Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Saddam: The Arab Hope By Way of Stalin
Whenever I read one of those interviews which highlight the more progressive side of Saddam Hussein, there is a deep sense of frustration at what might have had happened had things been more forthcoming : had Saddam been less of a megalomaniac and had not the Islamist tide turned its ugly head in ; true, Iraq was built on sectarian foundations, and it's eventual for him to be part of the sectarian composition of politics in the end, but Saddam was largely interested in his own tribe for loyalty before his own sect. This great interview with Said K. Aburish, previously linked by our sectarian friend Iraqi Mojo, perhaps offers one of the more interesting profiles of Saddam Hussein : a brutal dictator who wouldn't "hesitate to kill 50% of the Iraqi population to bring Iraq into the 20th century," and most interestingly a schizophrenic who simultaneoulsy thinks in tribal and modernist fashions.
Everything makes sense in this interview, Aburish, a Palestinian who surprisingly has no misgivings about what Saddam Hussein really is, paints him as a cruel Machievllian but in a somewhat apologetic tone, as if he was in many times forced to adopt the path that he had taken, and because in the end his cause is to bring Iraq "into the 20th century."
Many people around the world are saying that for Iraq to survive it should be led by a secular modernist, but that does not seem to be necessarily achievable except by crushing the horrid religious factions squabbling all over Iraq, i.e what you need is a strongman who favors the nation-state (as opposed to religion) like the ones US employ all around the Middle East. Saddam Hussein was all of that, the problem for the United States is that Saddam Hussein was not your average Jordanian or Egyptian ruler, he was an ambitious workaholic who actually wanted to change the status-quo and make a name out of himself as the leader of a self-reliant Arab superstate, and this is why they kept him busy with equally ambitious Khomeini and destroyed both countries in the process, if anything, this interview exposes beautifully the criminal role the United States played many times when dealing with Saddam, such as the several measures they implemented to curtail him after the Iran war ended, as well as helping to stop the 1991 Uprising against him from actually happening, Aburish makes sense when he says that the United States viewed Saddam as a necessary evil because without him Iraq would disintegrate, which is what's slowly happening right now. Aburish also makes a correct distinction between the Arab and Iraqi perspectives of Saddam, the former, knowing but certainly less affected by his genocides view him first as the anti-Western imperalist, while Iraqis the other way around.
While Aburish states that Saddam had no real ideology, it seems to me that the greatest problem is just that, that Saddam came to represent the Pan-Arab ideology, the problem with the latter is that it is a secular version of Sunni Islam, the two share the ultra-nationalistic outlook with the major battles, the brave heroes and the conquest, and when it comes to dealing with extraneous entities, such as Shia, whose version of Arab history is one of oppression and injustice, or non-Arab Kurds, the Pan-Arabists employ a simple solution, forcefully impose their ideology without really trying to integrate those different sects into a meaningful entity, this is what Karfan means when he says that al-Assad managed to convince Alawite Syrians that they're bad Muslims, or the huge Baathist literature which stresses the fictionalized differentiation between 'Good Jaffari Shiism' and Saffavid Shiism (which really means all of Shiism). Saddam came to start his Arab leader project from a country that is barely Arab, and yet sometimes when I read about the Saddam of the 70s, the one of progress and modernization, the one I never saw, it looks like a fairytale dream to me that we would've been much better off than coming to terms with our fragile existence as a true nation-state. One of two ugly things seem to be more likely to happen than true democracy after Saddam:
1. Iraq ceases to exist as sectarian and ethnic realities unfold.
2. Religious parties will rule for a very long time.
It's curious to see what America is really going to do with Iraq, at the expense of millions of deported and dead Iraqis, and the death of Iraq itself, as for us Iraqis, as we look around the only remotely successful in our region are the sellout rich ones who are aligned to the West, yet this sort of prosperity is artificial (how many people told you Dubai has no soul?) and contains not a slight amount of humility, but it seems to be the best course for Iraq right now, we've had enough wars, we just want to live and if we get lucky enough and get an isolationist secular dictator who defeats all these Islamist bugs and is quite content at being a stooge, we just might. Our dream of having a truly intrinsic, genuinely patriotic leadership seems elusive for the moment. And of course, America will sell us out the moment we do not conform to its own interests, but for the moment we seem to share goals and on the long run there seems to be no other way.
Go Alusi Go.
The Russians have voted their mass-murderer Stalin the number two Russian of all time, and only 28% see him as a bad person (49% positive).