The Curse of Saddam

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The Curse of Saddam

by Eric Margolis by Eric Margolis

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The Bush/Cheney Administration has never concealed its sneering contempt for international law or world public opinion. Even so, the lynching of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq established a new nadir for America and shocked the entire globe.

This sordid act, which grossly violated international law, the Geneva Conventions, and basic human decency, provoked a well-deserved storm of criticism around the globe against the Bush/Cheney Administration. It also rekindled demands for an international abolition of the death penalty.

Washington professed surprise and denied blame for this disgusting spectacle. More lies. Saddam had been under US guard in a US-run prison in Baghdad’s US-run Green Zone. He was transferred under US guard to a US-run execution prison. What did US officials think would happen when they turned him over to a raging lynch mob of vengeful Shias? A parade?

The United States has already been heavily criticized for stage-managing the Soviet-style show trial and rigged kangaroo court that condemned Saddam and two of his closest henchmen.

It’s clear Iraq’s deposed leader was hurriedly executed to prevent him from revealing embarrassing details about his long collusion with the US, Britain, and Arab states.

Saddam’s principal crime was launching an unprovoked war against Iran that cost over one million casualties. This crime was never mentioned in President Hussein’s trial because, at the time, his principal accomplices were the United States, Britain, and the Arab oil monarchs. Dead men tell no tales.

Ironically, Saddam’s courage and dignity on the gallows will reinforce his claim to martyrdom and make him the hero in death that he certainly was not in life. This process has already begun.

By contrast, the UN’s new South Korean secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, who was maneuvered into office by Washington, shamefully supported Saddam’s execution even though the UN has long opposed the death penalty, and its human rights chief, Louise Arbour, had condemned the brutal execution. This was an inauspicious start for a timid yes-man.

This week, the Bush/Cheney Administration is widely expected to announce plans to deploy another 20,000 or more troops to Iraq and allocate billions more for the war effort and economic reconstruction. This will be George Bush’s petulant reply to the bipartisan Iraq Study Group’s wise proposal that all US combat forces withdraw from Iraq within a year.

Senior American generals charged with Iraq, including Gen. John Abazaid and Gen. George Casey, openly disagreed with Bush’s plans for a u201Csurgeu201D in US troop deployment. These able officers told media they didn’t need more troops. They warned additional US troops would deter Iraq’s Shia regime from developing its own security forces and keep it dependant on the US and death squads.

These statements were a shocker. American generals are not supposed to publicly disagree with the president. Both officers have just been replaced in command. Gen. Abazaid, who speaks Arabic and understands Iraq, is retiring early, in disgust, say friends.

Casey and Abazaid follow another fine officer, former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, who chose duty to America over career. He was forced to retire by the White House after publicly stating a minimum of 300,000 US troops would be needed to pacify Iraq. The 140,000 US troops currently in Iraq, and the 80,000 or so mercenaries (u201Ccivilian contractorsu201D in Pentagon and media doublespeak) supporting them, are stretched to the breaking point and hard pressed to defend their own bases and vulnerable supply lines.

Iraq’s western Anbar Province has become a Ft. Apache for the US Marines, who are barely able to defend their own besieged bases. Iraq’s Sunni resistance forces have almost defeated American forces there in spite of massed US air, artillery, and armor support.

Many US senior military officers privately say it is small wonder Bush, who styles himself the u201Cwar president,u201D is so deficient in military experience and knowledge. A few months in the Texas Air National Guard evading wartime military service during Vietnam certainly did not prepare him to wage two wars. The real power behind the throne, VP Dick Cheney, also avoided military service, claiming he was u201Ctoo busy.u201D

Responsible presidents know when to listen to their generals, and when to retreat from stalemated or lost wars. If Bush does send thousands more troops to Iraq, he will be risking more American lives in a desperate, 11th-hour political gamble to show voters he has a new plan to resolve the horrible mess in Iraq that he created.

The White House’s last gamble may call for stationing the new troops in and around Baghdad to end the chaos in Iraq’s capitol and reinforcing embattled US units in Anbar Province.

But most of the new troops will come from US units currently in Iraq that were due to be withdrawn, or are US-based troops slated for deployment to Iraq. Morale among US occupation forces is already rock bottom. This news about delayed departures and accelerated deployments could ignite the same kind of malaise and indiscipline experienced by US troops in the later part of the lost Vietnam War. It could also get yet more US troops stuck in the Iraqi quagmire.

But 20,000—30,000 more US troops thrown into the cauldron of Iraq will make little military difference. One hundred fifty thousand or more might, but the US has run out of soldiers. Even massive reinforcements will not resolve the basic problem of Iraq’s post-Saddam political instability and the inability of its component groups to forge national consensus.

If Bush pours more troops into this lost war, he will fall into the trap of many bad gamblers who double up their bets in a reckless effort to recoup previous losses.

Bush continues ignoring his generals while still heeding the siren song of the pro-Israel neoconservatives around him. Their goal is not a stable Mideast, but total destruction of Iraq, then Iran.

Current Republican presidential front-runner Sen. John McCain has joined Bush and Cheney in urging more troop be sent to Iraq. All three have clearly lost touch with reality and America’s basic values.

Call it Saddam’s curse.

Eric Margolis [send him mail], contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada, is the author of War at the Top of the World. See his website.

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