11/07/2006

A "Tribute" to Saddam

(ht: Damian)

The title of the article says it all. Saddam: A Tribute.
Before I begin, I'd like to point out to the author of the article that tributes are usually paid to heroes, not dictators. If you are paying a tribute to a dictator, then he is forcing it from you... and it's usually financial in nature.
This article is so ridiculous that I have no choice but to rip it to shreds.

Three months ago, Tony Blair warned the world that an "arc of extremism" now stretches across the Middle East from Iran to Lebanon. This phenomenon, he suggested, threatens the survival of the very values on which western society is based. Yet, when Blair came to power, no such claim could have been made. Slap-bang in the middle of his currently awesome arc, lay a fortress of stability in the shape of Saddam's Iraq.

Fortress of stability?
Uh. Where were you during Desert Storm?
Saddam had tied down revolutionary Iran, the most potentially destructive force in the region, in an eight-year war, at the expense of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties. Any Islamic terrorists found on Iraqi territory were summarily executed. The Middle Eastern oil that underpins our society, and therefore the values that our Prime Minister holds so dear, flowed freely into our refineries. Within Iraq itself, a secular state offered women opportunities unimaginable in nearby countries, and provided a standard of living far from unreasonable by the standards of the developing world.

At the time of Saddam's reign, Iran was not the most potentially destructive force in the region. This is rewriting history. Iran has only now become a potentially destructive force. At the time of Saddam's reign, Iraq was the most potentially destructive force in the region.
It is also not true that any Iraqi terrorists were summarily executed. It is only true that Iraqi terrorists who were not somehow affiliated with the Baathist PArty were executed.
Three objections were made to this state of affairs.

Only three. C'mon guys. Saddam really wasn't so bad. I could only find three things wrong with him and I can even show they weren't really his fault.
The first was that Saddam had expansionist ambitions. His annexation of Kuwait in 1990 was, however, rooted in a long-standing territorial claim based on the fact that Kuwait had been part of Basra province under the Ottomans and was only hived off under British colonial rule. Somewhat disconcertingly for Iraq's current liberators, this claim was revived in 2004 by none other than the US-appointed President of Iraq's Interim Governing Council.

Expansionist ambitions are a problem for everyone, especially those living in the region which might be expanded upon. They are even more a problem when they held by a dictator. Such ambitions are nearly always rooted in long-standing territorial claims. The author also neglects to point out that no part of the current Middle East geographically appears as it did under the rule of the Ottomans. That Britain "hived off" Kuwait and made it a province is utterly irrelevant.
The second objection was that Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction. Why he stopped doing so, we shall perhaps never know, but when he had such weapons, he chose to use them against Iranian armed forces and Iraq's own dissident Kurds, rather than for any purpose that threatened the wider world. Had he acquired nuclear weapons, this might have proved a useful check on Iran's regional ambitions. Today, Iran appears to pose far more danger to the outside world than Saddam ever did, yet we seem to have no plans to deal with this country as we did with Iraq.

Essentially the argument here is this: "Since Saddam wasn't bothering us with his weapons, he never intended to do so. We should have kept him in power in order to prevent Iran from developing nukes." This is not an argument. This is unsubstantiated speculation. I could just as easily claim that Iran would have developed nukes faster in order to combat Saddam. We would then have to interfere in a war between a nuclear power and an insane man with chemical weapons. And yes, we (or at least the US) would have to interfere in such a case. Nuclear war affects us all.
His third point is my favorite.
The final objection to Saddam's rule, on which more and more weight has necessarily had to be placed by those responsible for his downfall, is that he abused the human rights of Iraqi citizens. Quite clearly he did. Yet, why should it be assumed that this consideration trumps all others?

Why should human rights abuses trump all others? Is this a serious question? The answer is very simple: because they are people. Maybe the author would like to live under a regime that tramples his human rights in order to gain a little experience on the subject.
Iraq was created by the victors of World War I. Its Shia, Sunni and Kurdish peoples did not choose to be flung together, and their antagonisms made the country a powder-keg. Saddam believed that such a nation could be held together only by brutally effective repression. Current events suggest that he may have had a point.

Current events suggest nothing of the kind. The regions has had problems since Roman times. Do a little reading. In any case, the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds were already "flung together" even before the rule of the Ottomans.
Doubtless, Saddam's security services killed many Iraqis. However, the 2003 invasion appears to have resulted in at least 45,000 violent civilian deaths. Back in 2004, before things had reached their present parlous state, a study published by The Lancet suggested that the risk of death for a civilian in Iraq had already become 58 times higher than it was under Saddam. Taking into account invasion-caused mortality from accidents, heart attacks, disease and so on, it was estimated that Iraq had already experienced at least 100,000 additional deaths as early as September 2004.

That people die during war is not a reason to avoid war. Including heart-attacks and disease artificially inflates the numbers of this "study." Nothing is being proven here, and this is a meaningless statistic.
Saddam would have had his work cut out to match these figures. So, why are the Iraqis better off without him? The only answer available is that now they are "free". Well, we all value freedom. Some value it more than life, and those who do certainly go on about it. Nonetheless, they are probably a minority.

Better to be alive than free, in other words. Essentially, this boils down to arguing that freedom is not a worthy goal. Again, this is not an argument relevant to the discussion.
Living under tyranny may not be ideal, but it is not impossible. In the Soviet Union, life took on a character of its own, in which the human spirit managed to flourish in spite of the political constraints. The literature generated in those conditions can still inspire us. Today, many former Soviet citizens feel no more free under the yoke of global capitalism than they did before, and some would like to see the return of Stalinism. The people of China seem in no rush to jettison a regime that holds out the prospect of prosperity at the expense only of liberty.

Wow! First we have an excuse for Soviet tyranny. Then we have an utterly unsubstantiated claim that the Chinese do not mind their tyrannical government. I take it the author feels Tiananmen Square was not a big deal?
Even in Britain, our supposed attachment to our supposed freedom turns out to be tenuous. We seem content to toss aside ancient liberties in the face of a dubious war on terror, and we live, cheerily enough, under a regime of surveillance that the KGB might have envied.

One thing I am noticing is the authors repeated use of the word "might." It's amazing the sort of outrageous claims one can make simply by inserting the word "might." If anyone were to point out the insane intention of the comparison of the current British government with the KGB, all the author would have to say is "I didn't say they would have envied. I said they might have envied." His point is clear, however. He intends to compare his government with the KGB. This is a ridiculous ad hominem comparison.
Saddam offered his people a harsh deal. Yet, their lives were at risk only if they chose to challenge his authority. Now, they die because of the sect to which they happen to belong.

"Yet their lives were at risk only if they chose to oppose his authority." So, if they had all just kept their heads down and done as they were told, everything would have been fine. I take it those innocent Kurds he gassed were just an exception? This is just such a bad argument. The problem with dictators is that they quickly become unstable. How would the Iraqi people know what would be interpreted as a challenge to Saddam's authority? What if they had a friend who thought Saddam was a bad guy? Could they be arrested just for being a friend? Could they be arrested because Saddam thought they may not like him?
Now, before anyone tries to argue "hey, that's a slippery slope," let me just say this: Yes, it is. Dictatorial regimes are extremely prone to slippery slopes. The absolute power that dictators demand feeds a psychopathic desire that can never truly be sated. They always crave more power and control. As their need for control deepens, the means they use to obtain control degenerate into utter depravity. Human life loses all value to the tyrant; only his cravings remain.
Soon, their country may fall prey to a savage civil war. If that happens, the Iranians will doubtless intervene, along, perhaps, with Turkey and Israel. No one can predict where that might lead, but the outcome is unlikely to be positive for peace, prosperity, justice or, indeed, human rights.

No one can predict where it might lead, but the author seems willing to try. I love how the prediction is one of doom and gloom.
If Saddam were still in power, he would have stopped this happening. Iraq's dissidents would have paid a price, but the rest of us would be a lot better off. As he goes to meet the hangman, the world has cause to rue his demise.

Those struggling for freedom would have died. The rest of us would have lived your lives as normal. What a noble sentiment this man closes with. Basically he sums up with "Screw you guys. I'd rather keep myself safe."

This article epitomizes the meaning of cowardice. There is no moral center, no backbone, no bravery, no honour, no intestinal fortitude. There is only groveling to a tyrant in a pathetic attempt to save oneself from death... the supposed worst thing that can come.
If this is the new western mindset, if this is enlightenment, I want no part of it.

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