Iraq, Did it have to be a miss?
18 Dec, 2006
Who can forget the scenes of jubilant Iraqis in the streets of Baghdad in 2003? Who can forget the cheerful Iraqis around the falling statue of Saddam, symbolising the fall of the dictator’s regime?
Indeed, the majority of Iraqis were supportive to the efforts of liberating Iraq from the tight grip of Iraq’s worst dictator. That includes the vast majority of Kurds (about 20% of the total population) and the Shia (about 60% of the total population) as well as many sunni Arabs (about 20% of the total population). All these groups had suffered badly and sadly at the hands of Saddam’s Baath regime. They considered the war as a liberation war, rather than an occupation of Iraq. The American and British forces fought skilfully and won an easy military victory with minimal losses. Although Saddam and his Baath regime collapsed having provided minimal resistance, the jubilation soon started to fade away as the situation deteriorated rapidly. With so many killed, kidnapped and so many scandals spreading around, even the most sincere supporters of the war had to reconsider their positions and admit that Iraq is in a miss. But did it have to be?
The success or failure of America in Iraq is of significance to both America and Iraq, the final outcome from this war may have a lasting effect on America’s standing in future conflicts. I can take this even further and say that many of the principles of the western civilization may be at stake. Failure in Iraq may signify that the seeds of destruction of the western civilization may be growing faster than had been previously thought. Let us briefly review the most recent history on this.
The first gulf war in 1990 caused the most serious division in the Arab world. The war ended with Saddam’s humiliating defeat and left him with a tarnished image in the Arab world. The late King Hussein of Jordan, who was widely believed to be the most influential Arab leader in his time, was initially in the pro Iraq camp, which gave Saddam a badly needed moral support. After the war, the King distanced himself from the Iraqi dictator and then turned his back on him. Even some of Saddam’s own generals, including his own two sons-in-laws and high-ranking aids defected to Jordan, leaving the dictator politically isolated. The few years that followed the gulf war defeat were Saddam’s worst years, especially after the attempt to assassinate his eldest son Uday, which left the flamboyant playboy crippled for the rest of his life. The future of Saddam looked very bleak indeed and many observers predicted his imminent downfall.
Then the tide started to change with the launch of Aljazeera TV in 1996 with its pro Saddam agenda. The Iraqi issue was always central to Aljazeera, especially the sanctions issue. They propagated that tens of thousands of Iraqi children die every week because of the sanctions. Time and time again, Aljazeera repeated the claims frequently quoting sources from the American and European left, until they brain washed their gullible audience with this lie. The more sophisticated Arabs turned to the American and British media in an attempt to get the full picture, only to find a mainly neutral media that is contented with only echoing the Iraqi claims with no real effort to investigate and refute them. Even today, most Arabs still do not know the fact that food and medicines were excluded from the sanctions from the beginning.
Issues like the careless management of the Iraqi money, the various financial privileges to Arab and non-Arab journalists, the ‘Saddam vouchers’ and the massive palaces that were built under the sanctions, were never mentioned by Al-Jazeera, and only briefly came to light by the western media. The dominant news of the time was about a starving nation and dying children because of the ‘unjustified American sanctions’. I am still puzzled, even today, about the way the western media handled the Iraqi issue, and why the Iraqi claims of dying children were allowed to be repeated without ever investigating its truth or drawing the attention to Saddam’s responsibility on all this. I am afraid the Americans did not present their case well to the world and left their opponent’s point of view to enjoy an almost unchallenged dominance.
The result? By the end of the 1990s the majority of the Arabs became supporters to Saddam, not because they liked him but because they hated America and its ‘unjustified sanctions’, thanks to Al-Jazeera and the dumb American media!
The west is obsessed with the values of democracy and freedom in the same way fanatic Muslims are obsessed with Islam. Both groups are unable to believe that in certain circumstances, there can be more suitable alternatives. I am not suggesting for a minute to abandon these highly cherished human values, but extremism in anything can be counterproductive. Work is good but excessive work is not, resting is good but excessive resting is not, eating is good but excessive eating is not. In the case of Iraq, the Americans became so obsessed with applying democracy to where it doesn’t belong or valued.
On the other hand, The Arabs have no real love for democracy and not ashamed to say it. Strict Muslims openly dismiss western style democracy as a sin that should be avoided. Their version of democracy is called shoura, which is a council of advisers appointed by the head of state. It is not a secret that Islamic parties, like the Muslim Brotherhood, use democracy to seize power but once in control they plan to eliminate the infidel non-Islamic parties from the political field.
The Iraqis, and the Arabs in general, are dictators in their nature. They regularly practice their dictatorship in their daily lives; parents in their homes, teachers in their schools, managers in their departments and so on. They strongly believe in the stick and carrot rule and advocate a system of incentives and penalties to make their subjects do what they are asked to do. They follow the example of the Quran, which, to make people listen to Mohammed, promises paradise and threatens with hell.
It is important to understand that no matter how cruel or kind the Americans are in Iraq, is not going to change what the brain-washed Arab masses think of America. The Arabs, and Muslims in general, think of America as the great Satan whose mission is to destroy Islam and kill Muslims. In this sense, scandals like Abu Ghraib or the desecration of the Quran bring nothing new, but only confirm the already established misconceptions, because what the Muslims already believe about the Americans is far worse. The American efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Muslims cannot be more futile.
The Hypothetical Iraq
In considering Iraq, one cannot help but to draw some comparisons between the Americans’ management of Iraq and that of Saddam’s. We already heard some comments from all sides that Saddam’s Iraq was a better one, with which I disagree completely. But the fact the comparisons have been made is in itself an indication of the gravity of the situation.
The comparison doesn’t have to be only with Saddam’s rule; the government of Saudi Arabia is ruling a vast country with a population of mainly Muslim fanatics who oppose the Saudi regime, yet many see the country as icon stability in the Middle East. At this point, one may start to think of the unthinkable and ask the questions no one dares to ask; can autocracy succeed where democracy fails? And can repression succeed where freedom fails?
Let us make a hypothetical assumption that the control of post war Iraq was given to a ruthless general, say one with an Arab mentality similar to any Arab dictator like the late Hafez Al Asad of Syria or Saddam Hussein himself. Let us call that hypothetical personality General Ruthless and, based on the past experiences of the Middle East, let us see how he would have handled the post war Iraq.
From the outset, General Ruthless would make it clear he doesn’t tolerate any leniency in the liberated country. He would enforce a curfew for the first few days while his forces establish their hold on the country, he might give his forces the power to capture or even shoot looters and others who do not comply with law. Scores of innocent civilians get killed, injured or imprisoned as a result of such violent policy, which only confirms the ruthlessness of the new governor. The outside world would only know very little about what is happening because General Ruthless would impose complete censorship on reports coming out of the country. Any leaks of bad news would be strongly denied.
Suicide bombing, kidnappings and other terrorists’ activities that flourished in real life, would become harder to carry out and would not get the wide publicity they enjoyed in the real war scenario. Lack of reporting would deny the terrorists of an important source of information and feedback. The few terrorists’ activities that do get through would go largely unnoticed and unreported, therefore have little influence on public opinion inside and outside the country. People would perceive a sense of reasonable stability, which encourages more people to turn to work confirming the sense of stability even further. On the other hand, terrorists would get frustrated because the lack of media coverage denies them an important communication tool with regard to the full impact of their activities. It becomes even harder for them to recruit young Iraqis.
Incidents like Abu graib scandal would be dealt with harshly but secretly avoiding the incalculable damage it has caused to the real war effort. Remember that publishing the disgusting pictures for every one to see just added salt to the wounds of the victims and the Iraqis in general, without doing any good to the Americans with the terrorists being the only beneficiaries. The various sporadic rebellions like the Shia rebellion led by Muqtada Al Sadr or the Sunni rebellion in Falluja would probably not happen at all.
General Ruthless might even take steps to deny the terrorists any access to the Internet or satellite television, denying them of their most important weapon- propaganda. After all, the Internet is an American property.
General Ruthless’ harsh measures would undoubtedly result in angry criticism from various groups inside and outside America, but nothing in the scale of criticism we have seen in the real life scenario, stability of Iraq would silence many fierce opponents. Such heavy handed approach would undoubtedly result in considerable loss of lives but, again, nothing on the scale we saw in the real life scenario.
America started losing the war before it even started, the slow build up to the war that preceded the military operations only played in the hands of the anti-war groups worldwide. General Ruthless wouldn’t allow this to proceed in the way it did. It was clear, then and now, that the secular Baath regime started to make alliances with the Islamic radical groups and actively sought the destruction of American targets by all means, therefore it has become a serious threat. America has the right to defend its people and its interests. Playing polite and trying to make it a legal war was like a joke and led America to nowhere. How many wars in history we agree to be legal wars? We must not forget that from the Iraqis’ point of view, it was a moral obligation of the west to remove Saddam. The Iraqis believed the West is largely to be blamed for supporting the dictator and creating from him the demon he was. Therefore, from the Iraqi point of view, the West had a moral responsibility to help to get rid of the dictator. Ironically, the possession of weapons of mass destruction, from the Iraqi and Arabic point of view, was not a point against Saddam, but a point in his favour!
I am afraid even the ruthlessness of General Ruthless would have scored more success and caused less damage than the Americans had done. This purely hypothetical assumption only exposes the weaknesses of the West more than it reflects the wisdom of our hypothetical ruthless General. If America cannot win this war then it is hard to believe it can win any war. America’s failure in Iraq may leave a long lasting scar, but the Americans have can only blame themselves before blaming the others.