The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Tariq Ali on Saddam Hussein

This is a pretty weak piece (and has some facts wrong, notably on the silence of European leaders over the death penalty -- they did make token protests) but I liked the title, "What's Good for Saddam May Be Good for Mubarak or the Saudi Royals." One lives in hope.

That Saddam was a tyrant is beyond dispute, but what is conveniently forgotten is that most of his crimes were committed when he was a staunch ally of those who now occupy the country. It was, as he admitted in one of his trial outbursts, the approval of Washington (and the poison gas supplied by West Germany) that gave him the confidence to douse Halabja with chemicals in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war. He deserved a proper trial and punishment in an independent Iraq. Not this. The double standards applied by the West never cease to astonish. Indonesia's Suharto who presided over a mountain of corpses (At least a million to accept the lowest figure) was protected by Washington. He never annoyed them as much as Saddam.

And what of those who have created the mess in Iraq today? The torturers of Abu Ghraib; the pitiless butchers of Fallujah; the ethnic cleansers of Baghdad, the Kurdish prison boss who boasts that his model is Guantanamo. Will Bush and Blair ever be tried for war crimes? Doubtful. And Aznar, currently employed as a lecturer at Georgetown University in Washington, DC , where the language of instruction is English of which he doesn't speak a word. His reward is a punishment for the students.

Saddam's hanging might send a shiver through the collective, if artificial, spine of the Arab ruling elites. If Saddam can be hanged, so can Mubarak, or the Hashemite joker in Amman or the Saudi royals, as long as those who topple them are happy to play ball with Washington.
Incidentally, even if you don't agree with Tariq Ali's far-left politics (or the whiny tone of pieces like this one that don't really tell us much we don't already know), his book Clash of Fundamentalisms has some very interesting chapters on Pakistan and Indonesia, which were quite a revelation to a South Asia novice like me.