Release Date: July 31, 2003
Eric Margolis, c/o Editorial Department, The Toronto Sun
333 King St. East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5A 3X5
Fax: (416) 960-4803 -- Press Contact: Eric Margolis

U.S. Wants Saddam, But Dead - Not Alive

by Eric Margolis

Weston, Vermont - In 1987, Libya's leader, Muammar Khadaffi, led me by the hand through the ruins of his Tripoli residence, showing me the bedroom where American 2,000 lb bombs, launched in an attempt to assassinate him, had killed his 2-year old daughter. The bombing of a Pan Am airliner filled with Americans two years later may have been revenge for this attack. Murder breeds murder.

Now, the latest irksome Arab leader is in Washington's gun sights. Time seems to be running out for Iraq's fugitive former president, Saddam Hussein.

Chances are Saddam, like his sons, will be killed in a Bonnie and Clyde shootout. He is unlikely to be captured, unless incapacitated.

The Bush Administration will be delighted not to put Saddam on public trial. Dead dictators tell no tales.

The White House would much prefer to display a bullet-riddled Saddam as a trophy to divert mounting criticism over US casualties in Iraq and the litany of falsehoods it used to drive America to war.

If put on public trial, Saddam Hussein would have a field day revealing the embarrassing alliance between his brutal regime and Washington:

CIA's role in bringing the Ba'ath Party to power in a 1958 coup, opening the way for Saddam to take control.

US, Israeli, Iranian destabilization of Iraq during the 1970's by fueling Kurdish rebellion. Washington's egging on the aggressive Shah of Iran in the Shatt al-Arab waterway dispute, a primary cause of the Iran-Iraq War.

US secretly urging Iraq to invade Iran in 1980 to overthrow that nation's revolutionary Islamic government.

Covert supply of Saddam's war machine by the US and Britain during the eight-year Iran-Iraq conflict: biological warfare programs and germ feeder stocks, poison gas manufacturing plants and raw materials. Billions in aid, routed through the US Department of Agriculture, Italy's Banco del Lavoro, and the shady bank, BCCI. Heavy artillery, munitions, spare parts, trucks, field hospitals, and electronics.

Equally important, the US Defense Intelligence Agency and CIA operated offices in Baghdad that provided Iraq with satellite intelligence data on Iranian troop deployments that provided decisive in the war's titanic battles at Basra, Majnoon, and Faw.

The murky role played by Washington just before Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The US Ambassador told Saddam `the US takes no position in Arab border disputes.' Was this a trap to lure Saddam to invade Kuwait, then crush his army, or simple diplomatic bungling? Saddam could supply the awkward answers.

In short, Saddam was one of America's closet Mideast allies during the 1980's, a major recipient of US military and financial aid. Saddam's killing of large numbers of Kurds and Shia rebels occurred while he was a key US ally. Washington remained mute at the time. When Bush I called on Kurds and Shia to revolt in 1991, the US watched impassively as Saddam slaughtered the poorly-armed rebels.

Better a bullet-riddled Saddam, or one executed by a military kangaroo court in Guantanamo, or hanged by the new, American-installed `Vichy' Iraqi regime in Baghdad.

Saddam should be handed over by the US to the UN War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague that is currently trying Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic and other accused Balkan war criminals. After all, it was Washington that engineered Milosevic's delivery to the Hague, an act for which the US deserves high praise. What applies to Milosevic applies equally to Saddam Hussein.

In fact, it would be better for the Iraqi leader to stand trial at the newly constituted International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague. But the Bush Administration, in one of its most shameful acts, has refused to join this tribunal or cooperate with it.

Should Saddam be gunned down, like his two sons, there will be glee among many Americans and rejoicing in the White House. But Saddam Hussein is not Dillinger or a prize elk. However odious, he was the leader of a sovereign nation and government recognized by the US.

Killing foreign heads of state violates international law and the directives made by three American presidents. Dropping 2,000 lb bombs on sites were Saddam was believed to be is called attacking `leadership targets' in the new Orwellian Pentagonspeak, but it's still old-fashioned murder from the air. Gunning down Saddam will also be murder, or, to use a politer term, assassination.

America, the world's greatest democracy, has no business murdering foreign leaders. Such behavior is criminal, immoral, undemocratic, the law of the jungle. Past US attempts to murder foreign leaders have proved self-defeating.

Last week, Task Force 20, a trigger-happy US military hit squad hunting Saddam, killed between 5-11 innocent Iraqi civilians in a botched Baghdad raid. This outrage is worthy of Saddam's former secret police.

George Bush may yearn to drape the body of Saddam over his jeep and show it off to the folks around Crawford Texas, but he should be forcefully reminded that the president represents the laws of the land. Bad enough the White House waged a totally unnecessary, unprovoked, undeclared war on Iraq based on spurious charges, this egregious offense should not be compounded by cold-blooded murder, no matter how odious the intended victim.

Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster, and author of War at the Top of the World - The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Tibet which was reviewed in The Economist, May 13, 2000

[ . . . the Shatt al-Arab (or Arab River) is a difficult place to demarcate. As a result, it has been the scene of countless disputes in which shots have been fired or people have been arrested. The 120-mile stretch of water, formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, is a vital channel for Iraq as it provides its only access to the Persian Gulf. The river also supplies fresh water to southern Iraq and Kuwait, but its main importance is the channel it provides for ships to travel as far as Basra, Iraq's principal port.--Trevor Royle, "Stormy past of waterway that separates old enemies," Sunday Herald, March 25, 2007]

Copyright © 2003 Eric Margolis - All Rights Reserved
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