Thursday, December 18, 2003

Here's Javier Valenzuela from El Pais on Monday, the day after Saddam's capture was announced:

Al hamdulila--praised be God--is the expression with which good news is celebrated in Arabic. And it is what came out of the lips of the majority of the Iraqis and, with them, of the majority of the decent people in the world, on hearing of the capture of Saddam. This individual is one of the most evil despots that humanity has known during the last decades and we must remember that it is shameful for the United States and many other countries to have had him as an ally against the Iranian Islamist revolution. It was in the war against Iran--and against his own Kurds--during the eighties when Saddam used massively these chemical weapons that the American occupiers and their allies cannot find in Iraq, perhaps because they were destroyed under great international pressure in the '90s.

Whoa there, Javier. a) Any dealings we had with Saddam were in the context of the Cold War, when the rules were different. We admittedly did tilt from one side to the other in the Iran-Iraq war--whoever was winning, we supported the loser on a very small-time basis, since we wanted both sides to lose. You'll remember the Iran-Contra affair, when a big deal was made about a very illegal but also very little amount of smuggled arms and money. b) 99% of Saddam's arms came from countries that were not America, and the great majority of the business he did was not done with America. If you're looking for the people who financially backed Saddam, you might do better to look to France and Russia. c) Saddam may very well have destroyed his WMDs in the '90s, but if he did so it sure wasn't international pressure, it was Anglo-American pressure. France and Russia were too busy carrying on trade with his government to pressure him on stuff like human rights. And there's still the question: why did he first stonewall UN inspectors for several years and then kick them out in 1998 if he was all so innocent? And who really gives a crap about the WMDs anyway now that we're digging up the mass graves?

This reminds us that the double standard is the characteristic attitude of the United States and its most loyal allies when facing the issues of the Near and Middle East. And the worst thing is that this attitude persists even today, despite the fact that, in the end, when neither the weapons of mass destruction nor the Baghdad's connection with 9-11, the fall of Saddam's regime became the pretext of the Iraq war. The many Arabs and Muslims who greeted the arrest of the tyrant of Tikrit did so with the bitterness of feeling that the values of freedom and human rights are not those which the American empire confronts the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And without resolving this conflict there will never be the possibility of dreaming of peace and stability in that region of the world.

a) Nobody ever claimed that Saddam was any way responsible for 9-11. What people, including me, said, was that Saddam is linked into the rogue state / terrorist gang International. The Al Qaeda branch of this loose coalition of terror groups pulled off 9-11, not the Saddam-Baath Party branch. b) Right. When you're a Spanish leftist and you're in doubt, bring up Israel. Maybe if the Palestinians had taken the deal Ehud Barak offered them in summer 2000, with the United States as guarantor--this was the best peace offer the Palestinians are ever going to get from the Israelis--that there problem might be on the way to being solved.

Bush and his acolytes sang victory on May 1, when, all of Iraq occupied, they announced the end of the war. But the war continued and continues because many Iraqis, Saddamistas or not, experience this occupation as the Spaniards experienced the Napoleonic occupation at the beginning of the 19th century. Patriotism is not an exclusive feeling of the Westerners and it is possible that the resistance will continue in Iraq.

a) Bush himself said the war is far from over despite the capture of Saddam. b) Many Iraqis dislike the occupation, but from everything I read the average Ahmed disliked Saddam a hell of a lot more. c) Remember, moron, the difference between this occupation and the Napoleonic occupation of Spain is that the US is a democracy and is setting up a democratic system in Iraq, to which power will be handed over as soon as possible, and hopefully the occupation will end at that time, while France was a dictatorship that just wanted to loot Spain and rob its people. d) If I understand correctly, the Kurds and the Shiites are not particularly Iraqi nationalists, and among the Sunnis, only 20% of Iraqis, those who side with Saddam do so for clan reasons and tribal connections.

Even if you kill the dog, the rabies (rage) never ends. The structural problems generated by the war in Iraq are still there. In that country and in the rest of the planet. The correct thing would be, with the widest possible international support and consensus, the Iraqi provisional authorities took over their country soon and began to guide it toward being a sovereign, federal, and democratic state. And, besides, Bin Laden is still free and the islamist movements, who have never had much love for Saddam, are still gaining followers from Morocco to Indonesia. While the problems of development, social justice, and the struggles against corruption in the Arab-Muslim world, and while the double standard persists in the Palestinian question, the world cannot breathe calmly.

a) Mr. Valenzuela was no help with the liberation of Iraq and making it federal and democratic and all that. b) International, my ass. It'll be the Iraqis who set up their own democracy with influence from the US and UK. France and Germany are right out. c) How the hell does he know that terrorist gangs are gaining support from Morocco to Indonesia? From what I've heard they haven't got much left; they're being tracked down and their capacity for action is limited. d) Notice the same old "root causes" argument. Iraq was a reasonably OK place in the late '70s, at least economically, and Saddam ran it into the ground, cutting GDP per capita by two-thirds. But it's all the West's fault because we deny Saddam and Arafat social justice, see. e) We still can't sleep safely at night, no matter whether we've caught Saddam or not, so catching him doesn't really mean anything. Q.E.D., says Mr. Valenzuela. Another apparent American victory that's really meaningless.

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