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On overthrowing Saddam Hussein

Dear all

I got an email from Daniel Grunberg, referring me to a piece by an Iraqi
opposition group, 'Iraqi activists'.
( With his permission
I'm sending my reply to the whole list.

Best wishes


Dear Daniel Grunberg

Thanks for your email. I take it you're the same Daniel Grunberg who
recently annoyed Dirk Adriaensens. I think you should have taken more care
with your spelling and presentation, but the basic point you were making 
that those who are opposed to sanctions on Iraq should support the overthrow
of S.Hussein since that is the only way sanctions will be ended  deserves
to be addressed. What I'm going to say in reply is entirely personal and I
don't expect other people on the CASI list to agree with me.

First, I think you're right that there is no, or little, chance of sanctions
being lifted so long as S.Hussein is in power. It would be a too obvious
defeat for the US; it would almost overnight turn Iraq into a very powerful
country; it would put an end to the payment of compensation for the cost of
the Gulf War. I myself favour what seems to be the current Iraqi government
policy of using its (very considerable) economic pull to induce nations
simply to disregard the 'law'. I think that the Security Council imposed
'law' has no moral credibility so long as the five permanent members are
above the law.

The problem I see with overthrowing the Iraqi government militarily is that
the US is unfit to do it, because they are not (unlike the Romans, the
Tatars, the Ottomans, the British etc) a proper imperialist power, one which
is willing to take over the administration of the countries they destroy.
They destroy the infrastructure of the country, then say that the forces
that exist within the country have to put the pieces together again. But the
governments they don't like are the products of the specific history of
those countries; and that specific history reasserts itself, producing
another government they don't like ...

In the case of Iraq, what the Americans have wanted has been for a close
associate of S.Hussein (ie someone very like him) to kill him and take
power. That was the hope for the first few years after the 1991 Gulf
Massacre, and it was for that frivolous end that hundreds of thousands of
Iraqis died of disease and starvation, under the benign gaze of Madeleine
Albright as US ambassador to the UN. They have now, I imagine, given up this
hope and have nothing else serious in mind, since the idea of a war launched
by the INC seems rather fatuous. Perhaps you can persuade me I'm wrong about
that, but I note it doesn't seem to be among the recommendations of the
'Iraqi activists' on the website you directed me to (they advocate lifting
of sanctions on essential services under close UN supervision  quite a good
demand I think  and a special war crimes court to judge S.Hussein. Not such
a good demand since it just adds to the list of obstacles placed in the way
of the lifting of sanctions. It could only be enforced by an invasion).

As I see it, the Iraqi National Congress is made up of Kurds  who most
definitely don't want to launch a war against Saddam  and Sunni Iraqi
nationalists. I think it has very little Shi'i representation. The Shi'i are
actually engaged in armed struggle without asking permission from the US.
Under the circumstances their struggle necessarily takes the form of
'terrorism', and I am curious to know if the Supreme Council for the Islamic
Revolution is on the US government's list of terrorist organisations.

Although the Kurds claim to be in favour of a united Iraq, they are not
'Iraqis' in the Iraqi nationalist sense of the word, and have been engaged
in a long struggle against the Iraq of the Iraqi nationalists  a struggle
that long predates the coming of S.Hussein. Their dependence on the US is
therefore not as contemptible as the involvement of the Iraqi nationalists.
But, as I say, I don't think they're enthusiastic about the INC.

The Iraqi nationalists, on the other hand, have implicated themselves in the
worst crime ever committed against their country. Their failure to condemn
the sanctions and the bombing renders them unfit to be considered as a real
alternative government. On the very best reading their position is analogous
to that of General Vlassov, who thought to liberate his country from Soviet
domination in alliance with the Nazis. They propose, if I understand aright,
to operate in Southern Iraq, where I'm sure the local Shi'i population will
want little to do with them. I assume they haven't proposed using the
Kurdish north as their base because the Kurds, despite their nominal
involvement, don't want anything to do with them either (their
representatives were massacred in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1995 or 6, I can't
remember, with the connnivance of the KDP). What is really being proposed,
since the US is incapable of waging any other sort of war, is intense aerial
bombardment, massacre from a distance, in the hopes that something might
turn up.

So I don't really see any desirable option, given that what I want  return
of Iraq, even under its present regime, as a full member of the community of
nations  won't happen because of US peevishness. And what you want 
overthrow of S.Hussein  won't happen because of US cowardice.

I am sometimes tempted to think that this US cowardice should be challenged
 that the solution to the problem of war and the horrors of weapons of mass
destruction  is that US military might will turn into a US monopoly of
power and direct domination of the world of the sort Hitler is said to have
enivisaged (though his ambitions seem to me to have been modest by
comparison). The idea is that if you are living in a neighbourhood torn
apart by a turf war between protection rackets you have an interest in one
of them (probably the biggest and most vicious) coming out on top and
subduing all the others. That would impose a sort of 'peace' after the
manner of the other great Empires of history. I am deeply opposed to it, but
it makes a kind of sense. Is it what you are working for?

Best wishes

Peter Brooke

PS With regard to your Iraqi activists  is there any significance in the
fact that the main text, about Iraq and general political philosophy, is
full of language errors, perfectly understandable if it is written by an
Iraqi; while the quality of English in the whole section dealing with post
Sept 11 is very good and, contrary to the earlier part, uses the word 'we' a
lot, apparently encompassing both the Iraqi activists and the US?

[With regard to the question I posed to Daniel Grunberg  if he is working
for a US monopoly of power in the world  he replied that he doesn't have
any fixed views as to how these problems should be resolved and is still
posing questions rather than giving answers]
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