Imperialism and the capture of Saddam Hussein
The Bush administration's claim that the
capture of Saddam Hussein is a great step in bringing democracy
and freedom to Iraq should be denounced by all those who
opposed the war, oppose the occupation and are against the
entire enterprise of U.S. imperialism in Iraq.
The capture of Saddam Hussein by U.S. military forces is an
act carried out solely in pursuit of strengthening the criminal
colonial occupation and weakening the Iraqi resistance. What
ever the immediate outcome of his capture, however, it cannot
alter in any fundamental way the historic anti-colonial
sentiment of the Iraqi people and their will to struggle for
The only "democracy and freedom" that Washington intends for
Iraq is the freedom to sell off all the state and privately
owned enterprises to powerful multinational corporate
exploiters; to allow 100-percent imperialist ownership; to
allow the imperialists to take over the 110 billion barrels of
oil reserves and repatriate the profits squeezed out of the
Iraqi people; to set up bases for the Pentagon; and to install
a puppet government beholden to Washington.
It is in pursuit of these objectives that Washington waged
its illegal, "pre-emptive" war of aggression against Iraq.
These are the motives behind the administration's fraudulent
charges about weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and so
on. It is in pursuit of purely imperialist objectives that U.S.
forces have rampaged across Iraq trying to crush the
resistance--raiding homes, imprisoning thousands of suspects,
taking hostages and rounding up leaders. It was for these
reactionary objectives that Washington hunted down Saddam
The gloating triumphalism of the Bush administration, its
systematic attempts to humiliate the former head of the Iraqi
state, and its preparation for an imperialist-run show trial
are meant to send a message to everyone who refuses to bow down
to the dictates of U.S. imperialism: "If you resist, we will
get you." It is reminiscent of Rome's imperial armies, that
brought back rebellious leaders in chains or put their heads on
pikes, and of the U.S. Cavalry, which displayed the bodies of
Native leaders who resisted them.
To the dismay of Bush, Bremer and the military, the initial
response to the capture of Saddam Hussein has been car
bombings, rocket attacks and protest demonstrations. Bush
himself has been cautious in touting this event as some sort of
He and his advisers undoubtedly are mindful of recent
history. Shortly after taking Baghdad, U.S. generals sat in the
newly captured Republican Palace and gloated over their
"amazing victory," virtually claiming that Iraq was theirs.
Then came Bush's photo-op on the aircraft carrier when he
pronounced the war over. And again, after the execution of
Saddam Hussein's sons, Qusay and Uday, photos of their
bullet-ridden bodies were put on world display.
Each of these moments of "triumph" was followed by renewed
resistance from the Iraqi people.
The administrations in Washington, Republican and
Democratic, have focused their wrath on Iraq for 12 years,
including two wars, a genocidal sanctions regime and now a
bloody occupation. During this time well over a million Iraqis
have been killed and many more injured or sickened. No one
should forget the admission by Clinton's Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright on CBS's "60 Minutes" program on May 12,
Leslie Stahl asked Albright, referring to the sanctions: "We
have heard that half a million children have died. I mean
that's more children than died at Hiroshima. And, you know, is
the price worth it?"
Albright replied: "I think this is a very hard choice, but
the price--we think the price is worth it."
Can anyone make the case that the illegal capture of Saddam
Hussein by U.S. forces has anything to do with concern for the
Iraqi people? Indeed, one U.S. administration after another has
tortured them. Washington's invasion of Iraq was illegal. Its
occupation is illegal. And any trial of Saddam Hussein or other
Iraqi leaders that is set up by Bush, Rumsfeld, Bremer,
Wolfowitz and company is illegal and calculated to further the
oppression and exploitation of the Iraqi people.
The Iraqi people feel violated by this capture and parading
of Saddam. This is reflected in the fact that, try as they may,
the U.S. television networks have been unable to produce any
shots of mass demonstrations celebrating his capture, even by
his most strenuous opponents. All their video takes are tight
shots of small groups. While paid print journalists and
television commentators fantasize about "demonstrations" of
celebration everywhere, somehow the cameras are unable to find
U.S. troops fire on demonstrators
In the meantime, U.S. troops are firing on and killing
demonstrators protesting Saddam Hussein's capture.
If anyone has any doubt about the reactionary character of
this operation, they have only to listen to the proclamations
of the other imperialist governments. The former colonizers of
the world, from London to Paris to Berlin to Rome to Madrid to
Tokyo, are all hailing the event. Can these robbers--the
promoters of corporate "globalization" and neo-liberal schemes
to trample on the sovereignty of governments and plunder the
national economies of oppressed peoples in Asia, Africa, Latin
America and the Middle East--be suddenly overjoyed because
"democracy" and "freedom" are on their way to Iraq?
To be sure, within the framework of the Iraqi national
revolution--which began with the ousting of the British
colonialists in 1958--Saddam Hussein has played a contradictory
and often reactionary role. Among other things, he and the
Baathists suppressed the Iraqi Communist Party--which at that
time was a genuinely anti-imperialist and pro-working class
party--and waged a reactionary bourgeois war of conquest
against Iran, even accepting support from Washington for his
On the other hand, unlike the feudal oil monarchs of the
Persian Gulf states, who became complete clients of oil
imperialism, Saddam Hussein used Iraq's oil wealth to build up
the country's economic infrastructure on a bourgeois basis,
largely through state capitalism. During his regime, Iraq
became one of the most developed countries in the Middle East.
Significant social benefits accrued to the people, including
free medical care, widespread education and literacy, rights of
women and a social safety net. Above all, however, the Iraqi
president refused to let imperialism take over the country.
The most aggressive sections of the U.S. ruling class,
particularly the oil companies, long ago set out to destroy
Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi nat ional state exactly for these
reasons: they held on to national independence and control over
the oil, the fundamental conquests of the 1958 anti-colonial
revolution. With the coming to office of Bush, these elements
galvanized the entire U.S. ruling class who wholeheartedly
support ed their program of conquest.
It is only in the context of the struggle of U.S. and
British imperialism on the one hand, and on the other the Iraqi
people fighting to undermine the occupation, that the capture
of Saddam Hussein can be assessed. Under these conditions,
anyone opposed to imperialism must reject the right of the U.S.
to imprison him and of Washington's "Governing Council" stooges
to put him on trial.
Whatever role Saddam Hussein played in the resistance, if
any, it is an illusion of the empire builders in Washington to
think that the Iraqi people will ever reconcile themselves to
colonial enslavement--either direct rule through an occupation,
or indirect rule through a puppet government.
Justice for the Iraqi people will begin on the day that the
war criminals in Washington are put on trial.
Reprinted from the Dec. 25, 2003, issue of
Workers World newspaper
This article is copyright under a Creative
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