Which political leader made war on his own people, killing 262,000 of them, burning their cities, destroying their food supply and placing the survivors under military occupation?
If your answer is Saddam Hussein, you’re wrong. The answer is Abraham Lincoln.
Accepting the Northern but incorrect view of the War Between the States, Lincoln did exactly the same thing Saddam Hussein did. When “his own people” rose up in armed rebellion, he crushed the rebellion, brutally and decisively.
I’m making this point not to disillusion you about Lincoln but to point out how propaganda works. One effective way to propagandize people is to take a fact out of context. Much has been made of the fact that Saddam Hussein crushed the Kurdish rebellion. Any leader of Iraq would have crushed the Kurdish rebellion. If the Scots rose up in armed rebellion today, British Prime Minister Tony Blair would crush, or try to crush, the rebellion. What do you think the British have been doing in Ireland all these many years?
Any government will assert the right to self-defense. When our forefathers chose to secede from the British Empire, the British tried to crush what they considered a rebellion. And before you give up the delicious and high-quality products of France, you should remember that without French troops and the French fleet, the British would likely have succeeded.
I know it’s idealistic foolishness to expect the government to tell the truth rather than to resort to propaganda. For that reason, we, as citizens, have to learn to recognize propaganda. To sell the war, the Bush administration has demonized Saddam Hussein. The fact is, Saddam is a run-of-the-mill dictator, worse than some, better than some. In the war against Iran, a nation with three times the population of Iraq, the Iraqis used chemical weapons. So did the Iranians. In World War I, the United States, the British, the French and the Germans used chemical weapons. In World War II, we used nuclear weapons. In Waco, Texas, in 1993, the Federal Bureau of Investigation used chemical weapons against American civilians.
It’s quite true that, like any other dictator, Saddam treats his political opponents harshly, but it’s also true that if you stay out of politics, you could live as freely in Baghdad as you can in New York City. Unlike a communist-style dictator, Saddam doesn’t give a damn what Iraqis think or do unless it involves a threat to his hold on power. There are two categories of dictators: totalitarians who want to control every aspect of a person’s life, and gangsters who just want to stay in power. Saddam is in the gangster category. Iraqi women, for example, are entitled to free education, just the same as men, and are free to choose any vocation they wish. Prior to the Gulf War, Iraq had one of the largest middle classes in the Middle East, one of the best education systems and one of the best health care systems. We, not Saddam, have destroyed all three with the war and economic sanctions.
Another propaganda technique is to focus on Saddam. To hear the Bush administration and to watch American television, you’d think Iraq was occupied by one individual, Saddam. He’s only one of 25 million people, and the overwhelming majority of Iraqis are just like us, with the same dreams and hopes we have.
I don’t give a damn about Saddam Hussein. He’s a tough guy and a killer. He’s lived 66 years in a tough and dangerous world. I’m sure he’s ready to die if it comes to that. But why should Iraqi children have to die or be maimed or orphaned just because our political leader doesn’t like their political leader? It’s too bad we can’t give Bush and Saddam each a knife, put them both in a dark room and let them settle the matter between themselves.