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,
Chances are Saddam, like his sons, will be killed in a Bonnie and
Clyde shootout. He is unlikely to be captured, unless
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
CIA's role in bringing the Ba'ath Party to power in a 1958 coup,
opening the way for Saddam to take control.
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.
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,
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.
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
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