dictator created then
destroyed by America
By Robert Fisk
Independent" -- -- Saddam to the gallows.
It was an easy equation. Who could be more deserving of
that last walk to the scaffold - that crack of the neck
at the end of a rope - than the Beast of Baghdad, the
Hitler of the Tigris, the man who murdered untold
hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis while spraying
chemical weapons over his enemies? Our masters will tell
us in a few hours that it is a "great day" for Iraqis
and will hope that the Muslim world will forget that his
death sentence was signed - by the Iraqi "government",
but on behalf of the Americans - on the very eve of the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, the moment of
greatest forgiveness in the Arab world.
But history will record that the Arabs and other Muslims
and, indeed, many millions in the West, will ask another
question this weekend, a question that will not be posed
in other Western newspapers because it is not the
narrative laid down for us by our presidents and prime
ministers - what about the other guilty men?
No, Tony Blair is not Saddam. We don't gas our enemies.
George W Bush is not Saddam. He didn't invade Iran or
Kuwait. He only invaded Iraq. But hundreds of thousands
of Iraqi civilians are dead - and thousands of Western
troops are dead - because Messrs Bush and Blair and the
Spanish Prime Minister and the Italian Prime Minister
and the Australian Prime Minister went to war in 2003 on
a potage of lies and mendacity and, given the weapons we
used, with great brutality.
In the aftermath of the international crimes against
humanity of 2001 we have tortured, we have murdered, we
have brutalised and killed the innocent - we have even
added our shame at Abu Ghraib to Saddam's shame at Abu
Ghraib - and yet we are supposed to forget these
terrible crimes as we applaud the swinging corpse of the
dictator we created.
Who encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in 1980, which was
the greatest war crime he has committed for it led to
the deaths of a million and a half souls? And who sold
him the components for the chemical weapons with which
he drenched Iran and the Kurds? We did. No wonder the
Americans, who controlled Saddam's weird trial, forbad
any mention of this, his most obscene atrocity, in the
charges against him. Could he not have been handed over
to the Iranians for sentencing for this massive war
crime? Of course not. Because that would also expose our
And the mass killings we perpetrated in 2003 with our
depleted uranium shells and our "bunker buster" bombs
and our phosphorous, the murderous post-invasion sieges
of Fallujah and Najaf, the hell-disaster of anarchy we
unleashed on the Iraqi population in the aftermath of
our "victory" - our "mission accomplished" - who will be
found guilty of this? Such expiation as we might expect
will come, no doubt, in the self-serving memoirs of
Blair and Bush, written in comfortable and wealthy
Hours before Saddam's death sentence, his family - his
first wife, Sajida, and Saddam's daughter and their
other relatives - had given up hope.
"Whatever could be done has been done - we can only wait
for time to take its course," one of them said last
night. But Saddam knew, and had already announced his
own "martyrdom": he was still the president of Iraq and
he would die for Iraq. All condemned men face a
decision: to die with a last, grovelling plea for mercy
or to die with whatever dignity they can wrap around
themselves in their last hours on earth. His last trial
appearance - that wan smile that spread over the
mass-murderer's face - showed us which path Saddam
intended to walk to the noose.
I have catalogued his monstrous crimes over the years. I
have talked to the Kurdish survivors of Halabja and the
Shia who rose up against the dictator at our request in
1991 and who were betrayed by us - and whose comrades,
in their tens of thousands, along with their wives, were
hanged like thrushes by Saddam's executioners.
I have walked round the execution chamber of Abu Ghraib
- only months, it later transpired, after we had been
using the same prison for a few tortures and killings of
our own - and I have watched Iraqis pull thousands of
their dead relatives from the mass graves of Hilla. One
of them has a newly-inserted artificial hip and a
medical identification number on his arm. He had been
taken directly from hospital to his place of execution.
Like Donald Rumsfeld, I have even shaken the dictator's
soft, damp hand. Yet the old war criminal finished his
days in power writing romantic novels.
It was my colleague, Tom Friedman - now a messianic
columnist for The New York Times - who perfectly caught
Saddam's character just before the 2003 invasion: Saddam
was, he wrote, "part Don Corleone, part Donald Duck".
And, in this unique definition, Friedman caught the
horror of all dictators; their sadistic attraction and
the grotesque, unbelievable nature of their barbarity.
But that is not how the Arab world will see him. At
first, those who suffered from Saddam's cruelty will
welcome his execution. Hundreds wanted to pull the
hangman's lever. So will many other Kurds and Shia
outside Iraq welcome his end. But they - and millions of
other Muslims - will remember how he was informed of his
death sentence at the dawn of the Eid al-Adha feast,
which recalls the would-be sacrifice by Abraham, of his
son, a commemoration which even the ghastly Saddam
cynically used to celebrate by releasing prisoners from
his jails. "Handed over to the Iraqi authorities," he
may have been before his death. But his execution will
go down - correctly - as an American affair and time
will add its false but lasting gloss to all this - that
the West destroyed an Arab leader who no longer obeyed
his orders from Washington, that, for all his wrongdoing
(and this will be the terrible get-out for Arab
historians, this shaving away of his crimes) Saddam died
a "martyr" to the will of the new "Crusaders".
When he was captured in November of 2003, the insurgency
against American troops increased in ferocity. After his
death, it will redouble in intensity again. Freed from
the remotest possibility of Saddam's return by his
execution, the West's enemies in Iraq have no reason to
fear the return of his Baathist regime. Osama bin Laden
will certainly rejoice, along with Bush and Blair. And
there's a thought. So many crimes avenged.
But we will have got away with it.
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited