December 15, 2003

The meaning of Saddam's capture

James Petras

The major mass media in the United States and Europe joined the White House in celebrating the capture of Saddam Hussein. Predictably the Western masses joined in jubilation -- with visions of a quick and successful end of the colonial war. In Iraq however, anger is rising throughout the country as the US and satellite forces, intensifying violent entry into thousands of houses, the blowing up of homes of "terrorists suspects" as a form of collective punishment, and the indiscriminant round-up of hundreds of young people in their midnight raids. The present US injustices of arbitrary arrests, destroyed homes, ghetto style walls of barbed wire around villages and towns, the daily assassination of children and civilians are far greater concern to the Iraqi people than the capture of Saddam Hussein. For Washington to put Saddam on trial for human rights violations is a very dangerous move, because the very crimes for which he will be accused are equally applicable to the Anglo-US colonial administration.

The capture of Saddam Hussein, contrary to the US mass media is not a blow against the popular resistance but a major setback to the whole basis for colonial occupation (just like the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction undermined the imperialist pretext for the war). The whole rationale for the US occupation and violent repression of millions of Iraqi people was built around the threat of the "return of Saddam Hussien". We were told he "stole billions of dollars" that he "was financing a network of Baathist terrorists and ex-military specialists" to attack the US "liberation" forces.

The discovery of Saddam in a village hut, buried in a 3 metre hole without communications, or even elementary hygienic facilities indicates a fugitive hiding to secure his individual survival not the secret hand directing a nation-wide resistance movement.

His capture was the result of an informer, not the product of the diligence, torture or investigational skills of his US pursuers or their Mossad advisers. There was no general offensive launched by loyal followers on his capture - only the "usual" dozens of attacks and two major bombings by the Islamic resistance. Both the limited funds found in Saddam's possession and his remote and inaccessible location put the lie to the charge that the actions of the resistance were funded and directed by the ex- president. In summary, Hussein's capture and his condition strongly indicates that he played virtually no leadership role and at best was a symbol for some sectors of the Baathist party who in turn are a small minority in the resistance.

There are many reasons to think the capture of Saddam will increase resistance to the US occupation. For one, the US remains the sole and principle enemy of many Iraqis uniting secular nationalists, Islamists, leftists and others who may have differed in their views of Saddam's leadership in the past. Secondly the discovery of an "isolated" Saddam strengthens the hypothesis that the resistance is a decentralized movement free to develop its own initiative, without centralized control. Thirdly the poverty surrounding Saddam suggests that the "Baathist apparatus" was inoperative and unable to function to provide security to the ex-dictator. Fourthly the isolation of Saddam underlines the fact that the current national resistance is not a "restorationist" movement but rather a movement to renew national sovereignty and establish a viable electoral system free of imperial selected leaders.

What is likely to occur if Saddam is brought to trial? He may present some damning evidence of his long term and intimate relations with the US government up to the first Gulf War. He could even call upon Bush Father, Rumsfeld, Baker and Israeli leaders of the 1980's as character witnesses. He could further detail and demonstrate the absence of weapons of mass destruction - thus hammering another nail in the coffin of Washington and Israel's litany of lies justifying the war. Or perhaps Saddam will suffer an unforeseen fatal illness during his interrogation and internment and be unable to provide impertinent evidence that might embarrass Bush's presidential aspirations.

Most likely the logic of the anti-colonial resistance will further polarize Iraqi society to the great disadvantage of the US. As the resistance grows, particularly its attacks on local collaborators, especially the police, there is likely to be fewer "volunteers" and more infiltration by resistance militants, unwilling collaborators and double agents among the security forces. The response outside Iraq also reveals a greater polarization. Sharon has signaled to his Zionist supporters in the Pentagon that , after Saddam, it is time to target Syria, Iran and Lebanon, while on the other hand, the EU signs wide ranging agreements with the Assad regime. Within the Bush regime there are growing differences between extremist Zionists (Wolfowitz, Feith, Abrams) and their influential Washington collaborators (Perle, Kagan, Cohen, Kristol, Pipes) on the one hand and the "realists" in the State Department and the White House over the issue of world-wide "regime change". The Zionists in the Pentagon under the pretext of a "global campaign to impose democracy" seek to deepen and extend US intervention to destroy Israel's opponents. The realists are increasingly aware of the political costs in the forthcoming presidential elections and the danger of following the lead of policy makers with real or apparent dual loyalties.

The capture of Saddam and the heightening anti-colonial resistance increases the likelihood that some of the Democratic presidential candidate will argue that the "goal" of the intervention was the capture of Saddam and that it is time to convoke early elections and withdraw troops. This is likely to resonate within broad sectors of the electorate who are fed up with the rising political and economic costs of the invasion, the corruption and theft by the war contractors and the Israel lobbies' zealous pursuit of its special agenda at the expense of US national interests.

It is the nature of the US media to inflate the propaganda victories, like the capture of Saddam, for a few days, capture the attention of the public, stimulate an artificial euphoria and then when the reality of the prolonged Iraqi national liberation struggle re-emerges and the list of dead and wounded US soldiers increases it is common for the US public to look for someone to blame, to accuse and to reject.

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