and ex member of the Israeli parliament.
by courtesy 2003 Uri Avnery
The spectacle was disgusting.
'Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth, lest the Lord see it, and it displeaseth Him, and He turn away His wrath from him!' Thus commandeth the ancient Jewish moral code (Proverbs, 24, 16).
The writer of this warning knew, of course, that every person tends to gloat when his enemy falls. But he wanted to point out that this is an ugly human trait and one should try to overcome it.
And now a mighty world-power has sunk to this level. It is repeatedly displaying the spectacle of American soldiers looking for lice in the hair of a miserable Saddam and poking about among his teeth.
If it is possible at all to evoke pity for a man like Saddam, who is responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands, the Americans have achieved this. By showing him off as a drugged tramp, they created the opposite effect from what they wanted. The Vatican has called for mercy. The public humiliation of an Arab leader, whatever one may think about him, evokes the deepest feelings of insult and fury among tens of millions of Arabs. These feelings will strive to express themselves violently. This may cost blood, much blood.
(Not long ago, the United States cried to high heaven when the Iraqis showed off some American prisoners. But there are apparently no mirrors in Washington DC.)
The childish stories about the tremendous success of the American army and intelligence agencies are ridiculous. It is fairly certain that this was simply a case of a paid informer.
A trained eye could easily detect how the 'spontaneous' outbursts of joy were staged: Here a small group waving the flag of the Communist Party, there a few dozen people jumping like monkeys for the cameras ' probably the same people who were jumping a year ago for the cameras of Saddam. Two Arab 'journalists' producing a raucous show at the carefully staged press conference of the American general. When Winston Churchill won a terrible war, he did not behave like George W. Bush. No Winston he.
I have not written about Iraq in this column since the end of 'major hostilities'. I checked myself. I know that it is neither nice nor wise to say 'I told you so'. But it is very hard to write about Iraq without using these four words, since almost all the predictions of this column before and during the war are coming true, one after another. For example:
(One) The Americans invaded Iraq in order to remain there.
They did not invade because of 'international terror'. Nor because of 'weapons of mass destruction'. It's the oil that drew them there.
The aim of the United States was not to topple Saddam and go home, but to create a permanent American military base in the Arab world, in a country that has the second largest proven oil reserves in the world and is also located within easy reach of the oil riches of Saudi Arabia and the Caspian Sea.
Now that is already quite clear. Saddam had no connections at all with Osama Bin-Laden. The 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' do not exist. The Americans have simply changed the reasons for the war after the event. ('First make war, than find a reason.') Now it is all about eliminating Saddam and bringing democracy to Iraq.
Good. But Saddam has been eliminated ' and the Americans are not heading home.
Elections could be held at once. But the Americans refuse. They want to keep their marionettes in place, so they can invite the Americans to stay forever.
The American occupation will last a long, long time. It is not a means. It is the aim.
(Two) The toppling of Saddam will not be the end of the war. It will only be the beginning.
This forecast is now being confirmed in the most extreme fashion.
No people resigns itself to foreign occupation. Occupation breeds resistance.
At the time I recounted our experience in South Lebanon: The advancing Israelis were welcomed as liberators, because they drove the Palestinians out. A few months later they were being shot at from all sides, because they did not go home. After 18 years and a thousand soldiers killed, they escaped under the cover of darkness 'with their tail between their legs'.
The Americans cannot absorb this simple lesson. They do not look upon themselves as occupiers but as liberators who came to do good by the Iraqi people. They are convinced that the Iraqis are grateful and love them. They consoled themselves with a legend they invented: it is not Iraqi and Arab freedom-fighters who are attacking the occupation army and its collaborators, but die-hard henchmen of the evil Saddam.
But now the evil Saddam has been caught, and it appears that he had no possibility at all of directing operations from his spider-hole. The capture of Saddam must mark the end of the legend about his die-hard followers.
Iraq finds itself now in a classical colonial situation: A foreign conqueror is robbing the natives of their natural resources. Resistance groups are staging violent attacks, with a large part of the population supporting them.
Two hundred years ago such groups defeated the mighty Napoleon in Spain. At that time, the term 'guerilla' (little war) was coined.
What will happen now? It's all so predictable: Reacting to the operations of the resistance, the occupation will become ever more brutal. That will increase the support of the population for the guerillas, and so forth. The vicious circle so well known to Israelis. That's how it happened in Lebanon. That's how it is happening now in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The public humiliation of the defeated leader will only accelerate the process.
(Three) A vanquished Saddam will be more dangerous than a victorious Saddam.
The question arises: what to do with the prisoner?
The Americans have already said what they intend to do: hand him over to their Iraqi servants, so that he can be tried and executed in Iraq.
That would be a first-class blunder.
Nobody will believe in the fairness of such a trial. There is no way it could be fair, because in a fair trial Saddam would use the public platform to make his own accusations and reach out to hundreds of millions of Arabs and other Muslims.
The best would have been to let him escape to the Fiji islands, there to live out his life quietly, like Idi Amin in Saudi Arabia. But George Bush needs the ongoing humiliation of Saddam for his reelection campaign.
The only reasonable way out now is to transfer Saddam to The Hague. In the eyes of the world, he is entitled to the same treatment as another political mass-murderer, Slobodan Milosevic. If he is treated differently, every Muslim will rightly suspect that there is a double standard: one for a Christian European leader, one for a Muslim Arab one.
But Bush will not be satisfied until the body of Saddam is hanging in a public square in Baghdad ' perhaps the same square where his statue stood before it was toppled in a carefully staged TV spectacle.
(Four) The talk about bringing democracy to Iraq is hypocritical nonsense.
In order to safeguard their occupation, the Americans need a supportive local regime. To use a World War II term: they need Quislings.
When the British created the Iraqi state as their protectorate, they crowned Emir Faisal, a scion of the Hashemite family from Mecca. In order to keep Iraq as their own protectorate, the Americans must crown their own local agents.
If truly democratic elections were held, the American agents would be kicked out in no time ' if they were not lynched first. That is self-evident. Therefore, there will be no really democratic elections.
Generally speaking, democracy can not be 'brought' anywhere. It cannot be implanted in a different society with a different culture, as if it were a tree. And in any case a tree needs fertile soil.
Western democracy has grown organically over the centuries, from the village community to the national parliament. To implant it by force in Iraqi society, which is based on the tribe and the extended family (khamulah) and on different concepts and traditions, is a hopeless pursuit.
What happened to Western democracy when it was implanted in Japan? The outer forms are in place, the reality is quite different. What is happening now to Western democracy in Russia? Ask any Russian, and he will burst out laughing.
(Five) Iraq will disintegrate
When we said it a year ago, it looked like wild speculation. Today it is a safe bet.
Only a brutal dictator like Saddam was able to hold the package together. Before the 1958 revolution, the British colonialists did it. In a democratic regime, there is no chance.
A simple fact: The Shiites have a majority. They will rule. There is no chance at all that that they would institute a benevolent regime, after their long oppression by the Sunnis. There is no chance that the Sunnis in central Iraq, who despise the Shiites, would accept their supremacy. There is no chance that the Kurds in the north, who have always fought for their independence, would accept Arab rule ' neither by Shiites nor by fellow Sunnis. They hardly accept their fellow Kurds.
The Americans can prevent the disintegration of Iraq only by maintaining an occupation regime, open or disguised. They could also set up an artificial structure, a sham federation, in which Iraq would consist of three autonomous parts. But that would be sheer make-believe.
When Iraq will cease to exist for practical purposes, a new balance of power will come about. For centuries Iraq has served as the eastern wall of the Arab world, a barrier against Iran - which has never forgotten the days of Cyrus, when it was the regional power. The fall of this wall will change the geo-political situation in the entire region, which includes Israel.
The implosion of Iraq will be the signal for general anarchy: the Arab world will be in turmoil, Islamic fundamentalism will threaten all Arab regimes, the border between Turkey and the Kurdish-Iraqi state will heat up, between Israel and Iran a nuclear balance of terror may or may not hold, 'international terror' will turn from legend to reality.
Since it is neither nice nor wise to say 'I told you so,' I will restrain myself.
Back to Top
' Arab World Books