Death By Hanging
This was an interesting day for me. It was a chance to speak to many people, even those who had fallen out of touch. It was a day that is not likely to be repeated in my lifetime. Personally, it was the culmination of a decade of work, and two generations of hopes. I am happy to have lived this day.
But enough of this gushy business—let’s talk politics.
Saddam Hussein is to hang for one of his many crimes.
The verdict today was a revelation for me: I am finally convinced that the whole insurgency is a fool’s errand.
From the very beginning, the Ba’athist strategy in launching the insurgency was to re-instate Saddam Hussein. It is partly due to the established fact that Saddam himself plotted for a post-invasion comeback through precisely such an insurgency during his last days in power. The Ba’athists furnished the insurgency with funds, logistics and talent. They widened its scope by bringing in and enabling the foreign jihadists and their alien form of Islamic radicalism. The latter have since gone their own way to become one of the driving forces behind the violence in Iraq, but the Ba’athists remain at the core of the insurgency.
And all this energy expended in cunning, propaganda, guerrilla warfare and bringing the country to a sectarian boil was for one crazy goal: bringing back Saddam. All the sophistication and expertise as well as resources available to the Ba’athists from their long years at the helm of the Iraqi state—all the ingredients for a hard and bitter battle—were geared not for such feasible outcomes such as a rehabilitation of the Ba’ath Party or putting the Sunnis back on top. Nay, all this destruction visited upon Iraq had been for one purpose only: the near-impossible return of Saddam, which will become very impossible should he hang.
I think Saddam’s own reaction was very telling too; as Judge Raouf read the guilty verdict, it seemed that only then did Saddam realize that it had all been for real: getting deposed, held accountable and securing an appointment with the hangman’s noose.
My revelation will be met by skepticism. I have long suspected that the whole point of the insurgency was for as futile a goal as re-instating Saddam. But I couldn’t match the sophistication that went into tactical movements of the Ba’athists to such a fundamentally stupid desire. But the reaction to the news today, from those saddened by it, was a breakthrough in understanding the very spirit of the insurgency.
This is my basic explanation: we are witnessing the very complex reaction of the “totalitarianized” citizen in setting aside the legacy of an ancien regime. Saddam had become at once the symbol and the “reflection in the mirror” for these Ba’athists: his guilt, if acknowledged, would be their own, and his acquittal through the legitimizing force of victory would be their own spiritual redemption. They were creatures of Saddam, not of the Ba’ath or the Sunni sect. They were Saddam and his orphans all at once.
Those Muscovite pensioners reminiscing over Stalin, or those supremacists enthralled with the fantasy of Hitler’s survival from the bunker, would understand this Ba’athist yearning for the “Father.”
The Ba’athists failed to find an alternative leadership, and failed to compromise over their role in a new Iraq, because they have been unable to move beyond Saddam and the fantasy of his return. So they reject all that is not Saddam, and will bear arms against any pretenders to their master’s throne.
We are witnessing an incredible moment in the history of freedom. I had no idea that the verdict would release such an intense bond of fealty to Saddam among those who reject and fight the new Iraq.
Today, we learn that the insurgency is doomed, and that the insurgents know that they are facing doom. And today, they have come to recognize doom in whatever length of rope is necessary to hang a man—indeed, to hang an era.
I was surfing around, and I found this video of a Ba’athist song recorded just prior to the liberation of Iraq. Its title is roughly translated as “Go ahead and pick a fight and us men will take care of it” and it is addressed to Saddam.
Here are some more words from it:
“If you beckon the star it will come to you, and we will wipe America off from the map.”
“We will overturn the world until you tell us to stop.”
“Go ahead with Uday and Quday, for in the darkness your sons will illuminate your way.”
“We will block out the sunlight with our [raised] swords.”
“We will even out the necks of the enemies.”
“Our chests will be your armor.”
“Carry the world in your hands and leave the taste of pain in the chest of your enemies.”
“The nation, the army and the men of the [Republican] Guard are with you.”
There are more words and images that shamelessly exploit the religious sentiments of Iraq’s Shi'as and the song relentlessly invokes the name of Imam Ali, the patron saint of Shi’ism. There is even a “shout out” to Imam Hussein, Ali’s son, and his shrine in Karbala. The shrine was heavily damaged when the Republican Guard wrested the city from the Shi'a rebels in 1991, and allegedly fired upon the shrine on purpose. I have also heard from several eye witnesses that some RG tanks were emblazoned with the slogan: “No Shi'as After Today.”
There is also a shot of the Parade Ground and Saddam’s former legions marching in unison. This Parade Ground has been earmarked as the site of a museum commemorating the victims of the Ba’ath.
America has not been wiped off the map. Uday and Qusay can no longer provide illumination since they were extinguished on July 22, 2003. There is a Shi'a Prime Minister from the Da’awa Party. Jalal Talabani is the president. Saddam Hussein—far from being able to whimsically “beckon” celestial bodies or “carry the world” in his hands—is to be hung.
The Ba’athists will go on to “even out” necks and “overturn” things, for a while.
But this video is a reminder of what the Saddam regime was all about: Saddam worship in all its delusions.
It is over, and it will never return. There is something powerful and just in that realization.