When they finally hang Saddam Hussein, we’ll probably miss him. He has, after all, been an obsession of American politicians since 1991. Since the Washington media obsess over whatever the politicians obsess over, Saddam’s face has adorned our television screens for 14 years. He bears a strong resemblance, by the way, to the late actor Walter Matthau.
Saddam, without a doubt, has gotten more air time and more ink than any dictator in the post-World War II world. Never before has so much attention been lavished on a man who, on the world stage, has always been so insignificant.
Iraq, being a relatively small country, with a population of about 25 million people divided into three quarreling groups, never in its history posed a threat to the world. The demonization of Saddam has always been political bull. The only country Iraq ever conquered was Kuwait, which is a postage stamp of a country.
The Kuwaiti leadership fled in their Mercedes, Rolls-Royces and Cadillacs at the sound of the first shot. I’ve never forgotten an anonymous quote in a Wall Street Journal story. The reporter had asked someone, apparently a Kuwaiti leader, why he was not fighting for his country. "That is what we have our American slaves for," he is quoted as saying.
The Iraqis fought Iran, much to the glee and with the assistance of the United States, but they lost. And Iraq was never a significant factor in any of the Israeli-Arab wars, all of which Israel won. So Saddam’s record was only 1-1, assuming you want to call the invasion of Kuwait a victory. It started in the morning and was over by the afternoon.
The fact that Iraq developed and used chemical weapons in its war with Iran is not significant at all. Those weapons were developed in World War I and were used by both the Allies and the Germans. Iran also used them in the 1980s war. It should be noted, as further proof of the basic dishonesty of the American government, that when the chemical attack so often cited by the Bush administration as proof of Saddam’s evil actually occurred, an official U.S. government investigation blamed it on the Iranians.
Now Saddam is entertaining us again with his phony trial. "Hey, you with the glasses," he shouted recently, referring to the judge. He asserts that the trial is illegal because our invasion was illegal, and therefore, from a legal standpoint, he is still the president of Iraq. What’s funny is that he’s right — not that that will save him.
But it really is true that our invasion of Iraq was illegal. Iraq was not at war with us, was not preparing to go to war with us and was not a threat to us. Furthermore, Iraq had complied with United Nations resolutions and gotten rid of its weapons of mass destruction, despite the torrent of lies to the contrary that the Bush administration unleashed.
We committed what international law forbids — a war of aggression. And it is true that American invaders are, in effect, trying Saddam. The law and the courts were set up during the occupational government, and the judges were trained by Americans. Saddam was arrested by Americans and is being held in prison by Americans. It will go down in history as an American-sponsored kangaroo court.
Nobody should misconstrue any of this as a claim that Saddam is not a killer and a thug. He most certainly is. He was known as the Butcher of Baghdad even in the days when the United States government supported him. The U.S. government has supported a lot of killers and thugs, and if it continues its imperialistic foreign policy, it will keep on doing so because our foreign policy completely lacks any morality.
The irony is that a two-bit dictator in a six-bit country has provided American politicians with the opportunity to forever soil America’s reputation. We are now considered by most of the world as a rogue nation. Thus Saddam, as he steps up to the gallows, can take perverse pleasure in the fact that he was the cause, though inadvertently, of great and lasting damage to the United States.
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.