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Free lessons from Iraq

Hasan Abu Nimah

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The violent death of the two sons of Saddam Hussein raised a storm of argument on the way they had finally met their inevitable fate. Some wanted them arrested and tried so that many of their surviving victims would witness justice finally, and properly, served, before they receive the punishment they deserve. Others wanted the horrifying secrets they could have revealed in a public trial to furnish the Iraqi people with additional, invaluable, proof of the cruelty of the regime of which they were notorious and primary symbols. And while there could hardly be any who would mourn the demise of such ruthless symbols of cruelty, evil and inhumanity, there were still those, probably to spite the Americans, who loathed the way the corpses were put on display, dismissing the “to convince the public explanation” as utterly worthless.


We may indeed now never know the full extent of the atrocities of Uday and Qusay who were, for years and years, let loose to target the innocent lives, dignity, property and integrity of thousands of Iraqis, private or public figures, with their limitless debauchery and cruelty. And while it is, of course, true that the prejudicial killing on the spot of the widely sought fugitives may have circumvented a due process, which many wanted rightfully and adequately observed, one should, on the other hand, recognise the unusual circumstances of the case and the practical, though not ideal, inapplicability of normal measures in this case.

One may probably have to put himself in the position of any of the many victims of the callous outlaws to appreciate the relief, though not the rejoicing, at their just termination; without recognising the relevance of any debate as to the way such a desirable end was achieved. This, additionally, is the way dictators’ lives end, as it is the manner in which divine justice is served. It must also be a matter of time before the father’s life, the source of all evil and still escaping inevitable punishment, will eventually, and in the same way, end too.


With that accomplished, a dark and stark chapter in the otherwise glorious history of Iraq will officially (actually, it has been closed since last April) come to a close. For over three decades, under the cruel, the inhumane, the insensitive, the detached, the savage and the bloody reign of terror of Saddam, the Iraqi people suffered tremendously. Millions of them had opted, whenever they had the opportunity to do so, to abandon their homeland altogether, seeking safer, though hardly better, existence in any other country to which they were, with great difficulty, admitted. The price of their physical safety in this case was their dignity and their pride, as they, in their forced exile, were subjected to all kinds of (probably undeliberate) humiliation and frustrating restrictions. They, under the pressure of living needs, had to accept menial jobs and engage in every available type of activity to secure the minimum requirements of bare survival.

The most unfortunate, though, were those who were left behind at the mercy of the regime and its ferocious symbols, of which the deposed president and his two unchained but extremely wild sons were the cruellest. They, for years, in the absence of any moral, ethical or political constraints, let alone institutional safeguards, treated the country with its vast resources as if it were their own private property, and they treated the people as if they were unrelated subjects without any rights. The stories of the two boys’ atrocities and toying with peoples’ lives and fates will be told from one generation to the another over many decades to come.

The significance of this all is that it is finally over. Had the closure of this bleak chapter in Iraq’s history been followed by true liberation and restoration of orderly life, the Iraqi people would have had every reason to bury the sad past, celebrate and look forward to a better future.

The sad reality is that the chaotic and the equally unsafe, insecure and very hard life under the foreign and the totally unjustified occupation is hardly a better alternative. The Iraqis have indeed welcomed the demise of a terrible regime, but they never wanted foreign occupation, under any slogan, to be the alternative. That is why they are fighting back with determined resolve and despite the occupiers’ claims otherwise, the resistance is only escalating, causing far more than 47 American soldiers’ deaths.

The occupiers’ hope that the killing of the two sons would neutralise the people’s motivation for continued resistance is as wrong as the initial assumption that those who planned the attacks were no more than the remnants of the Saddam regime and of the Baath Party. The awaited hope that the capture of Saddam will have the greatest effect on ending the resistance will prove, once it happens, more disappointing.


The most dangerous and misleading fallacy on the part of the occupying authority is their holding on to the notion that those who are fiercely and effectively engaged in fighting the foreign presence in their “liberated” country are doing it for love of, or for fear of Saddam. It is time the occupiers admitted that it is a genuine resistance movement, specifically targeting the occupation and powerfully seeking the realisation of their legitimate goal of truly liberating their country, this time, from foreign rule. Even those simple-minded Iraqis who still believe that Saddam was saved and protected by the Americans, that the two displayed “wax” corpses are not Uday’s and Qusay’s who, according to them, must be still alive and well, are probably feeling that way due to their utter loss of confidence in the Americans’ claims and deeds, rather than because they express any belief in the Saddam family or their disgraced legacy.

One experienced analyst described the present experiment in Iraq as an “excavation,” from the findings of which we ought to learn. The occupier should learn that the implementation of its dubious scheme for the region, starting with Iraq, is not working and it will not; it is therefore time to reconsider. The countries in the region should learn that responding to outer threats and pressures with thoughtless, aimless, compliance and timid bending before the storms, just to avert crises, would only aggravate an already grave state of affairs; and it is therefore time to seize the initiative, introduce genuine democracy and reform, planning well, revising and reconsidering. And, finally, “dictators” everywhere, and there are many, should learn that there is only one end awaiting every dictator and his gigantic statues and every violator of peoples’ sacred rights, and it will not be different from what we have witnessed, and are yet to witness next, in Iraq.

Published Wednesday, July 30th, 2003 - 10:08am GMT

Hasan Abu Nimah is former Ambassador of Jordan to the United Nations.

Courtesy of the Jordan Times.

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