WHAT WOULD THE U.S. DO WITHOUT SADDAM?By Eric Margolis - 23 Sept 1996
Last week, I listened to an American academic `expert' on Iraq fulminate that Saddam Hussein was behind the bombings of the New York World Trade Center, the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the downing of TWA flight 800, and numerous other nefarious acts.
I took this Philippic with many grains of salt. Some of the media's current `anti-terrorism experts' are really paid propagandists for Mideast nations. Which one might be funding this particular exercise in demonology, I wondered?
One good soul in our discussion group hotly demanded, `Why don't we take out Saddam?' Good question, and one asked by many Americans. Here's why not:
Because Saddam Hussein is a key part of the control mechanism used by the west to dominate Mideast oil. The loathsome Saddam, and his sinister Iraq, are the bastard children of Britain and America.
We don't use the Victorian term `imperialism' any more to describe the west's domination of Mideast resources. The current euphemism is, `America's vital interests.' Invocation of this term allows the US to meddle in the affairs of soverign nations, overthrow their governments, and, when necessary, go to war for the sake of cheap gasoline. It applies mainly to the Mideast, where America's normal policy of promoting democracy, free speech and human rights around the world is suspended in favor of keeping regimes in power who keep down the price of oil.
Britain's old Arab `protectorates,' are today's `America's Arab allies.' The rapidly growing US military presence in the Mideast is aimed at protecting US-backed rulers from the anger of their own peoples as much as from rapacious neighbors. The words are different, but the song remains the same.
In the 1920's, the victorious British Empire created the mutant state of Iraq from the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire in order to grab Mesopotamia's recently discovered oil, deny this oil to Turkey, and open a land route to India. Three totally disparate regions were stitched together into a chronically unstable, rebellious mess. Kurds in the oil-rich north; Shia's in the south. In the middle, Sunni Muslims; Chaldean, Nestorian, and Assyrian Christians; and Jews. At the time, Baghdad was a leading center of Jewish culture and population.
Iraq seethed with revolt. The British bombed and gassed rebellious Kurds, battled Shias, and jailed nationalists - just as Saddam does today. When the British Empire collapsed in 1945, America took over, forging a new Mideast Raj.
The US overthrew the nationalist governments of Iran and Syria. When an Iraqi officer, Col. Kassem, overthrew the British puppet monarchy in Baghdad, CIA agents tried unsuccessfully to assassinate him with a poisoned handkerchief. CIA helped a certain Col. Aref gun down Col.Kassem. Aref was murdered. Many bodies later, Saddam Hussein shot his way to power, probably with some American help.
But when Saddam stabilized Iraq through terror and began building its economy and military forces, the US, Israel and Iran joined to destabilize Iraq by financing and arming Kurdish rebels in the north. After an Islamic revolution overthrew the Shah of Iran, the US ditched the Kurds, and backed Saddam Hussein as new policeman of the Gulf.
Washington and London encouraged Saddam to invade Iran, producing an 8-year war that caused one million casualties. The west secretly armed Iraq, and supplied the poison gas plants and toxic materials that Saddam ruthlessly used against Iranians, and later, against rebellious Kurds. The west never protested such barbarity - because those being gassed or poisoned were Muslim troublemakers.
When the war ended, however, Saddam, became too big for his jackboots. He had pretensions that Iraq, which has the Mideast's second largest oil reserves, should be a regional power, and armed, like Israel, with weapons of mass destruction.
Alarmed, the US set about bringing down Saddam. Kuwait was used to goad Iraq by running down oil prices, filching Iraqi oil by slant drilling, and publically insulting Saddam. Washington then gave Iraq what Baghdad believed was a green light to invade irksome Kuwait. When Saddam struck, former Texas oilman George Bush sprang the trap.
But Bush did not `take out' Saddam at war's end for two good reasons. First, contrary to Desert Storm disinformation and propaganda, the main force units of the Iraqi Army remained intact. Bush had no intention to fight his way into Baghdad, or end up governing and policing ungovernable Iraq.
Second, if Saddam fell,Iran and Turkey would probably invade and divvy up Iraq's oil regions. The Saudis and Bush realized they needed a Saddam to hold Iraq together and keep Iran at bay - but with his wings clipped.
A series of feeble but very expensive CIA operations were mounted aimed at replacing Saddam with an equally ferocious, but more pro-American despot. This effort humiliatingly collapsed three weeks ago as Saddam ran the CIA and its various networks out of northern Iraq. To cover this pre- election fiasco, Clinton barraged Iraq with $300 million of cruise missiles.
The US also needs Saddam as Mideast bogeyman. After Iraq invaded Kuwait, Washington terrified the Saudis into allowing US forces into Arabia by showing them satellite photos doctored to depict an impending, but actually non- existent, Iraqi attack. Now, the US is again using Saddam, as an excuse to increase its permanent military garrisons in the region. This week, Washington dispatched more troops to Kuwait without even bothering to first seek Kuwaiti permission.
And, of course, American presidents reply on Mideast malefactors to boost popularity and prove their machismo. Reagan made excellent use of Libya's zany Khadaffi. Thanks to Saddam, Bush went from `wimp' to hero. Clinton's latest missile attacks on Iraq eclipsed the Dole campaign and scotched talk about a weak, draft-dodging president.
One night during World War II, Hitler observed, `When I finish conquering Russia, I'm going to put that man Stalin back in charge. He's the only person who knows how to deal with Russians.'
And that holds just as true for Saddam, and for poor,
copyright Eric Margolis 1996