The last moments of Saddam Hussein’s life:
Undeterred by the horrors and disasters in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, the Bush administration has opened another battlefront in the Muslim world. With US backing, Ethiopian troops have invaded Somalia in an illegal war of aggression.
But this brazen US-sponsored bid to topple the popular Islamists who had brought Somalia its first peace and security in 16 years has already begun to backfire. Looting has forced the transitional government to declare a state of emergency. Clan warlords, who had terrorised Somalia until they were driven out by the Islamists this year, have begun carving up the city once again. And the African Union, which helped create the transitional government, has called for the immediate withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from the country, as did Kenya, a close US and Ethiopian ally.
They had little choice: the invasion was a clear violation of international law and a UN security council resolution, which the US itself pushed through earlier this month, that explicitly forbade troops from any neighbouring country from joining even the new peace-keeping force it authorised for Somalia. That still did not prevent the Bush administration from issuing a strong statement of support for the Ethiopian offensive.
As with Iraq in 2003, the US has cast this as a war to curtail terrorism. The real goal of course is to gain a direct foothold in another highly strategic and oil rich region by installing a client regime in Somalia. The US had already been violating the UN arms embargo on Somalia by supporting the warlords who drove out the UN peace-keepers in 1993 by killing 18 US soldiers, in order to push out the Islamists. That effort failed and an Ethiopian invasion remained the only way to oust a group with popular support. All independent experts warned against such a war, saying it would destabilise the region.
In the end, Saddam received some good old-fashioned colonial justice. Brutal, unnecessary and ultimately futile. The country will continue to descend into chaos (despite Bush praising the execution as a positive development for the country. In his dreams.)
The majority of the Iraqis want the Americans to withdraw forces within a year, but this will clearly be ignored by the powers in Washington, Canberra and London. After all, the Iraqis have become almost irrelevant in the equation; it’s now simply about “restoring American prestige.”
There still remains the question of the symbolism in Saddam’s execution. The Middle East has countless examples of regimes overthrown on the promise of a better life. In most cases, the new regimes consisted of locals who presented themselves as patriots, rising up to do away with corrupt regimes linked to the West. That is how Saddam presented himself.
The new Iraqi government, on the other hand, is viewed as an American pawn. As such, Saddam may come to be remembered as an authentic Iraqi leader – and thus his account with Bush would be posthumously settled in his favor.
Let’s hope for a 2007 that sees concrete signs of American withdrawal and full acceptance of military, political and social defeat. This won’t happen, of course (just like Vietnam, US Presidents are immune from reason) and further bloodshed is guaranteed.
More importantly, however, is this year’s development that US power in the Middle East has decreased considerably. The country is openly despised in much of the Arab world, and its ability to influence events – still greater than any other nation on earth, mind you – is lessened. This can only be a good thing for a timely re-ordering of the world. Such moves don’t happen overnight, but Iraq will undoubtedly be recognised as a turning point in American power.
As 2006 comes to a close, this has been the worst of years for the Iraqi people (the vast majority of whom now believe that life was better before the 2003 invasion.) The most moving reflection I’ve read for some time is by the female Iraqi blogger, Riverbend. Her anger, attitude and understanding is far more powerful than any Western journalist could muster:
You know your country is in trouble when:
1. The UN has to open a special branch just to keep track of the chaos and bloodshed, UNAMI.
2. Abovementioned branch cannot be run from your country.
3. The politicians who worked to put your country in this sorry state can no longer be found inside of, or anywhere near, its borders.
4. The only thing the US and Iran can agree about is the deteriorating state of your nation.
5. An 8-year war and 13-year blockade are looking like the country’s ‘Golden Years’.
6. Your country is purportedly ‘selling’ 2 million barrels of oil a day, but you are standing in line for 4 hours for black market gasoline for the generator.
7. For every 5 hours of no electricity, you get one hour of public electricity and then the government announces it’s going to cut back on providing that hour.
8. Politicians who supported the war spend tv time debating whether it is ‘sectarian bloodshed’ or ‘civil war’.
9. People consider themselves lucky if they can actually identify the corpse of the relative that’s been missing for two weeks.
Here we come to the end of 2006 and I am sad. Not simply sad for the state of the country, but for the state of our humanity, as Iraqis. We’ve all lost some of the compassion and civility that I felt made us special four years ago. I take myself as an example. Nearly four years ago, I cringed every time I heard about the death of an American soldier. They were occupiers, but they were humans also and the knowledge that they were being killed in my country gave me sleepless nights. Never mind they crossed oceans to attack the country, I actually felt for them.
Had I not chronicled those feelings of agitation in this very blog, I wouldn’t believe them now. Today, they simply represent numbers. 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That’s the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month. The Americans had families? Too bad. So do we. So do the corpses in the streets and the ones waiting for identification in the morgue.
Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he’s wanted to marry for the last six years? I don’t think so.
Just because Americans die in smaller numbers, it doesn’t make them more significant, does it?
Five steps to ensure your religious beliefs will be supported by the Australian government:
– Join a Christian cult (such as the Exclusive Brethren.)
– Marvel at the government’s silence over allegations of sexual assault, intimidation and bullying (while some commentators blame the Greens for causing trouble.)
– Sit back and get ready to be welcomed into the fold in the run-up to the 2007 Federal Election.
Who says the US doesn’t have a plan for Iraq? Independent Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman lays out his ideas:
I’ve just spent 10 days traveling in the Middle East and speaking to leaders there, all of which has made one thing clearer to me than ever: While we are naturally focused on Iraq, a larger war is emerging. On one side are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran, on the other moderates and democrats supported by the United States. Iraq is the most deadly battlefield on which that conflict is being fought. How we end the struggle there will affect not only the region but the worldwide war against the extremists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001.
Because of the bravery of many Iraqi and coalition military personnel and the recent coming together of moderate political forces in Baghdad, the war is winnable. We and our Iraqi allies must do what is necessary to win it.
Lieberman’s “analysis” would be hilarious if it wasn’t so pathetic. His understanding of the Middle East is as sophisticated as his country’s President. He talks about one side being supported by the United States and the other side being aided by Iran. Where exactly do Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt fit into all this? No doubt they’re the good guys (and who cares about a growing Islamist threat in their nations?) Stoic little Israel is clearly on the right side (and let’s not even talk about Pakistan, a rogue US-backed state if ever there was one.)
“Victory” in Iraq (how quaint that Lieberman still uses that term) actually means “noble” defeat (and the execution of Saddam will only make things worse.)
In some ways we should be grateful for Lieberman’s article. If this is the finest thinking on the war in Washington, a welcome US defeat and withdrawal from Iraq is closer than we could have hoped. On the other hand, “liberating the savages” may take a lot longer than Lieberman imagines.
Jewish, New York blogger Phil Weiss explains, after hearing the rantings of a Zionist lobbyist on campus, what the lobby truly fears:
Because America is the mainstay of support allowing Israel to continue its policies in the Occupied Territories. The Israel lobby fears that Americans, if left to their own devices, will abandon Israel, out of indifference, or antisemitism. So Americans must be influenced—in this case by having the information they get about Israel/Palestine vetted, and by pressuring Jews on campus to toe the party line.
This certainly rings true. Any voice of dissent must be challenged and silenced. Failing that, send in the character assassination team. Thankfully, such a ghetto-mindset is no longer as effective as before (witness the success of the Jimmy Carter book, Mearsheimer/Walt paper and my own book.) What the lobby wants to avoid at all costs is an honest discussion about the Jewish state’s immorality.
Stephen Kinzer, author of Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, explains the ways in which successive US administrations have found spurious reasons to illegitimately depose democratic governments over the last century:
There’s really a three-stage motivation that I can see when I watch so many of the developments of these coups. The first thing that happens is that the regime in question starts bothering some American company. They start demanding that the company pay taxes or that it observe labor laws or environmental laws. Sometimes that company is nationalized or is somehow required to sell some of its land or its assets. So the first thing that happens is that an American or a foreign corporation is active in another country, and the government of that country starts to restrict it in some way or give it some trouble, restrict its ability to operate freely.
Then, the leaders of that company come to the political leadership of the United States to complain about the regime in that country. In the political process, in the White House, the motivation morphs a little bit. The U.S. government does not intervene directly to defend the rights of a company, but they transform the motivation from an economic one into a political or geo-strategic one. They make the assumption that any regime that would bother an American company or harass an American company must be anti-American, repressive, dictatorial, and probably the tool of some foreign power or interest that wants to undermine the United States. So the motivation transforms from an economic to a political one, although the actual basis for it never changes.
Then, it morphs one more time when the U.S. leaders have to explain the motivation for this operation to the American people. Then they do not use either the economic or the political motivation usually, but they portray these interventions as liberation operations, just a chance to free a poor oppressed nation from the brutality of a regime that we assume is a dictatorship, because what other kind of a regime would be bothering an American company?
Such reasoning can be applied to any number of conflicts and yet the end result is always the same; US embarrassment, defeat or worse. A victory for common sense but a damaging legacy for long-suffering people.
Iraq is the deadliest place on earth for journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists has confirmed that 2006 is the fourth year in a row that the country has “won” this tragic award. Far too few journalists seem to care, however (and the US government cares even less):
When you step off the elevator at the Reuters news offices in Washington, D.C., you see a large book sitting on a wooden stand. Each entry describes a Reuters journalist killed in the line of duty. Such as Taras Protsyuk. The veteran Ukrainian cameraman was killed on April 8, 2003, the day before the U.S. seized Baghdad. Protsyuk was on the balcony of the Palestine Hotel when a U.S. tank positioned itself on the al-Jumhuriyah bridge and, as people watched in horror, unleashed a round into the side of the building. The hotel was known for housing hundreds of unembedded reporters. Protsyuk was killed instantly. Jose Couso, a cameraman for the Spanish network Telecinco, was filming from the balcony below. He was also killed.
The difference between the responses by the mainstream media in the United States versus Europe was stunning. While in this country there was hardly a peep of protest, Spanish journalists engaged in a one-day strike. From the elite journalists down to the technicians, they laid down their cables, cameras and pens. They refused to record the words of then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who joined British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush in supporting the war. When Aznar came into parliament, they piled their equipment at the front of the room and turned their backs on him. Photographers refused to take his picture and instead held up a photo of their slain colleague. At a news conference in Madrid with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Spanish reporters walked out in protest. Later, hundreds of journalists, camera people and technicians marched on the U.S. embassy in Madrid, chanting “Murderer, murderer.”
About four hours before the U.S. military opened fire on the Palestine Hotel, a U.S. warplane strafed Al-Jazeera’s Baghdad office. Reporter Tareq Ayyoub was on the roof. He died almost instantly.
When interviewed after his death, Ayyoub’s wife, Dima, said: “Hate breeds hate. The United States said they were doing this to rout out terrorism. Who is engaged in terrorism now?” This summer, she sued the U.S. government.
The family of Jose Couso has also taken action. They know the names of the three U.S. servicemen who fired on the Palestine Hotel. On Dec. 5, 2006, the Spanish Supreme Court said the men could be tried in Spanish courts, opening the possibility for indictments against the U.S. soldiers.
While many bloggers in the Middle East suffer repression and jail, how many Western journalists are campaigning for their release or freedom of speech?
President Carter has done what few American politicians have dared to do: speak frankly about the Israel-Palestine conflict. He has done this nation, and the cause of peace, an enormous service by focusing attention on what he calls “the abominable oppression and persecution in the occupied Palestinian territories, with a rigid system of required passes and strict segregation between Palestine’s citizens and Jewish settlers in the West Bank.”
The 39th president of the United States, the most successful Arab-Israeli peace negotiator to date, has braved a storm of criticism, including the insinuation from the pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League that his arguments are anti-Semitic.
Mr. Carter has tried to mollify critics by suggesting that his is not a commentary on Israeli policy inside Israel’s own borders, as compared with the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem – territories Israel occupied in 1967. He told NPR, “I know that Israel is a wonderful democracy with equal treatment of all citizens whether Arab or Jew. And so I very carefully avoided talking about anything inside Israel.”
Given the pressure he has faced, it may be understandable that Mr. Carter says this, but he is wrong. In addition to nearly four million Palestinians living under Israeli rule in the occupied territories, another one million live inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders. These Palestinians are descendants of those who were not forced out or did not flee when Israel was created in 1948.
They have nominal Israeli citizenship, and unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa, they do vote for the country’s parliament. Yet this is where any sense of equality ends. In Israel’s history, no Arab-led party has ever been asked to join a coalition government. And, among scores of Jewish ministers, there has only ever been one Arab minister, of junior rank.