Regardless of the schisms within the Security Council, there is general agreement (and I am deliberately using undiplomatic language here) that the leader of Iraq is a monster who has visited untold suffering on his own people, orchestrated the killing of thousands of ethnic Kurds, that he used nerve gas against the Iranian people (with US help), that he is an unpredictable military supreme commander who invaded the sovereign state of Kuwait inflicting death, suffering and irreparable environmental damage there. Isn’t this the guy who killed his own sons-in-law? Does he eat small Iraqi children for breakfast? Mythmaking is part of the preparation for war. But mythmaking can also be part of the preparation for peace.
For now, The US government has chosen war. But in the New York Times today, there was an article with photographs showing and describing Iraqis preparing to stage a play “The Epic Of Gilgamesh” even as war seems about to begin. How appropriate for ordinary Iraqis to enact a 3000 year-old epic about loss and revenge. At the same time, there is another news item elsewhere stating that schoolteachers in the state of Maine in the north eastern United States have been warned by their administrators not to discuss the war as undesirable and wrong, because it is upsetting and confusing to young children whose parents are being deployed to Iraq. The other big myth in the Security Council is that there is not yet a war. But the US has been bombing Southern Iraq since the 1990’s. Can you bomb a country for ten years and pretend that you are not at war with it? That you’re only going to start one soon? The mythmaking goes on.
In official parlance there is need for regime change. But in the corridors outside the Security Council the question is Saddam’s got to go – but how?
Are Blix and El Baradei working on winning next year’s Nobel Peace Prize? Maybe. Everyone in this game being played out in the Security Council has their own fish to fry. If the two B’s persevere on inspections, with the encouragement of France and Germany, and Saddam does a dramatic about face, opening up his biological, chemical and nuclear supermarket to public view, then I can see the Swedish Academy looking favorably at their joint nominations for that coveted prize.
It is reasonable to assume that CIA operatives, “embedded” (to borrow a term to describe the presence of US journalists side-by-side with US ground, air and sea forces), in war preparations and operations, are busy trying to literally ‘get’ Saddam. Capturing Saddam would save everybody in the Security Council a major headache, especially de Villepin, the champion of continued inspections, but more particularly the champion of French leadership of the European Union (EU). Villepin does not want America to tell NATO and Europe what to do. The French want to do that. They see French leadership as part of their historic role in Europe, especially since the UK, their ancient rival, has cast its lot with the US. To pretend that the current and ongoing Security Council deliberations are all about what is best for Iraq and the Iraqi people is a lie, and even that would be an understatement. If that were true the sanctions would never have been imposed. So it isn’t about Iraqi children dying for want of essential medicines. It isn’t about giving the Kurds a home in which they can live in peace and dignity. On this particular point, the US, whose idea is that diplomacy = dealmaking, has just agreed to let Turkey enter Northern Iraq to deal with the Kurds. We all know Turkey’s criminal human rights record in ‘dealing’ with the Kurds. Not surprisingly, the Kurds are terrified of Turkish ‘justice’, but they are caught in the middle of American-Turkish bartering of dollars for military bases. And what about Pakistan? As one of the 10 non-permanent members during this session (along with Mexico, Chile, Guinea and others) of the 15-member Security Council, Pakistan is signaling its support for the US position, which is immediate and unconditional disarmament as required by Resolution 1441. Though both are Muslim states and both are members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (Pakistan is Sunni, Iraq is Shi’a), contingent national interests override religious affiliation. Pakistan cannot bite the hand that feeds it. The US feeds Pakistan and there’s more money in the offing, if Pakistan supports the US call to war. Pakistan may even abstain but it will not vote against the US if a second resolution (Resolution 1442?) goes to the floor.
If the CIA does not capture Saddam, the US will go to war. Their track record on nabbing leaders they don’t like is not good. Remember those America’s Most Wanted posters offering millions of bucks for Osama? Nobody turned him in. Not everybody believes in a universal Green God. Remember blind Sheikh Omar escaping on a motorbike with US Special Forces in hot pursuit hundreds of miles someplace else in Afghanistan? And who was that other Taliban/ al Quaeda operative who handed his cell phone to a friend and therefore was able to avoid the CIA’s clutches? The CIA’s chances of grabbing Saddam while he was sipping tea with Dan Rather, the CBS anchor did not materialize. So America continues to prepare for war.
The US is mainly responsible for creating Saddam Husain. They armed his soldiers and trained them. He is their Frankenstein. If he is their monster ( and he was already a solid candidate for monsterdom) are they not responsible for him? Now they want to destroy the monster they created. But must it be done at the cost of innocent Iraqi lives? Must Iraqis pay for the wrongs of a leader they seem helpless to overthrow?
We in the US have been profoundly affected by 9/11. I know I was. I don’t know anyone who wasn’t. I went to the funeral of a young Pakistani who died high up in one of the Twin Towers. I know the delegates of the 5 member states who are permanent members of the Security Council are still affected by 9/11. The UN was shut down on that day for fear of a terrorist attack. We live in New York. People from every nation in the world died in the Twin Towers. We smelled the smell of blood, metal and oil for weeks and months. Our children go to schools in New York. Though Iraq has never been implicated in the actions of al-Quaeda, though the US government has not produced a shred of evidence that Saddam had anything to do with 9/11, the events of 9/11 have created a climate of fear and dread. Of fearful anticipation of another attack. The fear factor is no reality TV show. It’s real for Americans. No matter that the US warmongering may in itself precipitate such an attack. That is the inescapable reality behind the American understanding of Resolution 1441 from US Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte and others. That is the inescapable reality behind every American poll that finds average Americans supporting Bush on going to war in Iraq, but urging the backing of the UN.
At the end of the day the Q remains – Saddam’s got to go – But how?