Saddam: a tribute
Date: Wednesday, November 08 2006
Saddam: a tribute
November 6, 2006 03:00 PM
Three months ago, Tony Blair warned the world that an "arc of extremism" now stretches across the Middle East from Iran to Lebanon. This phenomenon, he suggested, threatens the survival of the very values on which western society is based. Yet, when Blair came to power, no such claim could have been made. Slap-bang in the middle of his currently awesome arc, lay a fortress of stability in the shape of Saddam's Iraq.
Saddam had tied down revolutionary Iran, the most potentially destructive force in the region, in an eight-year war, at the expense of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties. Any Islamic terrorists found on Iraqi territory were summarily executed. The Middle Eastern oil that underpins our society, and therefore the values that our Prime Minister holds so dear, flowed freely into our refineries. Within Iraq itself, a secular state offered women opportunities unimaginable in nearby countries, and provided a standard of living far from unreasonable by the standards of the developing world.
Three objections were made to this state of affairs.
The first was that Saddam had expansionist ambitions. His annexation of Kuwait in 1990 was, however, rooted in a long-standing territorial claim based on the fact that Kuwait had been part of Basra province under the Ottomans and was only hived off under British colonial rule. Somewhat disconcertingly for Iraq's current liberators, this claim was revived in 2004 by none other than the US-appointed President of Iraq's Interim Governing Council.
The second objection was that Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction. Why he stopped doing so, we shall perhaps never know, but when he had such weapons, he chose to use them against Iranian armed forces and Iraq's own dissident Kurds, rather than for any purpose that threatened the wider world. Had he acquired nuclear weapons, this might have proved a useful check on Iran's regional ambitions. Today, Iran appears to pose far more danger to the outside world than Saddam ever did, yet we seem to have no plans to deal with this country as we did with Iraq.
The final objection to Saddam's rule, on which more and more weight has necessarily had to be placed by those responsible for his downfall, is that he abused the human rights of Iraqi citizens. Quite clearly he did. Yet, why should it be assumed that this consideration trumps all others?