People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 01

January 07, 2007

Saddam’s Pre-Determined Execution & Dynamics of Imperialism


Maidul Islam 


SADDAM, meaning ‘the one who confronts’ --- one of the most vociferous dissenting voices of resistance against US imperialism, at least in the last one and a half decade --- has been silenced. The former Iraqi president became the victim of a flawed trial perpetrated by the US’s puppet regime in Iraq, a kind of judicial mockery that executed him by hanging in front of the world as screened by the Iraqi television at 6 a m Iraqi time and 8.30 a m IST on December 30. Led to the gallows, a shackled but ever confident Saddam Hussein had his one final moment of defiance as he refused to have a hood pulled over his head. A noose was placed around his neck and a ski-masked guard pulled a lever that suddenly ended his life, ending an important chapter of Iraq’s history. An official witness confirmed Saddam’s death instantly before telling that Saddam “seemed very calm. He did not tremble.” He added that Saddam was reciting the kalma (hymn of faith) while carrying the Quran, which he asked to be given to a man called Bander. He was declared dead at 8.40 a m IST and 6.10 a m Iraqi time. The execution of Saddam just before the New Year and Eid celebrations was also not insignificant. On such an occasion, the native US backed Iraqi government may have hoped, protests against this heinous and condemnable act could well be controlled. 




The television screening of this barbaric act may be a strong message for those who seek to challenge American dominance. It was claimed by the special tribunal that Saddam was hanged for the 1982 Dujail killings of 148 people belonging to Shia community. The protests against such a kind of victor’s justice in different parts of the world are, however, very lukewarm and not comparable to those against Iraq war. Rather, there are several reports of Shia celebrations over Saddam’s execution. Iran has welcomed this execution; IRNA, official news agency of Islamic Republic of Iran, quoted deputy foreign minister Hamid Reza Aseki saying, “this incident is victory for all Iraqis.” Israel, closest ally of United States in West Asia, welcomed Saddam’s execution while, on behalf of Palestine, Hamas described the hanging as political assassination violating all the norms and laws of international community. Libya has declared three days of national mourning and said Saddam was a “war prisoner.” Russia and some members of the European Union like Britain and France opposed this kind of capital punishment while the Vatican City expressed concerns for violent incidents after the execution. 


Before the American attack in Iraq on March 20, 2003 and during the Iraq war, the international community staged massive worldwide protests. Even on every March 20 in the last three years, there were protests against US imperialism and against Bush-Blair visits at several places. Before the outbreak of Iraq war, during the Clinton administration, the American bombings on Iraq was also protested even if on a smaller scale. However, during the last three years since Saddam was captured by American forces on December 13, 2003, the kind of injustice that a former head of an independent sovereign state received from imperialist aggressors and its native Iraqi collaborators had very limited influence on the world public opinion. The fate of this former Iraqi president was sealed when he was taken to a prison by the occupying forces three years ago. But it is quiet ironical that beyond the routinised protests, important though they were, there was no massive protests against the farcical judicial procedures against Saddam for a year.




Saddam's execution is a grave tragedy, not because Dujail killings of 148 people did not happen but because Saddam's execution is nothing more than US flexing muscles. Or how else can one justify the hanging of a man already captured and castigated? If whatever USA thinks is crime needs to be wiped off physically and if peace (the US version of it) can be maintained only by the threat of a massacre, then why talk of human rights and non-retaliation? This is not to defend Saddam’s own brutalities but it exposes the hypocrisy of US imperialism. Obviously, one cannot equate the Iraq war that claimed so many innocent lives, with the life of Sadaam, the dictator of an authoritarian regime that had a bloody history of crushing popular movements, butchering the progressive and communist elements in Iraq, waging a decade long war against neighbouring Iran while having an understanding with the CIA. 


Yet the two stories of American attacks on Iraq and the previous US support to the Saddam regime in the 1970s and 1980s cannot be seen in separation. We have to see them as parts of the totality of the American empire’s grand project. American imperialism always tried to create dissensions and conflicts among the third world nation-states and its people by fanning some non-antagonistic contradictions on the lines of ethnicity, religion, regionalism etc, so that an anti-imperialist movements may be derailed. During the Iran-Iraq war, however, Saddam could manage to consolidate a significant Shia population in Iraq under the banner of Arab nationalism where the linguistic and cultural identity of both the Shias and Sunnis of Iraq was made distinguishable from the non-Arab Persian linguistic and cultural identity of Iran besides the use of repressive state apparatus for the mobilisation of war. Thus the ideological structure of US imperialism is the rehashed version of the old divide and rule strategy and is extremely racist. So long as you are a pliant tool of the US, they will help you no matter how oppressive you are. Once you break free, they will crush you royally. 




However, the American onslaught on Iraq was a display of naked and ‘moribund imperialism,’ a kind of oppression and violence that many people cannot ignore due to its inhuman and explicit character marked by immediate destructive potentialities, the ravages and the savagery of war. But the judicial mockery and simultaneous process of silencing the world public opinion by demonising Saddam as a culprit, dictator, criminal and terrorist, through the apparatus of international media campaign and propaganda, can be called a form of ‘sanctioned violence’ on the part of US establishment to maintain its hegemony. 


Saddam’s vilification by making a forced connection with Islamic extremism and Osama Bin Laden is another fallacious yet calculated imperialist strategy of targeting a personality who was one of the very few modern and secular voices characterised by a sense of economic nationalism, as evident from Iraq’s oil nationalisation programme. The modern, secular traditions of Saddam’s Baath Socialist Party remain unimpeachable till date in a region affected by the current ascendancy of Islamic militancy. We should not forget that, in an election manifesto once, the Baath Socialist Party pointed out a fundamental contradiction between imperialism of the advanced first world capitalist countries of the North and nationalism of Arab and other third world countries. But we generally forget such ‘positive pasts’ of a figure whose image has been tarnished to such a great extent by the propagandist agencies of imperialism like the ‘global metropolitan mainstream’ American academia and media. Due to such ‘modes of sanctioned violence’ through propaganda and vicious campaign against a particular person, we strongly protest against Iraq war but do not often protest on a similar level or lose our public memory, as it did not affect the popular perception during Saddam’s unfair trial. 


True there were some genuine protests against such inhuman execution although to a much lesser degree when compared with Iraq war. But even those opposing any form of capital punishment did not take up the issue in a big way when the verdict for execution was made on November 5, 2006. More than one and a half months passed after the judgement was pronounced but the popular discontent discourse against this kind of unjust and inhuman punishment was not properly registered in public discourse. This is precisely how imperialism manipulates the psyche of individuals as well as collectives by imposing a ‘sanctioned violence’ on the people who are opposed to imperialist hegemony so that, at the end of the day, differences and distinctions are produced between various acts of imperialism on the one hand, and discrimination is made between myriad responses against imperialism on the other. In this regard, the discrimination is made between the kind and degree of massive protests against Iraq war and the judicial mockery due to the projection of two different acts of imperialism articulated in the public discourse. During the Iraq war, the intensity and magnitude of protests were surely very high when compared with low intensity protests during the unfair trial of Saddam.




However, imperialism needs an ideological backing to legitimise its violent acts. In the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, US imperialism tried to justify the war in the name of democracy, peace, security and ‘development. One can find similarities in this form of ‘orientalist’ ideological justification of imperialism with that of colonial construction of ‘white man’s burden’ where the imperialist model of ‘good governance’ is imposed as a ‘liberator and emancipator’ on the developing and underdeveloped countries of the third world. This hegemony is of course built on the basis of economic and military-political power complimented with technological superiority of imperialism. One can say the US talk about democracy, peace, security and development in Iraq is nothing but big hoax, as a majority of the Muslim states in West Asia including Saudi Arabia and Jordan that are close allies to the Bush administration, are monarchical regimes. Moreover, the security, peace and development situation worsened in Iraq after the imperialist aggression. In fact, even a divided Iraq is giving so much of resistance to the occupying forces that they are now concentrated only in a small place, called the Green Zone, in the capital city of Baghdad. 


But at the same time, imperialism is also capable enough to produce fissures and fragments among the common people so that an anti-imperialist consensus and consciousness is not made. Like British colonialism that created Hindu-Muslim disunity in India, in Iraq too we are noticing that US imperialism and its native Iraqi collaborators succeeding in creating divisions between Shias and Sunnis who are fighting against each other and who responded to Saddam’s execution in very different ways instead of providing a united people’s resistance to imperialism. Thus the US uses the time-tested two-pronged formula of killing and then shedding tears in the name of peace, as if peace was the US official innovation. They first kill thousands and then pretend to be the custodian of justice. By hanging Saddam, the US is now trying to justify its war that killed, orphaned and maimed for life thousands of people. If Saddam was hanged for 148 people, or 1480 let's say, then Bush needs to be hanged for may be 148 millions or more people all over the world! 




The Iraq war, supported by baseless allegations of weapons of mass destruction, was definitely an act of coercion whereas, after establishing a puppet regime in Iraq, US imperialism is seeking to influence the world public opinion as well as Iraqi people, and has native collaborators in Iraq to further its cause. Now the process of persuasion has an element of ‘sanctioned violence,’ not as explicit as coercion and masked in an ideological garb, continuously reproduced by the dominant and vocal international media controlled by imperialism, so that popular mainstream protests against imperialism get subdued and marginalised. It is in this context that we should locate the limited, varying and contrasting range of protests against Saddam’s trial despite the fact of a pre-determined targeting of Sadaam within the specific dynamics of imperialism that is controlling the international public opinion. By calling a person a 'dictator,' it is possible to severe him from his communitarian roots and incriminate him personally for everything whereas no personal incrimination can be done of George Bush by calling a mass murdering system like the US’s a democracy. Bush can always say: “Oh! I was operating according to foreign policy, popular will or even with international mandate.” It needs to be pointed out that Bush is more dangerous than Saddam since he does not oppress and murder his own electorate to which he is accountable but murders and oppresses the rest of the peoples of the world who cannot do him any harm since he is not accountable to them. 


Imperialist hegemony thus operates with multiple and simultaneous processes of coercion, persuasion and collaboration with the oppressed to build consent for rule over the oppressed where the hegemonised itself identifies with the hegemon and sometimes supports the latter’s acts and causes. The kind of Shia celebrations after Saddam’s execution, telecast by news channels, is particularly attached to the problem of imperialist hegemony over a section of the oppressed people. Now the mixed reactions on Saddam’s execution and the divided opinion between the Sunni and Shia Muslims on this issue will only further the US imperialist interests when the US would prepare for an onslaught against the Shiite Iran in near future; the US establishment may well expect that the Sunni world may not react very sharply if it targets Iran. 


History reveals that the Iraqi people never remained colonised for long. So it is a significant question whether history will repeat or not. Nobody knows how much blood is required for a historic victory of anti-imperialist resistance. In the coming future, it is the same historical processes that will show us whether the current contradictions of Iraqi society and the Muslim world will be resolved and whether the Iraqi people can stand up unitedly against the US superpower to give imperialism a death-blow.