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Goodbye Saddam, welcome chaos! (Under the Neem Tree).

We thank the victors of the Cold War, who-now that they have gallantly rid the world of the "Red Peril"--have unwrapped the death shrouds from their faces, and revealed to us what a mummified messenger of death really looks like.

One of the most annoying aspects of the debate on the us-UK aggression against Iraq is that it is almost universally assumed by those who are in favour of the aggression, that Those who oppose it are somehow closet supporters of Saddam Hussein.

In my case, nothing could be further from the truth. I loathe Saddam Hussein, for he hanged someone I used to run into at the London Observer newspaper, Farzad Bazoft, in March 1990. Farzad had gone to Iraq to cover an election there, but was unwisely side-tracked into trying to find out whether Saddam was trying to construct nuclear bombs. As an Iranian, this was extremely dangerous for him to do. And, indeed, he was accused of spying, but not for Iran, but for Israel. Despite worldwide appeals, Saddam hanged him.

But that was not the only reason why I loathe Saddam. when it became obvious, shortly after he had invaded Kuwait on 2 August 1990, that Iraq would be attacked by the US if it did not withdraw from Kuwait, I hoped against hope that he would withdraw and save the Iraqi people from the aerial bombardment that the US was planning.

But Saddam and his "negotiator". Tariq Azeez, were as stolid as molten rock in their obdurate incomprehension of the fate that they were courting for Iraq. Any so-called leader who can contemplate with equanimity, the slaughter that can be unleashed on his people by America's Weapons of Mortality Detonation ("WMDs") is not just a fool but a murderer.

And, of course, we know that murder and Saddam go together. The slaughter in the sands of Arabia, as Saddam's tanks were bombarded whilst they retreated from Kuwait, was so terrible that it turned the stomachs of even America's war-machine and it did not push on to Baghdad.

No--the argument is precisely that the Iraqi people as a whole cannot be punished for the sins of Saddam. After all, they were the primary victims of Saddam! It was their money that Saddam gave to the Americans and the British to supply him with the arms with which he needlessly fought Iran for 10 years. It was their brothers and uncles who died during that terrible war. It was the urdish population of Iraq who were slaughtered with the chemical weapons that the West unscrupulously sold to Saddam. Why should they have to suffer a second time if the US and Britain now wanted to deprive Saddam of those weapons?

If the US and Britain wanted to get rid of Saddam, then they ought to have found ways of getting rid of him without punishing the people of Iraq as well, because, of course, no people deserve to be made a victim a second time round.

But it is not so easy to get rid of a Saddam Hussein, or an Osama bin Laden, is it? A Mohammed Mossadeq (killed in a CIA plot in Iran in 1953), Patrice Lumumba (assassinated in a CIA plot in Congo in 1961), or a Salvador Allende (slain in a CIA coup in Chile in 1973) could be disposed of, yes. Neither of these leaders was a murderer. But to eliminate actual murderers like Saddam or Osama? No can do. Now, why is that? Is it because they learn their trade of kill-and-survive from the hands of certain masters? Interesting thought, that.

Well, George W. Bush and Tony Blair ought to have been guided by their inability to nail Osama, to be more circumspect, when they started shooting their mouths about ridding the world of Saddam. For although many thousands of Iraqis have died from US-UK fire during the aggression, Saddam was not definitely known to be one of them, when I wrote this article.

No, the argument has not been about Saddam at all and it is dishonest to pretend that it is. There are two main principles at stake: (1) it is dangerous, in this civilised age, to re-invoke the spectre of the "gunboat diplomacy" that was prevalent in the 19th century, and the early 20th, as well, whereby strong nations could point their guns at weaker ones and pound them into submission, for whatever reason; and (2) the people of any nation have the right to choose their own government, and the right not to have a government imposed on them by outsiders who believe they know the interests of that nation better than its own people do. The re-emergence of gunboat diplomacy", in the form of "pre-emptive war", shock and awe" and other obscenely-crafted euphemisms emanating from America, is a threat to every weak nation in the world, especially those that happen to possess resources that the US may covet.

The take-over of Iraq by the US was not done to gain access to Iraq's current production of oil, since access to that oil is already available to the US and everyone else through the UN'S oil-for-food programme. What interests the US rather is to be in a position, in future, to prevent others it doesn't like from gaining access to supplies from Iraq's oil reserves, the second biggest in the world.

So, if -- hypothetically -- the US were to decide, 10 years hence, that China's industrial growth, coupled with its population size and nuclear weapons, were driving it towards becoming as powerful, militarily, as the Soviet Union used to be in the 20th century, and that the only way to stop China from continuing to grow more powerful was to starve it of oil, the US would be in a position to prevent Iraq from selling oil to China.

Now, all things being equal, China would not be able to buy oil from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and other Gulf producers, either. Nor could China buy from Venezuela. The reason? All these countries are in the US sphere of influence. What about Nigeria? Well, some Nigerians have begun to ask themselves whether their country could defy a direct US order not to sell its oil to China, and survive the economic, diplomatic and possibly military, repercussions that would arise from such defiance.

Far-fetched? Well, let me ask you this: who would have been able to foretell, after all the noise made by the British Labour Party when Margaret Thatcher invaded the Falklands, or when Ronald Reagan invaded Grenada, that one day, a Labour prime minister would tag along a right-wing American government and send 40,000 British soldiers to Iraq to fight a country that had not uttered a single word of hostility against Britain, let alone threaten it with military force?

But, the warmongers ask, what if Iraq becomes a tangible threat to Britain in future if it is allowed today to develop weapons of mass destruction, and if Iraq were to allow these weapons to pass into the hands of terrorist groups like Osama bin Laden Al Qaeda?

Well, if we are to organise our lives by playing a game of "What If'?, then let me also ask: "What if the US were one day to come to regard whatever British government was in power, as a potential threat to America's bases in Britain (which harbour aircraft that carry nuclear weapons) and America were to decide that it could not allow Britain to maintain that "hostile" government?

Far-fetchead? I would only concede that if I had read every scenario in the secret war games played exclusively by America's brightest soldiers during their military exercises! No, presumption on presumption of potential hostility is a dangerous doctrine which recalls the destructive lunacy of Dr Strangelove, the film that sent shivers down our spines in the 1970s.

Theoretically, this doctrine of presumption has deprived every member of the United Nations of its sovereignty in one fell swoop. We in Africa began to approach our independence from colonial rule, some four decades ago, with full confidence that our sovereignty would be respected, under the Charter of the United Nations. For we thought that we could only be attacked if we posed a military threat to other nations, who would then be legally allowed to fight against us in self-defence.

The certainty we felt that unless we attacked someone, we would be safe and not be attacked ourselves, is gone for ever. Now, we can be attacked if some country thinks we might attack it, or if it suspects that we harbour terrorists on our soil who might want to attack it. And it doesn't matter if we deny the potential attacker's charges, for it can make up other charges as it goes along.

I mean, how many charges did the US and Britain not level against Saddam? First, he had defied UN resolutions and acquired a nuclear capability; then, he had defied more UN resolutions and also manufactured chemical weapons; next, he was a brutal dictator who had murdered thousands of his own people; then, he was a dangerous aggressor who had invaded Kuwait and Iran and might do so again.

In other words -- to reduce the notion of pre-notion to the absurdity that it is -- we can be attacked for just being there. This is the contribution that the US and Britain have made to 21st century civilisation.

As we all perish from the collective neurosis that could create mass hysteria in ourselves, we thank these victors of the Cold War, who -- now that they have gallantly rid the world of the "Red Peril" -- have unwrapped the death shrouds from their faces, and revealed to us what a mummified messenger of death really looks like, when it decides to venture from the tomb of darkness into the vulnerable, open world in the sunshine out there. We thank them and thank them again.
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Author:Duodu, Cameron
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:00WOR
Date:May 1, 2003
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