2022 / 8 / 31
Remarks Regarding an Article
By Sheri Laizer and Commentaries
By Nemat Sharif
I was surprised to read Sheri Laizer’s articles trying to beautify a face Saddam ruined himself in the more than three decades of his ruling Iraq with iron-fist and terror. I thought the writer was a friend of the oppressed peoples (not a country) such as the Iraqi people in general and the Kurds in particular under Saddam Hussein. I had met her in the 1990’s at a ceremony honoring one of the Kurdish friends for his humanitarian work with refugees. Indeed, it is strange to see a European writer who enjoys western democracy to the fullest, but who also praises´-or-at least justifies the brutality of one of the worst dictatorships of the century. Here I will try to-limit- these remarks to Saddam Hussein and his rule. What is happening in Iraq now does not change´-or-justify what preceded it. But the former paves the way for what follows.
Saddam Hussein in his brutality and bloodshed surpassed Hitler for Hitler cared for and loved his homeland, although the wrong way, and did not massacre Germans. Yes, Hitler was a racist so was Saddam. Indeed, Michel Aflaq (1), the founder of the Baath Party was a faithful student of Mussolini. Hitler said ‘Germany above all’. The Baath’s ‘one Arab nation with an eternal mission’ embodies a similar message for Arabs. Hitler wanted to bring the world under German domination. Saddam Hussein committed war crimes and genocide of large groups of Iraqi people, (i.e. Kurds and Shiites), the very people he was supposed to protect. The question that arises most strongly is: Why does a writer with a long history of writing and politics who presents herself as an expert on Middle Eastern affairs tries to polish one of the brazen dictatorial faces of our modern times. She attacks his opponents at home and abroad and disparages their grievances under the pretext of corruption, violence and non-democracy! It has been said, money and power are the biggest spoilers of governance. Only a few pass this difficult test. Unfortunately, Iraqi politicians have failed. No one in power today can claim sainthood the world over. Saints do not seek money and power. Is the writer bored of western liberal democracies and the capitalist way of life as it is drenched in seeking money and pleasure? Let’s leave power to politicians!
I do not hate anyone, not even defenders of Saddam Hussein after his departure from this world. I consider such an endeavor a kind of intellectual diversion that is neither useful nor justified. This is why I am looking deep down for a reason for the tendency to follow this thorny path. Is it to gain ‘fame through controversy’,´-or-is it sympathy for dictators? If so, they are many! Will the next project be whitewashing the North Korean president´-or-justifying what the Turkish sultan is doing?´-or-is it the rush behind the gains from a book if it is picked up and published by a commercial publishing house?´-or-what?
In the comments and responses, I noticed the lack of distinction between politicians who abuse power´-or-are tempted by money, and peoples’ issues through which they gained their fame, money and power. Peoples’ issues remain legitimate and just even when their goals are achieved´-or-abused. Libertarian, social and reformist movements may veer off their course, but correction is inevitable. This inevitability parallels democratic determinism when John Dewey said, "The cure for the ailments of democracy is more democracy." The power of democracy for citizens is to govern themselves to the fullest extent possible rather than delegating their authority and responsibility to representatives acting on their behalf-;- let alone one man representing everyone, as Saddam Hussein once said, "If Saddam speaks Iraq speaks."
But "how can any ruler who tries to keep Iraq as a country cohesive do that,´-or-can he do it?"(Laizer). The solution is in true democracy without cheating´-or-puns. Thus, the question of listing internal and external threats to justify dictatorship is moot,´-or-at least contentious issue that no sane can accept. Look at the western countries! Iraq is not the only multi-national and multi-sectarian country in the world. Democratic countries have their share of ethnic, religious, and sectarian ‘fault lines’. In the United States alone there are dozens, if not hundreds, of sects, religions, and ethnic groups. All of them live under the big tent of democracy in harmony and peace. This is not to say that the American people and their officials are all angels and saints-;- and the American society is not as hoped, but the political will of the people represented by the democratic system has not and will not allow to be dragged into infighting´-or-the emergence of dictatorship. One may ask: what happened on January 6, 2021? Yes, those events (2) were a big stab at democracy and the rule of law, but the will of people prevailed, and the anarchists are paying the price of recklessness, including the former President Donald Trump. Yes, the slogans "America First" and "make America great again" played a role in mobilizing anarchists.
Force and brutality are not the most effective way to deal with the regime s "enemies," so to speak, especially when the enemy is internal and from the people the regime is supposed to protect. Here, I commend the writer for her careful choice of words, including ‘friend of the country’ and did not say ‘friend’´-or-‘friend of the people’, and described Saddam Hussein as a ‘ruler’ and not ‘president’ because each has its connotation, i.e. a ruler is a military person who came to power in some way, often in a coup´-or-by appointment, such as Saddam and Bremer respectively. Neither came to rule Iraq through legitimate and fair elections.
When the guards are wolves, the herd follows with heads down. Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was a police state that practiced state terrorism in broad daylight. The "president" sat behand a desk exercising gang powers in the lavish al-Khuld Hall in a proceeding came to be known as the ‘massacre of comrades’. As he read the names from a list prepared for execution, his comrades filled the hall, some trembling in fear and others silently shedding tears for their comrades being executed in cold blood in an adjoining room. Imagine this terrifying scene as if it were a scene from Dante s Inferno. This is followed by the ever-present scene in the minds of Iraqis as a family would wake up at dawn on the kicks of armed and masked men to lead a family member, often the father, to never be seen again, a phenomenon in Iraqi literature code named ‘the visitors at dawn’. There is no need to recount major events in Iraq s history under Saddam, i.e. use of chemical weapons, Anfal and burying people alive, drying up of marshes, violations of holy sites and many other atrocities.
As for torture and its methods under Saddam Hussein, it reached a level that seldom found elsewhere in world dictatorships such as acid pools, cutting off parts of ears, nose,´-or-tongues, and prison cleansing (mass executions) campaigns supervised by his son Qusay Saddam Hussein. (4)
As for describing the Kurdish liberation movement as the “dissident tribal Kurds”, I think, is grossly unfair. The Kurdish resistance and liberation movement were not born yesterday, and will not be veered off its path by a corrupt official, a writer s article, conflicts of parties´-or-a stumbling block, no matter how big´-or-protracted. The fate of the people is determined by the collective will of the people and not by the will of a person despite the role that a charismatic leader may play in speeding up´-or-slowing down events. The triumph of the will of the people is inevitable. This was beautifully put into a verse by a Tunisian poet:
"If people one day wills life*** then fate shall respond
The night shall be clear*** and the chains shall break." (5)
(1) Aswat, numbers 1-7 of the 1980’s. (Arabic), as well as: Dr. Abdul Hussein Shaban s articles in Al-Mada newspaper (Arabic), including: (https://almadapaper.net/view.php?cat=257345)
(3) On the afternoon of January 6, 2021, a group of Donald Trump supporters tried to interfere in the certification of votes from the 2020 presidential election. They looted the Capitol, destroyed property, and forced members of Congress and their staff to hide. One protester died and more than 100 members of the law enforcement were injured.
(4) The Black Book: Stop this man from demolishing the Kaaba: Saddam Hussein. A documentary book on the fascism of the Baathist regime. Also, there are many documents and annual reports of international human rights organizations that describes torture in Saddam’s Iraq in detail.
(5) Abu al-Qasim al-Shabi, “the Will of Life”