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It is not about Saddam anymore
April 05, 2003
This war is about liberation of the Iraqi people. This war is about introducing democracy not only in Iraq but also in the entire Arab world. This war is about getting rid of Weapons of Mass Destruction. That is what we were told.
Till day 16 of the war, what we have seen is that in order to destroy Weapons of Mass Destruction (which Iraq may or may not have) the US and UK forces are carrying out mass destruction of Iraq by using 'smart' bombs, cluster bombs, B52s etc etc. In his report from Iraq on dropping of cluster bombs by the Americans, Robert Fisk [The Independent, UK, April 3] writes: 'The wards of the Hillah teaching hospital are proof that something illegal -- something quite outside the Geneva Convention -- occurred in the villages around the city once known as Babylon.' Then he concludes the report with: 'One hesitates, as I say, to talk of human rights in this land of torture but if the Americans and British don't watch out, they are likely to find themselves condemned for what they have always -- and rightly -- accused Iraq of: war crimes.'
On liberation and democracy the line propagated by the US and UK is simple. Once Saddam's 'evil' regime is dislodged, the US and UK will put Iraq on a democratic path. Then the shining democracy in Iraq would be an example in the entire Arab world and help to create democracy in neighboring countries.
That sounds good. But there are two points which needs to be addressed. 1. Liberation by occupation -- which is what the US and UK are planning to do though they will say otherwise -- does not sound logical. You can't liberate people by occupying their country. In fact an occupation will give rise to a movement for liberation. 2. Is the leadership of the US and UK really serious about democratization of Iraq? Do they have necessary will to walk the talk?
Let us revive our memories. Not so long ago, in order to 'liberate' Afghanistan from the 'evil' Soviet empire, the Western world, led by America (who else?), fought a different kind of war. America, with the help of an Islamic fundamentalist dictator (please note, dictator -- not democratically elected leader) of Pakistan, promoted Islamic fundamentalist resistance against the 'evil' Soviet empire.
In the words of Eqbal Ahmad, the late Pakistani intellectual, 'American operatives went about the Muslim world recruiting for jihad in Afghanistan, because the US saw it as an opportunity to mobilize the Muslim world to liberate Afghanistan from the 'evil' Soviet empire.'
Mr Ahmad adds further: 'The notion of jihad as a "just struggle" had not existed in the Muslim world since the tenth century until the United States revived it during its jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.'
The jihadis with ample aid from CIA did manage to 'liberate' Afghanistan from the 'evil' Soviet empire; however instead of democracy what Afghanistan got was the most retrograde regime in the world. The success of the CIA-sponsored jihad also made Osama bin Laden free to try a similar jihad against what he saw as another 'evil' empire: The United States.
When the chickens came home to roost on September 11, 2001, America had to fight another war, once again to 'liberate' the Afghan people from the 'evil' regime headed by the people once described by Ronald Reagan, the then president of the United States of America, as 'the moral equivalent of America's founding fathers.'
Did the second war for 'liberation' of the Afghan people result in a democratic government in Afghanistan? Well one may argue that it is too early to ask that question. Fine, let me ask another one. Is 'liberated' Afghanistan on her way to democracy? The only thing we know about what is happening in Afghanistan is that Hamid Karzai, the 'leader' of Afghanistan needs to be protected, literally, by the Americans.
Coming back to Iraq, all the assumptions of the US and the armchair Iraqi 'Opposition leaders' sitting in air-conditioned cabins in the US have been proved wrong. There is no uprising in Iraq. The Iraqis are not welcoming the US and UK forces. There are no photo-ops of 'V for victory' signs by 'liberated' Iraqis anywhere even after 'remarkable' progress by the Allied forces deep inside Iraq. The Iraqis are not fleeing, in fact thousands of Iraqis have returned home from neighboring countries since the war started.
The majority of Iraqis may not like Saddam Hussein. But are they ready to accept occupation of their country by outsiders? Are the Iraqis telling America something, which it needs to be told: that Iraq is for Iraqis what America is to Americans? Is it nationalism, which is playing its just part in the hearts and minds of Iraqis?
Even though Tony Blair has said eventually it will be the Iraqis, which will rule Iraq, it is certain there would be a considerable 'interim period' during which the US will occupy Iraq. In that interim period, could America afford to promote democracy in Iraq? What if the emerging democratic setup is unwilling to be America's poodle? Would America still promote democracy or will it prop up a dictator?
Think about democracies in the world. How many democracies have been propped up by American power? Now count the dictators propped up by America. It is clear that because the dictators -- who have the least respect for the wishes of their people -- are easy to get on its side, the most famous democracy in the world finds it comfortable to deal with dictators more than democratic leaders. How many people would then bet on America actually promoting democracy in Iraq?
If the interim period is long (as it seems it will be), what if the Iraqis see that as an occupation of their country? How would Iraqis respond to the occupation? They certainly can't be faulted if they don't like being ruled by foreign forces; after all, it is their country. What if the Iraqis start fighting the American forces? Would they be termed as terrorists? Will we see the vicious circle of: 'Stop terrorism first and then we will give you self rule,' like what we are seeing in Palestine?
With the UN proving to be ineffective, its credibility damaged perhaps beyond repair, whom would the Iraqis -- wanting to get rid of America's occupation -- turn to? What if the jihadi forces offer their services to help Iraqis get rid of the Americans (well, they have already started to do so and cornered Saddam's regime has given a warm welcome to them)? After all, jihad as an instrument for fighting foreign forces was used by the US in Afghanistan in a successful manner. The only people who must be delighted with this war must be the jihadis. They must be thanking Bush for opening a new job market for them.
That is not the only worrying factor. If one needs a proof of America's sheer lack of understanding of the consequences of this war, then it came from Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, last week. In a televised comment he provoked the Shias of Iraq to rise (against the Sunni rule of Saddam Hussein). It is not only distasteful but sickening that a senior American leader is engaging in a blatant and open provocation for one community to rise against another.
What are the consequences of such provocation? Will not it result in civil disturbances not only in Iraq but also all over the Muslim world? How is this going to help the democratization of Iraq in particular and the Arab/Muslim world in general? How is it going to help restore order in Iraq and the Muslim world?
The only benefit of such blatant provocation is that it will help the US-led forces to dislodge Saddam Hussein faster. But the consequences of such provocation are far more dangerous. So could we conclude that the Americans are only interested in quicker military victory irrespective of how it comes and what the consequences are?
This war has now taken an unexpected turn -- thanks to the Iraqi people's reluctance to accept the Americans at their face value. Where Saddam Hussein is not an issue, George Bush is.
Now it is Bush who needs to prove that he is not just a 'trigger-loving cowboy having a jolly good time' with Saddam Hussein's depleted army, but a capable leader of the only superpower in the world. For Bush, proving that would be a hard work.
Sajid Bhombal can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org