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My Back Pages

Saddam And The Good Ol' Days
Posted by Keith on Jun 1, 2003 - 5:45:00 PM

LOS ANGELES—Last fall, one of my columns began this way: "Of all the things that one can call Saddam Hussein, 'Islamic Fundamentalist' is not one of them. For now, let's just keep things as simple as possible in the region and leave him right where he is". The piece went on to express my opposition to conquering Iraq on the grounds that, in destroying a secular culture, the ensuing vacuum would be filled by Islamic religious zealots. In my mind, it was an obvious conclusion, as there didn't seem to be any other viable options to the political and social instability that would surely follow the fall of the Ba'ath regime. So the question became: Which was the lesser of two evils, Saddam's tyranny or the sword of Allah?

hussein1.jpg
Photo of Saddam Hussein courtesy of Britannica.com.
The piece was a condemnation of the impending conflict, and I ended up not using it lest it be viewed as incompatible with the prevailing attitude at the time. My saving grace for this decision was that Iraq's extensive programs for weapons of mass destruction trumped all arguments for "regional stability", rendering them moot points in the face of the infinitely greater danger of weapons technology transfers into the wrong hands. As it turns out, I should have used the article. We haven't found these weapons, and by dismantling Saddam's regime, we have aided Islamic radicals by removing an impediment to the Islamic crusade. Say what you will about the Iraqi dictator, but he did keep everyone in line (much as the Soviet Empire did during its despicable reign). It was a simple case of "the ends justify the means". In some societies, the fist of authoritarianism is preferable to radical theological indoctrination, and it now appears evident that Iraq, as I had felt all along, falls into this pattern. What would we rather have in Baghdad, a local tyrant or an international terror organization?

This larger world view does not take a whole lot of educated contemplation. It's all pretty obvious to anyone who pays attention to events in the oil-rich regions of the Middle East, and therein lies the prize; it's the oil. It should come as no shock that Al Queda has initiated recent multiple suicide bombings against Saudi Arabia (with the world's largest oil reserves) at the same time that Iranian-styled Shi'ite clerics rushed into Iraq (with the world's second largest oil reserves) to summarily declare an Islamic theocracy. It's a no-brainer; control that much of the world's oil, and you've got the oil-consuming world by the crotch. This strikes at an exposed weakness of Western civilization without having to engage American military power. Deprive the Infidel of his industrial lifeblood, and his empire will be rendered impotent. You have to admit, it's good strategy, and we helped facilitate it.

What kind of formulation was this? Did anyone really believe that, following its destruction, we could impose democracy on a society with little institutional memory of such? Did no one really see religious radicals waiting in the wings preparing to take the stage the minute Saddam's all-purpose suppression ended? Are we so unworldly and naive that we don't recognize obvious world trends and challenges? Are we projecting our own sense of religion being a private matter upon a segment of the world that believes quite the contrary? Maybe these questions weren't asked by government movers and shakers at the time, but I asked them.

It seemed like the most basic of common sense to me. Imagine American bureaucrats trying to rebuild an Arab Muslim society in our own image from scratch? It's an exercise in futility, with the consequence that we've now stirred-up something that really wasn't thought through clearly, judging by the chaos throughout Iraq. Following the invasion, there was no alternative to the mess we find there today, with the American army and marines engaged in local policing and nation building. Anyone could see this coming, so why was it not anticipated? All we've really accomplished is assisting Islamic fundamentalists in the region by ousting the secular Bathists, while providing a big fat target for any terror group with an ax to grind against the West. Iraq ends up as an Iranian-styled Islamic society as the fundamentalists press their attack against the enfeebled and tottering House of Saud. Can you spell "quagmire"? This was a flawed plan from the beginning, and things will probably get worse as we one day look back fondly at Saddam Hussein and think "those were the good ol' days".


 

Cliffside Malibu

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