Let’s Go For War No. 3
His catalog of crimes is impressive.
He had a secret police that tortured and murdered tens of thousands of people. People disappeared; his soldiers used poison gas on his own citizens; he exiled many. Rape was a political tool. Sources of food were destroyed to starve political enemies, usually those who were different in religion or ethnicity.
The worst of his violence was directed at Shiites and Kurds who were opposed to his dictatorial rule. No one has an accurate count of his victims, but estimates number more than a million at the high end.
That’s the story of Saddam Hussein’s 24-year-reign in Iraq, according to Wikipedia.
In Britain, a Labor Party MP, Ann Clywid wrote an article in the Sunday Times in 2003 with the headline “See men shredded, then say you don’t back war”.
She quotes an Iraqi like this: “There was a machine designed for shredding plastic. Men were dropped into it and we were again made to watch. Sometimes they went in head first and died quickly. Sometimes they went in feet first and died screaming. It was horrible. I saw 30 people die like this. Their remains would be placed in plastic bags and we were told they would be used as fish food . . . on one occasion, I saw Qusay [President Saddam Hussein’s youngest son] personally supervise these murders.”
The United States led an invasion of Iraq in 2003 and quickly rolled over Iraq’s military machine. Anyone — even strong opponents of the war — who remembers the pictures of Iraqis’ knocking down the dictator’s statues, hammering them and screaming in joy had to be moved. But in a couple of years, the causes of war seemed to evaporate. There were no weapons of mass destruction, there were no plastic shredders.
The murders were real enough, but many perceptions changed. One of the victims of Saddam Hussein’s torture talked to the Guardian in the U.K. in 2007:
The weightlifter had also been a mechanic and had felt the full weight of Saddam’s regime when he was sent to Abu Ghraib prison by the Iraqi leader’s son, Uday, after complaining that he had not been paid for fixing his motorcycle.
He explained: “There were lots of people from my tribe who were also put in prison or hanged. It became my dream ever since I saw them building that statue to one day topple it.”
On Saturday, the United States and Britain fired 110 cruise missiles at Libya (according to CNN in late afternoon) and the leader of the invasion, France, blew up a truck. It’s on.
This famous quotation nags at me: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana said it in 1905.
Don’t be too literal minded. In no way do I want to suggest that Qaddafi equals Saddam Hussein, although when Saddam Hussein was executed in 2007, Qaddafi promised to build a bigger statue for him in Libya. It was an Arab thing, he said. I couldn’t find any reference that said whether he followed through or not.
The trouble with the opening of this third simultaneous war against an Islamic country is that I cannot find anything that tells me anything about exactly what we’re fighting for, or rather who we’re fighting for.
I hope it’s a lot more than a bunch of words, abstract words that may mean very different things across cultures.