This was a guilty verdict on America as well
By Robert Fisk
11/06/06 "The Independent" -- -- So America's one-time ally has
been sentenced to death for war crimes he committed when he was
Washington's best friend in the Arab world. America knew all
about his atrocities and even supplied the gas - along with the
British, of course - yet there we were yesterday declaring it to
be, in the White House's words, another "great day for Iraq".
That's what Tony Blair announced when Saddam Hussein was pulled
from his hole in the ground on 13 December 2003. And now we're
going to string him up, and it's another great day.
Of course, it couldn't happen to a better man. Nor a worse. It
couldn't be a more just verdict - nor a more hypocritical one.
It's difficult to think of a more suitable monster for the
gallows, preferably dispatched by his executioner, the equally
monstrous hangman of Abu Ghraib prison, Abu Widad, who would
strike his victims on the head with an axe if they dared to
condemn the leader of the Iraqi Socialist Baath Party before he
hanged them. But Abu Widad was himself hanged at Abu Ghraib in
1985 after accepting a bribe to put a reprieved prisoner to
death instead of the condemned man. But we can't mention Abu
Ghraib these days because we have followed Saddam's trail of
shame into the very same institution. And so by hanging this
awful man, we hope - don't we? - to look better than him, to
remind Iraqis that life is better now than it was under Saddam.
Only so ghastly is the hell-disaster that we have inflicted upon
Iraq that we cannot even say that. Life is now worse. Or rather,
death is now visited upon even more Iraqis than Saddam was able
to inflict on his Shias and Kurds and - yes, in Fallujah of all
places - his Sunnis, too. So we cannot even claim moral
superiority. For if Saddam's immorality and wickedness are to be
the yardstick against which all our iniquities are judged, what
does that say about us? We only sexually abused prisoners and
killed a few of them and murdered some suspects and carried out
a few rapes and illegally invaded a country which cost Iraq a
mere 600,000 lives ("more or less", as George Bush Jnr said when
he claimed the figure to be only 30,000). Saddam was much worse.
We can't be put on trial. We can't be hanged.
"Allahu Akbar," the awful man shouted - God is greater. No
surprise there. He it was who insisted these words should be
inscribed upon the Iraqi flag, the same flag which now hangs
over the palace of the government that has condemned him after a
trial at which the former Iraqi mass murderer was formally
forbidden from describing his relationship with Donald Rumsfeld,
now George Bush's Secretary of Defence. Remember that handshake?
Nor, of course, was he permitted to talk about the support he
received from George Bush Snr, the current US President's
father. Little wonder, then, that Iraqi officials claimed last
week the Americans had been urging them to sentence Saddam
before the mid-term US elections.
Anyone who said the verdict was designed to help the
Republicans, Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, blurted out
yesterday, must be "smoking rope". Well, Tony, that rather
depends on what kind of rope it might be. Snow, after all,
claimed yesterday that the Saddam verdict - not the trial
itself, please note - was "scrupulous and fair". The judges will
publish "everything they used to come to their verdict."
No doubt. Because here are a few of the things that Saddam was
not allowed to comment upon: sales of chemicals to his
Nazi-style regime so blatant - so appalling - that he has been
sentenced to hang on a localised massacre of Shias rather than
the wholesale gassing of Kurds over which George W Bush and Lord
Blair of Kut al-Amara were so exercised when they decided to
depose Saddam in 2003 - or was it in 2002? Or 2001? Some of
Saddam's pesticides came from Germany (of course). But on 25 May
1994, the US Senate's Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban
Affairs produced a report entitled "United States Chemical and
Biological Warfare-related Dual-use exports to Iraq and their
possible impact on the Health Consequences (sic) of the Persian
This was the 1991 war which prompted our liberation of Kuwait,
and the report informed Congress about US government-approved
shipments of biological agents sent by American companies to
Iraq from 1985 or earlier. These included Bacillus anthracis,
which produces anthrax; Clostridium botulinum; Histoplasma
capsulatum; Brucella melitensis; Clostridium perfringens and
Escherichia coli. The same report stated that the US provided
Saddam with "dual use" licensed materials which assisted in the
development of chemical, biological and missile-system
programmes, including chemical warfare agent production facility
plant and technical drawings (provided as pesticide production
Yes, well I can well see why Saddam wasn't permitted to talk
about this. John Reid, the British Home Secretary, said that
Saddam's hanging "was a sovereign decision by a sovereign
nation". Thank heavens he didn't mention the £200,000 worth of
thiodiglycol, one of two components of mustard gas we exported
to Baghdad in 1988, and another £50,000 worth of the same vile
substances the following year.
We also sent thionyl chloride to Iraq in 1988 at a price of only
£26,000. Yes, I know these could be used to make ballpoint ink
and fabric dyes. But this was the same country - Britain - that
would, eight years later, prohibit the sale of diphtheria
vaccine to Iraqi children on the grounds that it could be used
for - you guessed it - "weapons of mass destruction".
Now in theory, I know, the Kurds have a chance for their own
trial of Saddam, to hang him high for the thousands of Kurds
gassed at Halabja. This would certainly keep him alive beyond
the 30-day death sentence review period. But would the Americans
and British dare touch a trial in which we would have not only
to describe how Saddam got his filthy gas but why the CIA - in
the immediate aftermath of the Iraqi war crimes against Halabja
- told US diplomats in the Middle East to claim that the gas
used on the Kurds was dropped by the Iranians rather than the
Iraqis (Saddam still being at the time our favourite ally rather
than our favourite war criminal). Just as we in the West were
silent when Saddam massacred 180,000 Kurds during the great
ethnic cleansing of 1987 and 1988.
And - dare we go so deep into this betrayal of the Iraqis we
loved so much that we invaded their country? - then we would
have to convict Saddam of murdering countless thousands of Shia
Muslims as well as Kurds after they staged an uprising against
the Baathist regime at our specific request - thousands whom
webetrayed by leaving them to fight off Saddam's brutal hordes
on their own. "Rioting," is how Lord Blair's meretricious "dodgy
dossier" described these atrocities in 2002 - because, of
course, to call them an "uprising" (which they were) would
invite us to ask ourselves who contrived to provoke this
bloodbath. Answer: us.
I and my colleagues watched this tragedy. I travelled on the
hospital trains that brought the Iranians back from the 1980-88
war front, their gas wounds bubbling in giant blisters on their
arms and faces, giving birth to smaller blisters that wobbled on
top of their wounds. The British and Americans didn't want to
know. I talked to the victims of Halabja. The Americans didn't
want to know. My Associated Press colleague Mohamed Salaam saw
the Iranian dead lying gassed in their thousands on the
battlefields east of Basra. The Americans and the British didn't
But now we are to give the Iraqi people bread and circuses, the
final hanging of Saddam, twisting, twisting slowly in the wind.
We have won. We have inflicted justice upon the man whose
country we invaded and eviscerated and caused to break apart.
No, there is no sympathy for this man. "President Saddam Hussein
has no fear of being executed," Bouchra Khalil, a Lebanese
lawyer on his team, said in Beirut a few days ago. "He will not
come out of prison to count his days and years in exile in Qatar
or any other place. He will come out of prison to go to the
presidency or to his grave." It looks like the grave. Keitel
went there. Ceausescu went there. Milosevic escaped sentence.
The odd thing is that Iraq is now swamped with mass murderers,
guilty of rape and massacre and throat-slitting and torture in
the years since our "liberation" of Iraq. Many of them work for
the Iraqi government we are currently supporting, democratically
elected, of course. And these war criminals, in some cases, are
paid by us, through the ministries we set up under this
democratic government. And they will not be tried. Or hanged.
That is the extent of our cynicism. And our shame. Have ever
justice and hypocrisy been so obscenely joined?
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited
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