-President, including prominent neo-conservatives David Wurmser and John Hannah. The policy was approved by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice... . The President then signed off on the program in a Central Intelligence Agency "finding" and designated that its implementation be put under the control of the CIA... . The recipients of
These few extracts speak for themselves, and we need not comment, except to say that the designated errand boys in this plan (Mubarak of Egypt, the Jordanian and Saudi royals) are said to be highly nervous and uncertain of repercussions that might ensue for themselves as they get seen fanning the flames of a fratricide among the Palestinians so openly, in the service of
Empire comes to
Just as the gallows were being readied in Baghdad for the hanging of Saddam Hussein, Ethiopia invaded Somalia, in a thinly veiled proxy war launched by the U.S., and drove out the ruling coalition of the Somali Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC), whose forces surrendered the capital, Mogadishu, quickly, some of them retreating into their strongholds in southern Somalia and others just shaving off their beards and disappearing into the city's burgeoning population. The orderliness of the quick retreat was reminiscent of the way the Taliban in
The Ethiopians re-installed a government of warlords that had been ousted some six months earlier, and when the U.S. AC130 warplanes - military cargo aircraft turned into huge gunships fitted with the most modern gadgetry - flew out of the U.S. airbase in Djibouti to start attacking Somali territory some two weeks later, the President of this puppet regime, Abdullahi Yusuf, was at hand to tell the journalists that the U.S. "has a right to bombard suspects who attacked its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania". The US has been attacking from the air ever since and has moved the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower to join three other warships off the Somali coast, on the pretext that Somalia is studded with Al Qaeda base camps. Meanwhile, the internecine warfare among the warlord factions, which had plagued
Like the hanging of Saddam Hussein, the invasion of
The resolution also called for the creation of an international peacekeeping force to ensure the return of that freshly minted "government" to power in the capital and, in an apparent insurance against Ethiopian invasion, explicitly called upon all neighbouring states to desist from interfering in
That is the immediate background. The invasion has been awaited for years, though, and as I dust up my old files I find that in the months following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the
Nine Americans reportedly met representatives of a clan-based group called the Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA) and a warlord known as General Morgan, in the central town of
Le Monde Diplomatique of the same month five years ago had this to say:
After 11 September, there are two potential winners in the new order,
On 8 January 2002, Christian Science Monitor was to inform its readers:
British, French, and
This is just as a small sample. Heaps of such stuff got published five years ago, and the basic contours of the war to secure the Horn of Africa for long-term imperial dominance, which is unfolding now, are already there. Not just the U.S. and Britain but also Germany (which now has troops in Afghanistan) have been at it since then; which explains why the U.S. was able to secure the Security Council Resolution on Somalia last month so easily and why there was not even a whimper of protest in that same Security Council when the U.S. immediately proceeded to prepare Ethiopia to invade, in direct violation of a key clause in that very resolution. But the real significance of that more recent resolution was there for all to see. As the International Herald Tribune of December 26, 2006, four days before Saddam's execution, was to point out:
The U.N. Security Council, however, did take up the issue, and in another craven act which will further cement its reputation as an anti-Muslim body, bowed to American and British pressure to authorise a regional peacekeeping force to enter
As we see in those old reports, the basic alliance between the U.S., Ethiopia and the warlords was being put in place, with active collusion from Sudan and Djibouti, five years before the Islamic Courts emerged victorious, for some months, in 2006 - which has now become the excuse for an invasion that has been in the making all this time. And that same talk of "Al Qaeda", an all-purpose spectral phantom that can be invoked at will, to occupy any country, commit any atrocity, violate any international law, back any grouping of thugs - all in the name of a "war on terror".
Oil is the great misfortune of Muslims in great many countries because they tend to have a great deal of it, while an addiction called oil - for consumption, as a strategic resource, as black gold worth trillions - is a disease with the dollar-driven Americans in particular and with capitalism in general. It now appears that not just
Much more could be said on all the issues we have raised here. The question, nevertheless, remains: can Bush get away with it all? Well, there is much disturbance in the heavens. The U.S. electorate has already repudiated these policies and even some of the Republican Senators who are facing re-election have defected from the planned "surge" of more troops into Iraq, while Senator Edward M. Kennedy and his colleagues have introduced legislation in both Houses of the U.S. Congress that would forbid the Bush administration to either commit more troops abroad or to enhance any kind of military funding for such adventures without prior Congressional approval. Other aspects of the dictatorial presidency that Bush has been erecting are bound to come up for Congressional scrutiny. Even the client al-Maliki government in Iraq has expressed its displeasure at the idea of more U.S. troops, partly because it depends on Moqtada for its survival, partly because its Iranian friends do not wish to see the Americans becoming militarily stronger in Iraq, and partly because even clients want to enhance their own local power when they are given a country to rule, at least nominally.
The Bush Administration is poised to introduce a new set of laws that would throw Iraqi oil for privatisation and for foreign corporations to dominate and profit from. Iraqi capitalists who covet those same profits, as well the economic nationalists who wish to guard their national assets, are bound to resist. The kind of dramatic escalations that Bush is contemplating across a wide transcontinental territory, from the northern regions of
On top of it all, the fiscal wounds of empire are there for all to see. Expenditures on the Iraq war alone are now running at close to $8 billion a month and the accumulated expenditures incurred thus far are now close to $2 trillion; Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning former Chief Economist of the World Bank, whose detailed study of the likely cost of the Iraq War put it at $3 trillion, now says that the figure was much too low and accumulated costs, not just to the U.S. economy but to the economies of other participating countries, are likely to be considerably higher.
As regards the general economy, the
So, the question may well be asked: can an economy so riddled with debts and deficits that boggle the mind, with such vast disparities between revenues and expenditures, sustain a war of such global proportions into the indefinite future?
And we haven't even begun to talk of