Peace Porridge #30, 09/12/02: But What About Saddam?  

I've been to Iraq three times in the past four years. Each time I go someone asks me whether a met Saddam. The first question the editor of my local newspaper asked me was, "Did you ever meet a dictator you didn't like?" That was the high point. The interview went downhill from there.

I can't figure it out. I go to Nicaragua every year; but no one has ever asked me if I met Enrique Bolanos; or if I met Jean Chretien when I went to Canada, or Vicente Fox when I visited Mexico. Perhaps, when the US government and its propaganda machine demonize a head of state, people confuse the head of state with the country and its population.

I try to avoid talking about Saddam. My work in Iraq with Veterans for Peace is rebuilding water treatment plants which were deliberately destroyed through war and sanctions.

Saddam is irrelevant. He isn't drinking polluted water because of sanctions, but millions of Iraqis are. Saddam's children aren't dying from water-borne diseases, but hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children have died of water-borne diseases because of sanctions. Iraqi children will continue to die needlessly until the sanctions are lifted and the 12 year old state of war is ended. Saddam is the excuse for continuing the slaughter.

I've been told that if I don't talk about Saddam, no one will listen to me. I've also been told that if I don't repeat the litany, "Saddam is a brutal dictator who gassed his own people," I will have no credibility.

Whether I'm talking to a pro-war hawk, or an anti-sanctions activist, it's the same litany, "Saddam is a brutal dictator who gassed his own people." Something is wrong. If everybody agrees, why repeat it? Strange. This litany would seem to obscure some important truth.

Below, I will debunk some common myths relating to Saddam Hussein; and then suggest an hypothesis concerning the hidden truth behind the demonization of Saddam. ----------------

MYTH: By gassing civilians at Halabja, Saddam placed himself on the level of Hitler and a few other genocidal maniacs.

FACT: It's almost never stated that this happened during the war with Iran, and that both sides used poison gas (although Iraq did so first). It's also rarely stated that much of the raw materials and technical knowledge to produce these weapons came from the US, which at the time, raised no protest to the gassing of civilians at Halabja.

Most major participants in World War I used poison gas. After WWI, Britain gassed the Afghans, France the Moroccans, Italy the Ethiopians, and so it went among the "civilized" Western powers. During WWII Japan attempted to spread anthrax and plague among the Chinese, a feat the US also attempted in North Korea some years later.

The US has a long history of using biochemical weapons. As early as the 18th century, European immigrants deliberately spread smallpox among the indigenous peoples of North America. The US sprayed Vietnam copiously with dioxin containing agent orange, poisoning the land, the people, the food and water supply, and its own soldiers. The US is now using a toxic fumigant in its war against Columbia, again poisoning the land, the people, and the food and water supply. In each case, the victims are mostly civilians.

MYTH: No other country would use biochemical weapons on its own people, like Saddam did.

FACT: The US has also used biochemical agents against its own people. During the early decades of the cold war, the US Army routinely used unsuspecting US citizens as human guinea pigs to test nuclear and biochemical weapons. On many occasions, the US Army released the toxic heavy metal compound, zinc cadmium sulfate, which causes birth effects and developmental retardation, in US and Canadian cities, sometimes in close proximity to schools. This heinous and unpunished crime took place at a time of (relative) peace.

MYTH: If Saddam stopped building palaces, he could provide for his people. Sanctions have nothing to do with the excessive childhood mortality in Iraq.

FACT: During the 1980's Saddam built an educational and health care system in Iraq that was the envy of the Arab world. Childhood mortality in Iraq fell by an astounding 38% in a decade. By 1990, Iraq was well on its way to achieving a level of education and health care comparable to the industrialized world.

This changed dramatically with the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the ensuing sanctions. UNICEF has blamed sanctions for an excess of 500,000 child deaths over an 8 year period.

Iraq gets no cash through the oil for foods program, so virtually all cash, including the palace-building fund, comes through the black market trade, which is estimated at less than $1 billion per year. Even if the black market trade is as much as $8 billion, it would provide each Iraqi with only $1 per day. Try providing for your child on $1 a day.

MYTH: Saddam is a threat to global peace.

FACT: What global peace? The world has been at war for most, if not all, of my 60 years.

Interestingly, in a recent UK Mirror poll, 75% identified Saddam Hussein as a threat to world peace, second only to the ubiquitous Osama bin Laden, whereas George W. Bush finished third at 51%. After Israel, Britain is the staunchest ally of the US, yet over half of the British people think that Bush is a threat to world peace, and 22% identify him as the greatest threat to world peace. What would the results be in a worldwide poll?

MYTH: We must invade Iraq now. If Saddam gets weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), he'll use them or give them to terrorists.

FACT: There is only one nation that has irrevocably demonstrated to the world its willingness to use nuclear weapons, and it's not Iraq. Further, the US routinely threatens to use nuclear weapons, even against non-nuclear states. Saddam's use of biochemical weapons pales in comparison.

The US demonstrated in the 1980's its desire to not only arm terrorist groups, but to create them, specifically the Afghan Mujaheddin and the Nicaraguan Contras. The US continues to train Latin American terrorists at the School of the Americas and continues to arm terrorist death squads in Columbia and Guatemala. No connection between Saddam and Al-Qaeda or any other armed group has ever been substantiated.

Israel is a thermo-nuclear power and one of the world's most aggressive, expansionist countries. Few in the US propose disarming Israel or even cutting off the over $3 billion of aid the US has given Israel every year since 1967. India and Pakistan were within a hair's breadth of nuking each other. Few propose disarming India and Pakistan. With the breakdown to Russian society, Russia is by far the world's most likely source of nuclear proliferation. Few propose taking measures to secure Russia's nuclear arsenal.

With all these aggressive irresponsible nuclear powers about, why invade Iraq because it might have stashed away a few biochemical weapons or might acquire some nuclear weapons in the future?

MYTH: Iraq must be invaded because Saddam is in violation of UN resolution 687, calling on him to destroy all WMDs and submit to UN inspections.

FACT: UN inspections have in the pass been used for espionage. Iraq would probably allow UN inspectors to return, if given assurances that they would not be used again for espionage.

Other countries flout the UN with impunity. Israel is in violation of dozens of UN resolutions. Israel, India and Pakistan are in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The US doesn't even pay its dues to the UN.

MYTH: Saddam has twice attacked his neighbors. Unless disarmed now, he will do so again.

FACT: Both attacks were with the apparent blessings of the US. The Iran-Iraq war was a proxy war which Saddam fought with material and intelligence from the US. With Iraqi troops amassed on the border of Kuwait, US ambassador April Glaspie virtually invited invasion by saying to Saddam, "But, we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait." If the US had unequivocally opposed these acts of aggression, it is unlikely that either of them would have occurred.

Meanwhile, it is conveniently ignored that Israel has attacked all its neighbors: Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. It is unlikely that these acts of aggression could continue if the US cut off the over $3 billion it gives to Israel every year.

MYTH: Saddam must be taken out because he is a brutal dictator who oppresses his own people.

FACT: The world is full of brutal dictators. The world is full of oppressors and abusers of human rights. Many dictators such as Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf are good friends of the US. Many of the world's most heinous human rights abusers like Ariel Sharon are good friends of the US.

The US could oppose dictators by supporting democracy. Yet the US opposes Iran's Mohammad Khatami and Palestine's Yassir Arafat, both democratically elected heads of state in a region with very little democracy. The US could strike a fierce blow against human rights abusers by supporting the International Criminal Court (ICC). The US opposed the ICC.


So, instead of repeating the litany, "Saddam is a brutal dictator who gassed his own people," perhaps, we should ask why the United States is so bent upon destroying Iraq? Clearly it has nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction, threats to neighbors, dictatorships, human rights violations, or any other reason put forward by the US.

Some answers I have heard are oil, revenge, and stupidity. All three make some sense, but don't fit the facts completely.

Here is an hypothesis which does fits the facts. The US is bent on destroying Iraq for the same reason it destroyed Nicaragua and has been trying to destroy Cuba for 43 years. It cannot tolerate that a third world country should follow an independent course and place the health and education of its citizens before the profits of US based multi- national corporations.

No other explanation I've heard fits the facts so well. Every third world country that has placed the health and education of its citizens before the profits of the multi-nationals has earned the enmity of the US. It doesn't matter whether the country has oil. It doesn't matter whether they have done anything aggressive toward the US. It doesn't matter whether the US president is a clever Clinton or a bungling Bush.

Whenever possible the US has crushed these upstarts and dismantled their health and education infrastructures. The Mossadegh government in Iran, Sukarno in Indonesia, Allende in Chili, and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua are some of the better known examples.

While Iraq was fighting a proxy war against Iran for the US, it was far too valuable an ally to crush. But, that changed in 1990. Iraq was enticed into Kuwait, and then crushed in the Persian Gulf War. Iraq's health and education infrastructure were destroyed, but Saddam remained in power. And this has continued through 12 years of murderous sanctions.

Now sanctions are unraveling. Little by little the world is calling for their end or quietly ignoring them. So the US now contemplates open war and invasion.

But, again, Saddam is just an excuse. The real war is, and always has been, against education and health care. The goal is to keep the children poor, sick, and illiterate, the resources in the hands of the multi-nationals, and to let Iraq serve as an example to any other country that might contemplate pulling itself up from third world status.

This, indeed, is the important truth hidden by the demonization of Saddam Hussein.


Peacehq Editorial Comments: I think Tom is "right on". Although I cannot vouch for the statistics cited I do believe that in principal he is correct. I would also add several points.

Much documentation exists that supports the material stated in the above.

1. Certainly no one can possibly deny that the United States is the only country that has used nuclear weapons. And, as Tom illustrates so many times in Peace Porrige, it does not matter if you believe it was justified or not. What really matters is that we see to it that it DOES NOT HAPPEN AGAIN!

2. If you don't believe that this country of ours would use chemical-biological agents on it's own citizens let me remind you about the events that took place at Waco Texas when the Branch Dividians were slaughtered.

Did you know that when CS is burned, it produces hydrogen cyanide, the same gas used to execute prisoners on Death Row.

What happened at Waco Texas

3. The fact that our sanctions are killing children in Iraq is no secret. It is just not the type of information that you are going to see in the news every day. See what UNICEF has to say.

Child and Maternal Mortality in Iraq

4. You say you don't believe that UN inspections are not used for spying? Try this link!

Spying on Iraq, "NVWeb Upfront" Featured Essay, January 15, 1999

Enough. The real truths are out there if you want to reasearch them for yourself. Our thanks to Tom and others like him for taking the time and making an effort to inform us.

To download a copy of this text right click here