Friday, December 02, 2005

Pray that Saddam is not executed

I know, you're thinking that's a damned strange thing to pray for.

However, we're pretty well fucked in Iraq. Whether we pull out now or later, the place is likely to descend even further into chaos and civil war, and that chaos is likely to spread beyond the borders of Iraq. The only thing we can be sure of affecting by the timing of the pull-out is how many of our own forces get killed and maimed.

No matter when we pull out it's likely we may no longer be able to depend upon Iraqi oil, perhaps oil from much of the Middle East. According to Wilkerson if we pull out at all then ten years down the line we'll have to go back into the region with a far larger force to keep the oil flowing.

We're fucked if we pull out now. We're fucked if we pull out later. We're fucked if we don't pull out at all.

However, the army is stretched to breaking point right now. The army is running short of essential materiel due to wear and damage. It will only get worse the longer we delay pulling out. If we pull out now that gives us ten years to take what's left of the army and build it into the far bigger force Wilkerson thinks we'll need. If we pull out in five years that only gives us five years to take what, by then, will be a further reduced and broken army to the size we need.

There are efforts going on inside Iraq between the Kurds, Sunnis and Shi'ites to abandon their differences and unite to get the US out of there. That might work. The uneasy coalition might not fragment into civil war a few years down the line (but almost certainly will because the coalition is based on the principle of "the enemy of my greatest enemy is my friend, even though he would normally be my enemy"). But if the US pulls out, if the US hands back the oil infrastructure it (illegally, according to international conventions applying to occupying forces) forced Iraq to sell to US companies, if the US hands money to Iraq for reconstruction instead of paying 100 times as much to the likes of Halliburton to do a crappy job, then maybe, just maybe, things will stabilize. But don't bet on it.

Are there any other possibilities? Only one that I can think of, and it's almost as risky, if not more so. Re-install Saddam. Use US mercenaries (the "contractors" that are doing the seriously illegal stuff there already) to replace Saddam's elite personal guard and to run the torture rooms for Saddam rather than for Cheney. Saddam is the man who can re-estalish his secret police and bring the country back into control. He knows the people he can trust to establish an iron hand over Iraq whereas Chalabi and Allawi do not. Saddam is one of the few people who could achieve this, and possibly only Saddam knows for sure who else could do the job.

Sure, Saddam was a dictator and a tyrant, but until Bush-the-slightly-smarter decided he needed an excuse to plant US forces in Saudi Arabia to protect the corrupt House of Saud from revolution, Saddam was our dictator and tyrant. He happily went to war against Iran using the WMDs that the US sold him (using Donald Rumsfeld to arrange the deal).

Sure Saddam was a dictator and a tyrant, but he was a secular one. Iraq was the most enlightened nominally-Islamic nation in the region. There was no religious persecution (Saddam even had a Christian in his cabinet). Women were free to walk the streets without being raped. There was no civil disorder. Until Bush-the-slightly-smarter's war and the sanctions thereafter, the Iraqi people had the best standard of living in the region. They had food. They had running water. They had electricity. They had cheap gasoline. They were happy. The situation after the first war and sanctions was a lot worse than before, but still tolerable; the situtation now is far worse than ever.

Sure, Saddam was a dictator and a tyrant, who ran a secret police and torture rooms, but he didn't use them indiscriminately (as the US does). The only way you ended up in one of Saddam's torture rooms was for opposing Saddam. As long as you didn't oppose Saddam you were left unmolested, free to enjoy your high standard of living, your running water, your continuous supply of electricity, etc. Iraq was no worse in persecuting potential rebels than Saudi Arabia, but it was a lot more tolerant of religious freedom and the population had a much higher standard of living.

Sure Saddam was a dictator and a tyrant, and had no love of Israel, but he refused to have anything to do with al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization which wished to harm the US (after all, he was a willing CIA tool).

The only real question is not could Saddam fix what Bush has broken, but would he? His two sons, whom he hoped would take over when he died or retired, were killed. Worse than that, in defiance of Geneva Conventions and of Islamic sensibilities, photos of their mutilated corpses were shown around the world. It's hard to like people who do that to you. But, as the Bushies say, business is business (which is why Dumbya's father Prescott Bush happily helped Hitler even after the US entered WWII).

If a tenth of the reconstruction money currently being siphoned off by Halliburton were given directly to Saddam to use to pay local companies, he could achieve more by using just one-tenth of that for reconstruction and keeping the rest for himself. Halliburton overcharge many tens of times above true cost to do a fucked up job of reconstruction. Just one-percent of the money given to Halliburton would allow Iraqi companies to do the job properly. It would greatly reduce the vast unemployment figures (as I recall, somewhere around 60%), put money into the economy and greatly reduce unrest (which is largely about people having no jobs and no money).

Yeah, we'd be effectively bribing Saddam to co-operate with us, but so what? If Wilkerson is right and ten years down the line we'll have to send millions of troops into the region, that's going to cost a lot more (not to mention a death toll that will dwarf Viet Nam).

It's even possible Saddam would live long enough to father more sons and raise them, by example, to be tyrants just like him. Sons who could then continue his dynasty. If not, perhaps he might consider adopting children of some other cruel, despotic, corrupt dictator - Jenna and Barbara come to mind.

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