Saddam Hussein was a tyrant who committed untold crimes against his own subjects. For three decades he ruled Iraq with an iron grip. The Baath Socialist party which he led was politically sympathetic to the erstwhile Soviet Union. Although a ruthless dictator, Saddam was secular and against religious fundamentalists. Because of his Soviet sympathies he was a friend of India. As a successful dictator Saddam provided stability to Iraq.
Internationally, Saddam was involved in two major crises. First, there was the long and costly Iran-Iraq war which lost around half a million lives. Later, there was Saddam's misadventure arising from his attack on Kuwait. Saddam was foolishly lured into attacking Kuwait by his interaction with the US diplomat stationed in Iraq, April Glaspie. After talking to Ms Glaspie, Saddam believed that America would not intervene if he attacked Kuwait. He therefore attacked Kuwait. But America did intervene. In the Desert Storm war Iraq lost heavily. Ms Glaspie, after being recalled to Washington, was protected from all exposure to media. Even in the Iran-Iraq war Saddam received secret aid from America. Saddam's lawyer, Giovanni Di Stefano, revealed recently how America funded Saddam to acquire chemical weapons. One payment was made by Donald Rumsfeld on December 20, 1983. 'That was why US and UK were certain Saddam did have chemical weapons,' Di Stefano said. Saddam alive could have revealed more. The US, at the same time, was providing aid to Iran through Israel. But no matter how perfidious the US role, it does not exonerate Saddam for launching these misadventures.
All this was history. And Saddam's domestic tyranny was not unique. There were bigger and more vicious tyrants in both the communist and non-communist worlds. They were undisturbed because international relations recognize the sanctity of sovereign nations.
Then, on 9/11, 2001 occurred the terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers in New York. That was when the premeditated US plot against Saddam began to unfold. Richard Clark served as the National Coordinator for Security Infrastructure Protection and Counterterrorism under President Clinton and President Bush inside the White House. A veteran hardliner, he had served under seven US presidents. After 9/11 he resigned his post, charging the Bush administration with subverting the war against terror. Subsequently he wrote a book on the subject ' "Against All Enemies". Among his disclosures two were crucial. First, almost immediately after 9/11 the Bush team was nailing Saddam although all the evidence pointed only to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Clark has described the scene immediately after 9/11.
He wrote: 'I expected a round of meetings examining what our next attacks could be, what we could do about them in the short term. Instead, I walked into a series of discussions about Iraq. At first I was incredulous about talking about something other than getting Al Qaeda. Then I realized with almost a sharp physical pain that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were going to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq. Since the beginning of this administration they had been pressing for a war with Iraq.'
Secondly, Clark was stunned to learn that Al Qaeda operatives identified by FBI had managed to board the plane used for attack on WTO.
'I was stunned, not that the attack was by Al Qaeda but that there were Al Qaeda operatives on board using names that FBI knew were Al Qaeda.'
'How the f*** did they get on board then?' Clark demanded.
'CIA forgot to tell us about them,' one of the good guys in FBI told him.
President Bush told Clark: 'See if Saddam did this. See if he is linked in any way.'
Clark protested: 'But Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this.'
'I know, I know, but see if Saddam is involved. Just look. I want to know any shred...' was Bush's reply.
This raised questions about not only the malafide attack on Iraq but also the truth behind 9/11. Uncommitted journalists had questioned the official line much earlier.
In May, 2004 I wrote: 'Possibly part of the Bush administration knew about the impending WTC attacks and allowed them to happen in order to execute its prior plan to invade Iraq.'
The question now is what will happen next.
Saddam was executed with wide TV coverage. The manner of doing it was seemingly designed to sharpen division between Iraq's Shias and Sunnis, who have held widely divergent views about Saddam. Through the entire Middle-east the Baathists led by Saddam are hated by Shias, and by factions among Sunnis including the Wahabis of Saudi Arabia.
A restructuring of the Middle-East as described in an article by Ralph Peters in the US Armed Forces Journal seems to be the US goal.
The statement by Condoleezza Rice about creating a 'new Middle-east' appeared to bear this out. The execution of Saddam seems to have ensured this.
The backlash might cripple or remove President Bush. No matter. For the architects of the Iraq war he is expendable. The rats have already jumped off the ship they think will sink. Led by Richard Perle they are holding faulty implementation of policies by President Bush as cause of the failure in Iraq.
The Iraq operation should not surprise Indians. They should recall the Partition of the subcontinent. It was consolidated by the post-Partition riots forcing transfer of populations, and by the Kashmir dispute. The British egged on Pakistan to invade Kashmir. This pre-empted Maharaja Hari Singh from declaring Kashmir independent. The British then persuaded Nehru to order a premature ceasefire. Thus was the Kashmir dispute created to permanently divide India and Pakistan.
However, today public opinion worldwide is much more aware. And the American operation in Iraq is much cruder than was the British operation in India. Ironically, a restructuring of West Asia and South Asia is not without merit. Victims of arbitrary colonialism seek affirmation of sub-national identities. This can be achieved through patience, discourse and reason. It requires conscious acceptance of federalism. Appropriate powers should devolve on villages, districts, provinces, sovereign nations and international communities coalesced by historical ties.
This is the challenge confronting South Asia. From Baluchistan to Nagaland, from Kashmir to Jaffna, each sub-nationality would feel the glow of self-governance in such a South Asian Community.
South Asia could show America the way.