“When told yesterday that [German Chancellor] Schroeder believed Mr. Bush’s contract decision might violate international law, the president responded with a sarcastic gibe: ‘International law? I better call my lawyer.’ ” (Boomerang Diplomacy, the Washington Post)
George Bush, statement upon Saddam Hussein’s capture linking him once again to the “war on terror”: “We’ve come to this moment through patience and resolve and focused action. And that is our strategy moving forward. The war on terror is a different kind of war, waged capture by capture, cell by cell and victory by victory. Our security is assured by our perseverance and by our sheer belief in the success of liberty. And the United States of America will not relent until this war is won.” (In Bush’s Words: ‘A Dark and Painful Era Is Over’ in Iraq, the New York Times)
George Bush, “Last News Conference of the Year,” Monday December 15:
“One of the things I think you’ve seen about our foreign policy is that I’m reluctant to use military power. It’s the last choice; it’s not our first choice.” (the Washington Post)
Sometimes doesn’t it feel as if we here in the U.S. were all sharing in some vast delusionary experience? Folie Ã however many tens of millions. In the civics books of my childhood, a Martian always landed smack dab in the middle of Main Street in Elm City, USA, and was then taught how our political system works. That was back when we still thought we had a system of checks and balances (or rather when the checks weren’t made out to the Republican National Committee and the balances weren’t what’s in the Bush campaign bank accounts). I’d like to call that Martian in again for another civics lesson. After all, what a spectacle we are, if only we could see ourselves through alien eyes.
Now, we are “triumphant.” Here are typical comments from the field in Iraq where, as in Washington, “euphoria” is the order of the day (Belief That Insurgency Will Fade May Be Misplaced, the Washington Post):
“‘The capture of Saddam Hussein will have a tremendous negative impact on the Baathist insurgency, and it is all good news for us and the future of Iraq,’ Lt. Col. Henry Arnold, a battalion commander in the 101st Airborne Division who is based near the Syrian border, said Sunday. ‘The Wicked Witch is dead’
Sometimes doesn’t it feel as if we here in the U.S. were all sharing in some vast delusionary experience? Folie à however many tens of millions. In the civics books of my childhood, a Martian always landed smack dab in the middle of Main Street in Elm City, USA, and was then taught how our political system works. That was back when we still thought we had a system of checks and balances (or rather when the checks weren’t made out to the Republican National Committee and the balances weren’t what’s in the Bush campaign bank accounts). I’d like to call that Martian in again for another civics lesson. After all, what a spectacle we are, if only we could see ourselves through alien eyes.
“‘The capture of Saddam Hussein will have a tremendous negative impact on the Baathist insurgency, and it is all good news for us and the future of Iraq,’ Lt. Col. Henry Arnold, a battalion commander in the 101st Airborne Division who is based near the Syrian border, said Sunday. ‘The Wicked Witch is dead’
“Without Saddam,’ [another U.S. commander] added, ‘This is no longer a nationalist movement.'”
(An Iraqi comment from Samarra in the same piece: “‘Everyone is with the resistance,’ said 22-year-old Safa Hamad Hassan, whose cousin was wounded when a tank round landed near his home during the fighting. ‘Saddam Hussein is finished. We are protecting our honor and our land.'”)
Two New York Times headlines more or less sum up this American moment: “Bush’s Cautious Demeanor Masks White House Elation” and “After 12 Years, Sweet Victory: The Bushes’ Pursuit of Hussein.” Ah, how sweet the nectar. Of course, the Bush men weren’t about to make that “mission accomplished” mistake again and so they did quietly warn of an ongoing struggle. But the general view was — it’s morning in Iraq and George Bush is riding the Euphrates of events like a Greek hero. It was hard to find a dyspeptic view in the mainstream at this happy moment (though I include below a striking column by the Boston Globe‘s James Carroll on the long-term damage being caused by Bush’s ongoing war).
We’re living in breathless, airless America, whose media suffers from constant memory impairment and whose major oppositional candidates, on seeing the video of Saddam, rushed to nail Howard Dean’s feet to the ground for his antiwar stance, and whose pundits hurried to assure us that the President now had it made in 2004, and all the while the White House could hardly stop grinning. I hate to say, hold on, even for a minute. After all, we now seem to live by the second. A longer view, one that extends at least several hours, if not days or months, into the past and the prospective future just isn’t in the cards in moments like this.
Though you would think that the capture of a tyrant might largely be a moment of significance for the people he oppressed, this was distinctly an American event. As history professor Juan Cole, whose “Informed Consent” website on Iraq is invaluable, points out in an entry included in full below, “The capture of Saddam is probably more important for US politics than for the Iraqis. The Baath Party and the Saddam cult of personality were spent forces by the end of the Gulf War, which was why Saddam was forced to rule by sheer terror His actual capture is just a footnote in Iraq.”
Certainly, for many Iraqis there was relief and joy on Sunday. Given the grisly history of Saddam’s rule that’s hardly surprising. But here’s the thing, for them there’s a hell of a morning hangover to follow — and the hangover is us. Yes, Iraqis fired guns in the street (I always wonder how many people are hurt from that. Those bullets must come down somewhere…) and, as Danny Schecter at his News Dissector weblog pointed out, Fox TV repetitively carried some of the celebrations, such as they were:
“FOXNEWS.com sounded as usual like the Administration it serves. Their headline: ‘SADDAM HUSSEIN CAPTURED.’ The stories: ‘Bush Knew of Capture Saturday. President was at Camp David when he learned Saddam possibly in custody,’ ‘Joy in Iraq Over Saddam’s Arrest, Iraqis celebrate by firing guns into the air, honking horns, cheering.’
“What is odd is that Fox was showing all these Iraqis dancing around and waving red flags with Arabic slogans, which I (and they) could not read. Later, a shot from another angle showed that on the other side of the flags was the hammer and sickle! These cheering Iraqis, portrayed as backers of the Coalition, were actually Communists.”
The same communists (check your chronology below) Saddam crushed and slaughtered back in the 1970s.
When the news of Saddam’s capture broke in Baghdad, Robert Fisk, reporter for the British Independent, was “amid Iraqis with no love for the Americans” in the slums of Sadr City visiting the place of a Shiite cleric who had recently been run over and killed by a U.S. tank. As he observed (The tyrant is now a prisoner)
“A boy walked from the room and ran back with news that Iraqi radio was announcing the capture of Saddam. And faces that had been dark with mourning – that had not smiled for a week – beamed with pleasure.
“The gunfire grew louder, until clusters of bullets swarmed into the air amid grenade bursts. In the main street, cars crashed into each other in the chaos. But this was momentary joy, not jubilation. There were no massive crowds on the boulevards of Baghdad, no street parties, no expressions of joy from the ordinary people of the capital city.
“For Saddam has bequeathed to his country and to its would-be ‘liberators’ something uniquely terrible: continued war. And there was one conclusion upon which every Iraqi I spoke to yesterday agreed.
“This bedraggled, pathetic man was not leading the Iraqi insurgency against the Americans. Indeed, more and more Iraqis were saying before Saddam’s capture that the one reason they would not join the resistance to US occupation was the fear that – if the Americans withdrew – Saddam would return to power. Now that fear has been taken away. So the nightmare is over – and the nightmare is about to begin. For both the Iraqis and for us.”
Of dreams and reality
Our present delusionary state had its proximate origin in Washington back in the early 1990s when a bunch of neocons and their allies (supported by a few Iraqi exiles ready to paint pretty pictures of their “liberated” future) constructed elaborate freelance dreams of a new imperial world order. The 2000 election put them in power; the September 11th attacks fueled their Humvees; and this year they revved up and took the drive of their dreams directly through Iraq, ready to fulfill a mad vision of reorganizing the world via the Middle East yada yada. You’ve heard it from me before.
The right used to claim that the problem with Marxists was that they were utopian dreamers who insisted on imposing their dreams on a recalcitrant reality. Isn’t that the perfect description of the men now in power? Not surprisingly, as tends to happen with dreams, none of them worked out as imagined or as advertised. “Progress” was constantly being made, but somehow the term “occupation” quickly replaced “liberation”; an insurgency began; the oil didn’t come out of the ground in the expected quantities; Shiite clerics had strange ideas about voting; our Iraqi exile allies proved weak reeds indeed; the newly trained police were infiltrated; half of the first trained army unit “resigned.” I could go on. Who was to blame? Saddam, of course. Saddam and al Qaeda. (I have a feeling we’re about to hear a lot more about al Qaeda.)
Here we are in December, just eight months after “liberation,” and by now every explanation offered to justify the war has fled the premises. One by one they hitched rides out of town. The last of them, “democracy,” usually defined as somehow involving a popular vote, is halfway out the door too, because the Bush administration can count heads just as well as Ayatollah Ali Sistani, and 60% of Shiites is going to be more than whatever percentage of Sunnis, Kurds, Turkmens and other Iraqis split their votes at future polling booths.
(Of the game of “chicken” the Americans are playing with Sistani over elections, the veteran Washington Post correspondent Robin Wright observes, “[T]he United States, still smarting from its encounter with Ayatollah Khomeini after Iran’s 1979 revolution, has a bad case of ayatollah-itis. Policy-think is shaped by an unspoken fear: Beware Shia-istan. So the administration is balking at popular elections.” In the same way, a previous Bush administration balked at supporting a popular Shia uprising after the Gulf War, leading to those mass graves we now know so much about.)
So, when it came to explanations for the fix we found ourselves in, what was left? Saddam, of course. It all came down to him. If you think about it, even in captivity, he has an unnaturally heavy weight to bear. From the administration’s point of view, he’s now got to be everything to everybody, here and in Iraq. His presence in American hands has to give Americans voters long-term satisfaction and so bring the Bush ship of state safely into the dock in November 2004. The lifting of his “shadow” has to satisfy Iraqis, who must become more willing (or perhaps the right word is “pliant”) to take the little we’re actually offering them with a lot less fuss. Those shots of American fingers in Saddam’s mouth or picking through his hair for lice have to be just humiliating enough to do a reasonable job of destroying the morale of an insurgency and so lowering the death rate for American soldiers (and contractors and) to the vanishing point.
Once, with his own propaganda machine at hand, he could have presented himself, locally at least, as Superman. But now it’s a big job for a man whose curriculum vitae doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. The question is: After eight months in which that “noose” kept tightening, does the Bush administration have a Super-prisoner or a spent man?
Perhaps with a future public trial looming, a death sentence on the table, and assumedly little to lose, Saddam may still prove a Super-defendant, quite able to fill in all sorts of embarrassing moments from those years when Don Rumsfeld and he were shaking hands. He might even add a word or two on those missing WMDs. (See Robert Dreyfuss, The Problem Prisoner, Tompaine.com.)
Perhaps the President and his advisors should sip that sweet nectar of triumph to the full now and enjoy themselves thoroughly at Howard Dean’s expense, because they have no answer for that morning-after hangover and no way to ration Saddam out over the next ten months. They’ve got a longer way to go than most people imagine right now and the bump in the polls from Saddam’s capture seems to have been modest indeed.
In some ways, I suspect, they’ve fallen for their own line. Manipulators often end up manipulating themselves as well as others. Well before the Gulf War of 1991, Saddam’s grim, mustachioed face had come to personify the essence of evil. That face, and that alone, had stood in for Iraqis in particular and global badness in general. After we declared the war ended last April and the insurgency began, it was his face again — remember those Baathist “bitter enders” — which stood in for and explained the resistance.
For eight months, the resources of the globe’s only superpower were focused on his capture. It was, the administration insisted (and likely believed), his shadow falling on Iraqis that stopped them from accepting us more wholeheartedly as their saviors, the fear of his return that held back their enthusiasm for our version of Iraq. In a sense, the Bush administration fed not only on its own propaganda but on Saddam’s. His face has been their inspiration, and their personalization of the struggle was the obverse side of Saddam’s attempt to make his image and his person the sole presiding deity in Iraq. His was a cult of personality raised to the Nth power; it was the thing he most had in common with Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-Il in that Axis (more like Accident) of Evil.
For over a decade, his image — heroic as presented in Iraq, Satanic as presented here — conveniently filled all screens. It was the picture. No need to look elsewhere. Now, the man himself has been found, helpless, disoriented, unkempt, unresistant, without even a cell phone, in a “spider hole” or a “rat hole” (depending on which American description you prefer). But think about Saddam’s career for a minute. What was he actually? He was a two-bit tyrant and wannabe regional hegemon. Steve Shalom of the ZNET website has just done a clever and illuminating thing. He’s taken an Associated Press chronology of Saddam’s life that conveniently managed to leave our role in it on the cutting room floor and annotated it to include America’s Saddam as well as the one we think we know so well. (A Saddam Chronology) If Saddam was a bloody monster, many of the very men now in power in Washington and those they admired were long his enablers. This is certainly one reason why no one should hold their breath waiting for that public trial to begin any time soon.
Looking at the chronology here’s what I see: Saddam took full power in 1979 — the CIA was instrumental in his rise — and promptly launched a purge of his own party. Then he turned on neighboring Iran, which had just undergone the Khomeini revolution and seemed militarily weak. In 1980, he ordered an invasion of Iranian territory, undoubtedly imagining himself as the new Shah (only recently overthrown by Khomeini) and his Iraq, with implicit U.S. backing, as the power in the region. He miscalculated dreadfully, plunging his country into an eight year bloodbath, which killed untold thousands and sucked the country dry. In 1990, he miscalculated again, invading Kuwait. In the Gulf War the following year he miscalculated yet again and his armies were smashed. In 2003, after over a decade of sanctions, he miscalculated yet again and found American armies at his door. It’s an almost unmitigated record of venality, vanity and catastrophe, both when he was our ally and when he was our enemy. It was also a living disaster for the Iraqi people and dragged them into hell.
But what was he good at? Until April 2003 at least, his sole talent seems to have been clinging to power by any means, including drenching his people in blood. Yes, this is the record of a monster, but an all-too-human and ridiculously fallible one. He deserved to end up first in that hole and then on trial for crimes against humanity. But the question is: Can this man take George Bush and his friends to the political promised land?
Changing the tiger’s stripes
Let me return for a moment to the Sunday news conference in Baghdad where Saddam’s capture was announced. Thanks to a piece by Jim Rutenberg in the New York Times yesterday (A Careful U.S. Plan to Dispel All Doubt on Hussein’s Fate), we know that this event had been carefully scripted months ago — two scripts actually to correspond to either half of “dead or alive” — in Washington and Baghdad’s Green Zone, and approved by the President himself. This public relations “playbook” had its own code name, HVT (for High Value Target) No. 1, and was in part created so that the administration wouldn’t be caught off-guard and make mistakes, as they felt they had when Saddam’s sons were gunned down.
Despite the scripting, there was still something spontaneous about the actual press conference (other than the cheering Iraqi journalists) — and that was the visible euphoria of the Americans. As Iraqi exile Sami Ramadani wrote in the British Guardian, of watching the news as he remembered friends who had disappeared or died at Saddam’s hands (in a piece included below): “But here it was, at last: Saddam’s surrender in ignominy. However, this delightful moment — enjoyed by all the Iraqis I spoke to as the news of his capture was breaking — was soured by the fact that it was Iraq’s newly appointed tyrant, Paul Bremer, doing the boasting: ‘Ladies and gentlemen… we got him!'”
Honestly, even after months of planning, the Bush administration has no clue how we look through other eyes. But their planning does give us a glimpse into the deeper nature of the President and his advisors, especially since — as news story after news story reported — they were desperate to put an “Iraqi stamp” or an “Iraqi face” on events. (That, of course, is a strange image in itself, implying as it does the degree to which we imagine the turning over of power in Iraq to be a matter of image. “Face” in this context becomes the equivalent of “mask.” But in addition, think about putting an Iraqi face on a show focused on the only Iraqi face most Americans know, Saddam’s.) Rutenberg, for instance, writes:
“A decision was made early on that the capture of Mr. Hussein would need an Iraqi face, said [Gary Thatcher, an author of the media strategy and the director of strategic communications for the Coalition Provisional Authority], a stipulation that Mr. Bush felt strongly about, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said Sunday at a briefing.
“‘Iraqis were going to be making the announcement no matter what,’ Mr. Thatcher said. ‘This was overall an Iraqi victory. It was obviously going to mean a great deal to the Iraqis.'”
These are men who know that first impressions matter and initial moments can be crucial, and this was their best shot. So let’s look at the production they actually put together because what they can’t see about themselves or really do anything about — those tiger’s stripes that they will never change — tell us much about the longer term reality that lies just behind the euphoria of the moment and will actually determine our future in Iraq.
Here was the striking thing — for me — about the “got him!” news conference: It started with L. Paul Bremer, CPA head, striding through a portal, up to the podium, and leading off with that exuberant, quite euphoric exclamation about Saddam. After offering a few details on the capture, he added:
“Before Dr. Pachachi, who is the acting president of the Governing Council, and Lieutenant General Sanchez speak, I want to say a few words to the people of Iraq. This is a great day in Iraq’s history Now is the time for all Iraqis, Arabs and Kurds, Sunnis, Shiaa, Christian and Turkaman, to build a prosperous, democratic Iraq at peace with itself and with its neighbors.”
The sort of words it might have been more appropriate for an Iraqi to speak. Only then did he turn to the aging exile Adnan Pachachi. “Dr. Pachachi?”
Pachachi offered a bare paragraph of comment. (“I am pleased to announce to you on behalf of the Governing Council that we are moving on the way with our efforts to achieve sovereignty and authority in the proper allotted time”) and then Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, allied military commander, took over the podium and gave a long statement punctuated by those dramatic film clips of Saddam. Questions followed with all three answering, but with General Sanchez controlling the process, and the event ended with the general pronouncing the last words, “And God bless America.”
Pachachi in other words was sandwiched between the two exuberant Americans, between, that is, “Got him!” and “God bless America.” An exceedingly thin slice of meat between meaty hunks of bread. And that pretty much reveals the face behind the mask (both of which turn out to be ours). Imagine if they had really wanted to put an “Iraqi face” on the event. Dr. Pachachi could, of course, have strode through that same portal, stepped to the same podium, and announced the capture of Saddam, showed the videos, called on the Americans for details and clarifications, and then taken the questions and doled them out. He could, in short, have run the news conference. But it would have cost in impact in the United States and in any case it was, I have no doubt, beyond what Gary Thatcher, L. Paul Bremer or the President could imagine. It’s just not in their mental repertoire.
Keep that in mind over the coming days and weeks. When they wake up from this end-game of inside-the-Beltway-and-Green-Zone dreaming, that will be the bedrock reality of our Iraqi occupation, one likely to present endless problems for them. They simply have no idea how to put an “Iraqi face” on anything but a deck of cards. This is not an approach likely to have much appeal when set against Iraqi nationalism which is still largely “faceless.” It’s not just a matter of the insurgency. Think of the Shiites in the south or the trade unionists now being arrested in Baghdad.
The essential nature of this administration is set. They can’t kick it. And that’s why they’re going to be left with the Iraq of their dreams. It just so happens that those dreams are nightmares. They always were. This is a passing moment. When the dust clears we’ll still be an unpopular occupying power with 110,000 embattled troops in a country with over 60% unemployment, a significant insurgency, and few reassuring Iraqi faces.
The only face that might successfully take Saddam’s place down the line would be Osama bin Laden’s. In the meantime, Americans, I suspect, have largely accepted the deeper promise of Saddam’s capture. And that is: Mission accomplished. The words don’t have to be said. This is what his fall and capture have always meant: the goal is reached; the worst is over; the troops will soon enough be on their way home; Iraq will be quiet if not happy.
Already the first post-capture American soldier has died and others have been wounded. What happens when the first plane goes down over Baghdad International, or the first suicide bomber actually makes it through the gates of an American base, or a significant bombardment of the Green Zone proves accurate — or simply American troops traveling hither and yon continue to get knocked off, day after day, week after week in modest numbers, while L. Paul Bremer and his cohorts in Washington struggle to figure out a way to put an Iraqi face on Iraq. If they couldn’t do it for a simple press conference after months of planning, how will they do it for a whole roiling, embroiled country?
The aircraft carrier, the airport turkey, the capture of Saddam these photo op moments of triumph are already becoming a pattern, just in case no one noticed. There is the euphoria; there are the declarations of November election success by the pundits; there is the glow; there is the nectar; there is victory in the air; and then the media torrent (to use Todd Gitlin’s wonderful phrase) sweeps on to another moment, the banners droop, and in Iraq, where an under-armed group of insurgents continue somehow to drive events, where an oppositional mood is deeply embedded, where in this century as in the last nationalism and occupation are a combustible brew well, you finish this sentence. Tom
Impact of Saddam Arrest on US Politics
By Juan Cole
The capture of Saddam is probably more important for US politics than for the Iraqis. The Baath Party and the Saddam cult of personality were spent forces by the end of the Gulf War, which was why Saddam was forced to rule by sheer terror. You don’t have to put thousands of people in mass graves if you have a large popular mandate. So when Saddam fell, and when the Republican Guard tanks corps disintegrated last April, it was over with. Saddam could never have come back. His actual capture is just a footnote in Iraq. Of course, there are still Baathists, and some of the violence has come from them (as I have repeatedly suggested), but they are a small minority that knows how to rig bombs, not a mass movement.
Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post have more on the complex tasks that remain in Iraq. I am quoted there saying, ‘”Today represents the beginning of the final struggle for the shape of post-American Iraq. The Baathists were a spent force. But what does inspire Iraqis is the vision of Iraq as part of Arab nationalism or as part of the trend toward Islamic governance,” said Juan R. Cole, a Middle East expert and professor of history at the University of Michigan. “With the removal of Saddam, the issue is the shape of Iraq’s future, and these are the issues that will come to the fore.” ‘
The commentators on cable news shows on Sunday seemed to think that Saddam’s capture guarantees Bush’s reelection in November of 2004. Well, incumbents have great advantages, and most often do get reelected. But Saddam won’t do it for Bush. In a way, the capture came too early for those purposes. It will be a very dim memory in October, 2004.
The Sunni Arab insurgency will continue at least for a while (see below), and the possibility that the Shiites will make more and more trouble cannot be ruled out. The US military is stuck in the country for the foreseeable future at something approaching current troop levels. The move to give civil authority to a transitional Iraqi government may not go smoothly. The administration will have to ask Congress for another big appropriation for Iraq sometime before the ’04 election, and that won’t help Bush’s popularity. The Iraqi economy is still a basket case, the oil pipelines are still being sabotaged or looted, and a whole host of everyday problems remain that having Saddam in custody will not resolve. If Iraq is still going this badly in October of 2004, it would be a real drag on the Bush campaign. Yes, I said “this badly.” One arrest doesn’t turn it around, except in the fantasy world of political theater in which pundits seem to live.
Howard Dean and Wesley Clark were far more gentlemanly about the news than one might have expected. I suppose their handlers told them that capturing Saddam is very popular with the US public, and they had to find a way to applaud it and to avoid seeming petty toward Bush on his day of victory.
But in the coming year the Democratic candidates just have to take off these kid gloves. I’d begin by asking some hard questions about Republican administrations’ past relationship with Saddam. Put that photo of Rumsfeld shaking Saddam’s hand in 1983 in the commercials; ask hard questions about former Reaganites now serving in the Bush administration who supported Saddam to the hilt while he was gassing Iranian troops and Kurds; find out who authorized the US sale of chemical and biological precursors to Saddam; and be so rude as to bring up the horrible betrayal committed by Bush senior when he stood aside and let Saddam massacre all those Shiites in 1991, after they rose up in response to a Bush call for the popular overthrow of Saddam. The US military could have shot down those helicopter gunships that massacred Shiites in Najaf and Basra. Bush senior clearly told them to let Saddam enjoy his killing fields. And imagine, the Bush administration officials are actually getting photo ops at the mass graves their predecessors allowed to be filled with bodies!
What happened Sunday was that the Republicans captured a former ally, with whom they had later fallen out.
To read this at Juan Cole’s site click here
Amid the cheers, sobering facts
By James Carroll
The Boston Globe
December 16, 2003
The news stopped America: Saddam Hussein captured — not in some kind of command bunker, running the guerrilla war, but in a “spider hole,” with mice and rats. For the last two days, interruption was the motif as the report upended assumptions about the war in Iraq, the war on terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the US presidential election, the financial markets, even the shopping season. Good news all around, if you can believe the first reactions. Dec. 13 was being described as a historic day because of the bedraggled man found cowering in the dark.
Thinking especially of Saddam’s history as a long-time murderer of Kurds and Shi’ites, a range of people declared a day of celebration — from Baghdad passersby to US soldiers to Howard Dean to television anchors to editorial writers. I might have said so, too, except for the meeting I was coming from when the news came to me.
To read more Carroll click here
Resistance to occupation will grow
By Sami Ramadani
December 15, 2003
The joy was deep, but the pain, too, was overwhelming as I remembered relatives and friends who lost their lives opposing Saddam’s tyranny or in his wars.
I remember my disappeared and dearest school friend, Hazim, whom I hugged goodbye in 1969 at the canteen of the college of medicine in Baghdad. I never saw him again. Although only 15, Hazim had the courage to distribute anti-Ba’athist leaflets at our school in Baghdad within months of the 1963 CIA-backed coup that brought the Ba’athists to power. I remember, too, my dear friend Ghassan, who died in a hospital in Canada after many years in exile. He didn’t live to see the moment he had waited so long for.
Sami Ramadani was a political refugee from Saddam’s regime and is a senior lecturer in sociology at London Metropolitan University