Saddam Hussein’s Dates with Death

SOROOR AHMED picks up two important dates from former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein�s life that could ultimately lead to his disaster.

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SOROOR AHMED picks up two important dates from former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein�s life that could ultimately lead to his disaster.

At least two dates might have been haunting Saddam Hussein while he was being pushed to the gallows. They are September 22, 1980 and August 2, 1990 – the days Iran and Kuwait were invaded. While at the zenith of his power he would have never, in his wildest imagination, thought that these two dates would ultimately lead to his disaster.

The two blunders not only brought his and his sons’ end but went a long way to change the very nature of the politics of the region in particular and the world in general. Iran was attacked following the direct encouragement by the United States, its European and Middle Eastern allies after the CIA failed to stage a counter-coup and destabilise Ayatullah Khomeini-led February 11, 1979 Islamic Revolution.

In the case of Kuwait he fell into trap very well laid by his own western friends, particularly George Bush-I. As the Soviet Union had just collapsed, the United States tried to capitalise the vacuum and to pre-empt the emergence of any other forces, especially Islamic. It instigated Saddam to carry an aggression against Kuwait, which solidly supported and financed Saddam throughout the eight-year old war with Iran. Saddam accused Kuwait of illegally drilling Iraqi oil from beneath the latter’s territorial water and land. Even if for the argument sake we accept that the charge was true and not wholly baseless, we can realise that Kuwait and Iraq were two friends and they could have worked out a peaceful formula.

But Saddam was in no mood whatsoever to make any compromise as he was really interested in emerging as a hero. The Iranian misadventure proved too costly and counter-productive as millions of lives were lost on both the sides. Iraq, threw to wind all the social and war norms while fighting Iran while the latter showed great resilience and patience. The world remained a mute spectator when Iraqi forces attacked all the civilian targets of Iran – even with gas and chemical weapons supplied by the West – and targeted cargo vessels of different countries entering the Persian Gulf. Those were the supreme examples of Saddam’s madness. But Iranians never used the same method during the war and tried their level best to avoid civilian losses of Iraqis.

Since this correspondent followed the whole war very closely, what he witnessed was that whenever Iran showed willingness to end the war and agree for some peace agreement the Iraqis would either target some civilian area or ship in the Persian Gulf to flare up the battle once again. This was simply because Saddam wanted to prolong the war and keep his army engaged as they were becoming headache for him.

Even when Khomeini finally accepted ceasefire, Iraqi forces attacked Ahwaz. After eight years of blood-letting on the eastern border the Iraqi army within weeks attacked Kurdish with the same gas and chemicals which they used in Iran. Thousands perished. No, he did not do so because there was really any big threat from the Kurd separatists. He did so to divert the attention of army which after eight years or war with Iran was feeling quite let down. Iraqi army achieved no objective whatsoever in that war and at the fag end the Iranian once even came close to Basra and captured Fao island of Iraq. It was during the heat of the battle that Israeli jets flew over from Jordan and Saudi Arabia, entered Iraq and bombed the nuclear plant near Baghdad. Saddam’s army or air force could do nothing, not even fire a bullet on them.

Saddam, after the war with Iran, wanted to keep his completely demoralised army engaged and gave them a free hand in Kurdistan, where once again the targets were the helpless men, women and children – all Muslims. The ‘victory’ in Kurdistan gave a sense of achievement to Iraqi army. But even that was not enough and demoralisation was not yet over.

Saddam grew impatient as he had no card whatsoever to play to keep the army at the bay. There was nobody left to fight then and he was feeling threatened. So in a sudden shift in stand he ordered invasion of Kuwait. Till a few days before this was never thought by anyone in the world, even by the closest friend of Saddam.

The Great Satan, to borrow the expression often used by Khomeini for the United States, found this as the best opportunity to land its forces as there was no Soviet Union left in the world. A canard was spread that Saudi Arabia had invited the US forces to come and free Kuwait as Saddam may now attack some other countries of the region. The truth is that it was only the US and its allies which were really keen to wage a war against Iraq. The Arabs were forced to agree all the conditions and even asked to pay the expense for the war.

Saddam’s army fought the 1991 battle stupidly. Instead of attacking the American and western forces on the border the Iraqis fired outdated scud missiles inside Israel only to earn the cheers from the Muslim masses, who were not in fact aware of the real game. Only one effective scud was fired at the Dammam base of the US in which officially 27 American soldiers were killed. Unofficial sources put the much higher toll.

But the US never wanted to kill or get rid of Saddam. Its army ‘liberated’ Kuwait and handed over to the same licentious Emir. The Allied army even went deep inside Southern Iraq and could have captured Baghdad in no time. But in a planned move they abandoned the campaign and remained contended with Kuwait.

The US did not really want to destabilise Saddam as they got a man who after all was serving its purpose in the best possible way, first consciously and now by default. Saddam exit would lead to the rise of Iran and other Islamic forces of the region. Therefore he was kept alive for possible future game. Getting rid of him so quickly would have amounted to biting more than one can chew.

So after the 1991 war was over the US tried to instigate the Shias of the South to revolt against Saddam. But instead of supporting the Shias the US looked the other way round and let their massacre took place. In fact, it wanted to weaken both Saddam and the Shias.

So after 9/11 when Afghanistan crumbled the US thought it better to get rid of Saddam, too. This time the bogey of weapons of mass destruction was raised when the position was that Iraq was on its own not even in the position of producing a single pistol. Baghdad was occupied and Saddam was finally captured on December 13, 2003. On Eid-al-Adha day 2006 he was executed. It is in the best interest of the western countries to make a martyr of him as they wanted to keep the Muslims involved and divided on such maverick leaders.

It is the tragedy of the Muslims throughout the world that they always threw themselves behind men like Saddam Hussein, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Gamal Abdul Nasser, etc. – all of whom destroyed their respective countries. Saddam supervised the complete destruction of Iraq, Iran, Kuwait and then the entire Middle East. Bhutto was among the main culprits responsible for the dismemberment of his own country when he refused to allow Sheikh Mujibur Rahman become the Prime Minister of Pakistan even though the latter secured absolute majority in Parliamentary election. Gamal Abdul Nasser’s huge army could not stop a small band of Israeli Defence Forces from occupying the entire Sinai peninsula in just less than three days. If 1,500 Hizbullah could stop 30,000 to 40,000 Israelis last year how is that Nasser’s well prepared and fully alert army failed?

We make those leaders heroes and martyrs who let their countries down and ensure their defeat, and not men like Ayatullah Khomeini, under whose leadership Iranians single-handedly fought the Americans or Zia-ul-Haq, who in a very planned manner not only pre-empted the Soviet invasion of Baluchistan but forced the Soviet troops to retreat from Afghanistan, which ultimately proved too costly.

Saddam’s execution sends the chill down the spine of General Pervez Musharraf, Hamid Karzai, Hosni Mubarak and all the Emirs and Kings of the Gulf as Super Powers – be it the USA or Soviet Union in the past – know the art of getting rid of their friends. The Soviets got Noor Mohammad Tarakki, Hafizullah Amin and finally Babrak Karmal murdered though all were very close friends. Similarly the US got President Diem of South Vietnam eliminated though he was a close ally and even a Christian in the predominantly Buddhist country. Use it and throw it is after all the best policy.