A Murderer Says Good-Bye

EDITORIAL, 21 Jan 2009

#46 | Johan Galtung

Iraq, from being “a brutal dictatorship, is now an Arab democracy”, he said, W, after having set the USA back more than his eight years.  And Iraq?  Let us try an evaluation.

Politics, like all human action, is about ends and means; a useful if not sharp distinction.  Bush’ phrase covers two ends–let us accept them at their face value–no means, and no other ends. At this point the psychology, or psychopathy, of polarization enters: we judge friends by their legitimate ends and enemies by their illegitimate means.  We bestow legitimacy on friends and not on enemies; we focus on ends, intentions, for friends and on means, facts, for enemies.

Thus, nazism, not only nationalist but also socialist, had such ends as abolition of smoking as dangerous to health, full employment, and removal of the barriers in a two-tier society where top positions were filled from the upper tier. But the effectiveness of this opportunist and demagogic aspect of his policies is obscured lest good ends should be used to justify bad means, and horrendous ends.  Of course they do not; but that kind of polarized imagery makes understanding of the support for Hitler impossible.

The same applies to Saddam and Bush.  We need all ends pursued and all means employed, legitimate and illegitimate, for any evaluation, carefully weighing costs against benefits. Thus, Saddam reputedly did 14 good things, like literacy, a welfare state, and the freedom for women to wear hijab or not. And the illegal war, used by Bush as a means, now seems to have cost more than one million Iraqi and 4,000 US lives, and produced 5 million displaced persons, half internally in Iraq, the other half in neighboring countries like Jordan and Syria. The material damage runs into many billions of Euros.

However, multiply the number of killed, by US troops or as a result of upsetting a very unstable equilibrium, by, say, 10, and we may have an estimate of the numbers with glowing hatred in their hearts and minds out of a population of about 30 million.  Since most of them see the US attack as illegal-illegitimate, this throws dark shadows–and whirling shoes–on the future. Think of the culture and structures of violence, the traumas, and the brutalization of Iraqis, Americans and others.  Think of the damage to international morality by taking neither the UN Charter, Art. 2,4, forbidding war, nor human rights, seriously by running Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

Then the ends.  Saddam ran a “brutal dictatorship” at the time of attack March 2003.  But he was an even worse dictator 10-25 years earlier, making a case for an UN-supported, legal intervention in the 1980s when he was an ally of the USA.

Bush draws a line at his own departure early 2009, making it fair to ask: what would Iraq have been like today, with no US-led coalition attack?  In the peace offer to Washington February 2003 (New York Times, 09/11/03) Saddam promises multi-party elections within two years (and discussing of oil quotas, open WMD inspection, participation in the Middle East peace process).  Elections were on his mind, even if the parties might have been as similar as in the USA.  Moreover, he might have permitted fair and free elections, but with Iraq’s government appointed by himself, like now by the USA.

As pointed out by Gwynne Dyer (Japan Times, 22/03/08) “The real question is what will Iraq be like 20 years from now, and what would it have been like in 20 years if the US had not invaded.  But it can never be answered, because that alternative future was canceled by the invasion”.

A basic problem: Iraq is an artificial construction by the British Foreign Office accommodating Kirkuk-Mosul and Basra oil within the confines of one “country”.  As Faisal I, made king of Iraq by the British in 1921, said: “There is no Iraqi people, only an unimaginable mass of humans far from any patriotic idea, cut across by religious traditions and absurdities, united by no togetherness, inclined to anarchy and at any time ready to rise against any government” (Der Spiegel, No. 14/2008).  Accurate today, soon a century later.

An “Arab democracy”?  W should have learnt by now that the Kurds are Sunni, but not Arab.  The Kurdish, Sunni and Shia parts seem only to “hold together” under occupation or dictatorship.  Democracy gives power to peoples “united by no togetherness”, and they will probably prefer, at most, an Iraqi Community, a confederation.  Unless the clans enter:

Saddam (Husein):  Here is the point.  In Iraq it is all by the clan. People in Fallujah will listen only to military from their own clan.  Here is the name of my friend the general, ask him from me to move his boys in for law and order.  Give him my best regards.  He’ll do.

Paul (Bremer), grabs his cell phone: Will do, Saddam.  Can do.

(from my mini-play, The Agreement, May 2004.  Pure fantasy?)

How about the decline in violence after the surge?  Most non-US military experts agree that “after is not because”: the mutual ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods had removed targets.

No, W, no. The war in Iraq was for illegitimate ends, like oil control, and the legitimate ends were unbelievable.  The means employed were not only illegitimate but also horrendous. A person who kills for personal gains is normally called a murderer.  In a world not distorted by the country in whose name the mass murderers could operate, the International Criminal Court was designed for people like you.  It still is.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Jan 2009.

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