This paper is an adaptation of an earlier one I delivered on the Cameroon National Radio Station on the 15th of December 2003, a day after the then Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein was captured by occupying Allied forces in Iraq, led by America. The paper was one of the daily political commentaries I delivered on the 6.30 a.m. prime time national and world news on Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV), Yaounde, between 2002 and 2005.
The arrest of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein made world headline news, and rightly so, for since American and British troops urged largely by the leaders of the two countries, George Walker Bush and Tony Blair respectively, drove him from power in April, Iraq had become a major world centre of attraction as millions of people followed the evolution of the ongoing war in the Middle Eastern country which is so dear to Christians as it was the scene of some major events in the Holy Bible. To the Americans, especially their president George Walker Bush who had been out to get Saddam Hussein at all cost, this was one big catch. One can therefore understand the feeling of triumph of Paul Bremmer on Saturday, the day Saddam was caught, when he announced to media men and women at a hurriedly convened press conference in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad: “Ladies and gentlemen, we got him!”
One point that has struck many observers is the relative ease with which the Iraqi strong man was caught. A correspondent for the Associated Press (AP) wrote: “A man who lived in sprawling palaces was pulled form a hole in the dirt; a man who challenged the greatest armies in the world was arrested without firing a shot. A man, who embezzled billions of dollars and put his image on every bank note, was found with a single suitcase of cash bearing the face of an American: Benjamin Franklin.” The AFP reporter went on: “Saddam was found in a hole with nothing more than a pistol on his lap. His hair was long and matted, and he wore an unkempt salt-and-pepper beard. He appeared bewildered but put up no resistance. For the last 35 years, Saddam Hussein presented himself as a lion to the Americans and the West. And now, today, they found him like a mouse.”
The capture of Saddam Hussein is undoubtedly a moral booster for the United States President George Walker Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair who had been bent on having Saddam Hussein’s head on a platter, like that of John the Baptist, so to speak. This was despite the growing opposition from the American and British people, and of course, many others the world over. Although Bush and Blair persisted and carried out their act; it must be said that the main reason given by the two men for going to war in Iraq, namely that Saddam Hussein kept weapons of mass destruction, remained puzzling and unproven, as to this day, six years after the allied troops entered Iraq, no such weapons have been found. So Saddam Hussein was right after all when he said repeatedly that he had no weapons of mass destruction, appoint which the Chief Weapons Inspector of the United Nations confirmed all along. Yet, neither Bush nor Blair offered Saddam or the Iraqi people an apology for invading their country; Instead, Saddam was made to pay the ultimate price of death by hanging, the pretext this time being that he “gassed his own people, anyway.” Many will live to remember the victorious reaction of Bush when he learned of the capture of Saddam. Bush is quoted as having said that the captured man would “face the justice he denied millions.”
Looking back now, one recalls that the arrest of Saddam led to scenes of jubilation even in Iraq, with the climax being the moment when American troops decapitated the giant statue of Saddam in Baghdad and pulled it down with the help of a rope; Iraqi people and American soldiers could be seen gleefully taunting the figure as if it was Saddam himself. However, this was to be expected because the human by nature likes to watch entertaining spectacles, especially when such spectacles are free of charge. But this was exactly where the coalition ought to have been careful because it is not easy for a non-Arab to understand the mind set of the Arab. In the case of this “unjust” war against Iraq, an Arab country, America should have remembered that the general feeling among the Arabs is that in the conflict between Israel and the Arabs, America leans too heavily on the side of Israel, to the extent of being seen as an all-time accomplice against the Arabs.
Perhaps at the time Bush waged this war, he felt it would be short lived and his troops would soon be back home. But he was wrong. One clear fact is that he and his unconditional ally, Tony Blair, failed to draw lessons from the political history of their two countries. I am thinking of the American war of independence which led to the country, today the world’s indisputable Number One power, America. The war broke out when King George III who acceded to the British throne in 1760 was the ruling monarch of Britain. At the time, the king and his prime minister, Lord North wrote off the just started war in America as “a mere skirmish” which would soon be over. But they were abysmally wrong, for the war became drawn out and led to America, a British colony, becoming independent.
Similarly, the world is a living witness to the fact that six years after the war in Iraq began, it has still not really come to an end. One by way, the “so called” allies who provided troops to fight alongside America have pulled out their forces. The unpopularity of the war cost the then prime minister of Spain his face, just as it did to Britain’s Tony Blair. George Walker Bush packed out of the White House earlier this year when his second and final (according to the American constitution) term of office came to an end. All he can do now is watch as his successor, Barrack Hussein Obama, contradicts his policies by removing American troops from Iraq. Obama has gone further by taking steps to close down the now infamous Guantanamo Bay where Bush had people suspected of involvement in the terrorist destruction of the twin towers in New York in 2001, held arbitrarily and inhumanely.
When one looks at life in Iraq during the occupation, one realizes that by far more people have been killed in Iraq than they were in the reign of Saddam Hussein. One of the errors made by Bush was to dismantle and disregard the security forces left in place by Saddam. The vacuum created by this state of affairs led to chaos in Iraq with attempts on lives and assassinations of both allied members and Iraqis being the order of the day. Power failure and potable water shortage as well as disease have become commonplace in the country. In fact; some observers have estimated the destruction caused in Iraq since the invasion to be the equivalent of fifty years of development and civilization being suddenly deducted from Iraq. In other words, the damage is considerable.
No doubt, mistakes have been made. But the only way forward is for foreign troops to leave Iraq completely and alone. History has shown that no group of people wants to live under an army of occupation. Invariably, matters come to a point where nationals must become restive and want to break free from the yoke of oppression. Let the Iraqi people run their own affairs. As for the architect of the mess; George Walker Bush, the worst scenario is for him to be made to go on trial for crimes against humanity. The best is for him to just get up one day and tell the Iraqi people he is sorry. Whether Bush will have the humility to do the latter is a totally different ball game.