Saddam Bound

- Turn on the TV, – my wife, alerted by a phone call, yelled from the kitchen. On the screen was George W. Bush’s mug photo with a caption reading ‘Bush – the former dictator is arrested’.

I can’t deny it was a moment of great elation. Indeed, Mr Bush deserved to be arrested and tried – for his invasion of sovereign Iraq and Afghanistan, for the thousands of dead and tortured men and women wherever he took his War on Islam, for his support of ENRON, and for his doubtful role in September 11. In light of the Patriot Act which gave the government broader surveillance authority and erased the traditional American liberties, and for the unconstitutional way he got to the White House, Mr Bush can indeed be called ‘a dictator’. But ‘former’? Had the people of the United States shown themselves the worthy heirs to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, risen up in arms and removed the tyrant?

Alas, no such luck. The former dictator referred to was, of cause, the deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. What an anticlimax! Pictures of the humiliated Hussein, bearded, tired, confused, treated like a captured tiger in a Zoo, were repeating endlessly. He opened his mouth, and we were forced to look in. He looked human and frail; too human, his dishevelled beard and large innocent eyes make him akin to Leo Tolstoy or Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

Indeed, if in December 1941, Hitler’s army had not been stopped by the 39 Red Guards of Panfilov on the outskirts of Moscow, this would have been the fate of Joseph Stalin; to be brought in an iron cage to Berlin and presented as ‘the captured, bloody dictator’. And it would have been Mao Zedong’s fate, too, had the Chinese soldiers not stopped General Macarthur’s hordes on the banks of Yalu River in 1950. Vae victis, woe is defeat, especially a defeat to the ruthless and arrogant enemy.

I crossed the street to a Palestinian café, where Jerusalem artists and teachers mingle with villagers on business in the big city over backgammon and cardamom coffee. Gloom was hanging over the low tables like a rain cloud in the December air. The Palestinians were distressed and spoke in hushed tones. Their best feelings were hurt by the dishonourable display of the captive ruler. Whether one liked Saddam Hussein or not, he was the legitimate President of a great Arab nation, and his humiliation was the humiliation of all Arabs.

He was not the first captured ruler in the world’s bloody and long history. More than 800 years ago, the great West European Crusader princes were captured by a victorious Arab army. Then, however, the Arab commander, Saladin, treated the captives courteously. He did not parade them with an open, red-painted mouth in front of his troops. But Chivalry and Honour, so dear to an Arab heart, are not American virtues: the US dared to attack Iraq only after ten years of UN sanctions disarmed it.

The Palestinians had additional reasons to worry. Iraq was a big and independent Arab country. It was by no means a counterbalance to the united might of Israel and the US, but its existence could stay the Zionist hand from particularly wild actions. In 1948, Iraqi volunteers stopped the Israeli army expelling the Palestinian residents of Jenin and Nablus, and saved them from the fate of homeless refugees. In 1973, the Iraqi presence stopped Israelis moving on to Damascus. Since then, the Iraqis have supported Palestinians, collecting money to sent to Palestinian widows and orphans of the resistance.

But the American-installed regime in Baghdad is rabidly anti-Palestinian and pro-Israeli. Ahmad Chalabi, the American protégé, called to establish friendly relations with Israel; plans to send Iraqi oil to Haifa refineries are being discussed, and the occupation forces expelled Palestinian refugees from their temporary homes in Baghdad. Saddam Hussein could not do much; his anti-Islamic policy did not endear him to religious Arabs, but he was a friend, and an independent Arab voice.

Israelis in a nearby pub were excited. For them, Hussein’s capture was good news politically and economically. Since the US-led victory, the Israeli companies have aggressively moved into Iraq. “All inquiries about doing business in Iraq are referred to a select list of intermediaries issued by the American authorities”, I was told by an Australian businessman. “All are Jewish and most of them are Israeli. Heading the list is the Israeli law firm that Douglas Feith (an American extreme-Zionist official) is a partner in”. The Iraqi Jews have presented multi-billion dollar claims for properties they claim were confiscated from them. Hussein’s capture will undermine the Iraqi resistance and allow the Israelis to increase their share of the war spoils.

But Israeli politicians foresee an even better outcome. “Deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein could be offered a deal in which he would give his captors information on how he smuggled some of the weapons of mass destruction into Syria,” said the military observer of the Israeli daily Haaretz. “In exchange, he would face life imprisonment and not be executed for war crimes”, It will save George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair’ bacon, following accusations that they lied to their people to justify war. More important, it would accomplish an old wish of Israeli leaders: the US tanks would roll into Damascus. With the conquest of Syria, the next stage of the Middle East subjugation to Israel would be complete, and the road to Saudi oil riches would be open.

In short, Hussein’s capture will not bring peace to Iraq and the Middle East. Most probably, it will be used to jump-start the new round of war in the troubled area.

Israel Shamir is a critically acclaimed and respected Russian Israeli writer. He has written extensively and translated Joyce and Homer into Russian. He lives in Jaffa, is a Christian, and an outspoken critic of Israel and Zionism.