Magazine article The Middle East

The Man Who Knew Too Much: Richard Seymour Reports on the Relief Felt by Many in the West as They Celebrated the End of Saddam Hussein

Magazine article The Middle East

The Man Who Knew Too Much: Richard Seymour Reports on the Relief Felt by Many in the West as They Celebrated the End of Saddam Hussein

Article excerpt

SADDAM HUSSEIN, FOUND guilty of crimes against humanity, was hanged amid chaotic and undignified scenes and is now lying buried in his home village of Ouja. The trial itself, hoped by some to serve as a healing catharsis for a nation still emerging, blinking, into the sunlight from the shadows of the past and also as an important landmark in the rebuilding of a post-Saddam era, had been controversial.

Accusations that it was no more than a show trial abounded; and independent observers have criticised the legality of the proceedings and the claim that the process really did represent a brave new world of justice and democracy.

But the verdict was delivered, the sentenced passed and the hangman's noose tightened. Saddam Hussein, his regime and their actions are now a matter of history. The fact that a man has been found guilty of the crimes of the past does not necessarily put them to rest, as the role of foreign governments in the rise of Saddam and the atrocities he hanged for still need addressing.

Then there are those atrocities he was not hanged for. The crimes against humanity that were not brought up at his trial; the acts of barbarism that he was not even permitted to speak of when in court. The reason for this censorship might be that had he been tried for those crimes, too, details embarrassing to the West, mostly Britain and the United States, would have been dragged out into the open.

Take the Shi'a uprising that Saddam so brutally put down with gas, leaving thousands to die long and painful deaths and many 'lucky' survivors to live with hideous disfigurements.

This was not brought up by the prosecution lawyers. The fact it was not is just as well for Mr Bush and Mr Blair as the world would have been reminded that the uprising was encouraged by their predecessors. When the uprising failed to remove Saddam Hussein on behalf of Washington and London, these great spreaders of western values abandoned the protagonists to face the former president's wrath on their own. A British pre-war intelligence dossier refers to the uprising as a 'riot', which goes some way to smudge the facts and Britain's central role in the massacre.

Nor was there any mention of Halabja where thousands of Kurds met their end in the same way the rebellious Shi'as would later: by gas. This might be because this appalling crime was committed, inconveniently for the West, at a time when Saddam Hussein was regarded as a friend and ally. Not only did the West turn a blind eye to this mass murder, there was even an attempt by the CIA to use it to blame Iran, a lie which served its purpose nicely at the time--as it would now.

And when almost 200,000 Kurds were ethically cleansed in the latter part of the 1980s, the West stood by and did nothing except increase its support for the regime. Saddam Hussein was the West's ally and so long as he proved useful he could do what he liked.

Little consideration is given either to the war crimes committed by the Iraqi regime during its war with Iran, where it deployed nerve agent and mustard gas to unimaginable effect.

The above is not part of history as the West likes to recall it and the genocide of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children has been allowed to go unaccounted for.

Instead, despite the horrifying scale of his crimes over many years, Saddam Hussein was convicted of the murders of just 148 people in 1982. The Kurds did not get their chance to hold him to account for what he did to them; nor did the Iranians.

In 1994, a report to the US senate, entitled US Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual Use Exports to Iraq and their Possible Impact on the Health Consequences of the Gulf War, revealed the sale to Iraq, by companies in the United States, of substances that are used in the production of weapons of mass destruction. …

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