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Comment: Middle Eastern Politics

Why Saddam’s Ticket Was Punched
JT Brown

As if anyone still needed being told at this point, we can forget everything that we’ve ever heard about the imminence of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq. No doubt Saddam Hussein would have like to have had them. And indeed he tried. But as suspected all along, the presence of WMD’s was a trumped up premise for invading Iraq.

Now, no one would ever have accused President George W. Bush holding a torch for Saddam Hussein. And much of this presidency (GW Bush) started out as a quest to reclaim lost family honor and take care of some unfinished business left over from his father’s presidency (Bush Snr). Nevertheless, when the younger Bush first took office, contrary to popular belief, Iraq was not on his radar. His Middle-East policy was actually a study in running away from taking ANY stands, lest his presidency get hopelessly pulled into that region’s morass the same as every other U.S. presidency dating back to Harry Truman’s over half a century ago. But then came 9/11.

When it comes to Osama Bin Laden, I must say that I don’t really care what is going on inside his mangled mind. (There are some who even say that, as with George W. Bush, Bin Laden too, is driven by an obsession to restore the rightful honor to his family name in Saudi Arabia, after his famous father was snubbed and shunted aside by the House of Saud.) Though it would be nice if he died a death similar that Mel Gibson suffered in Braveheart, to me, Bin Laden is simply the charismatic face (and source of money) of Al Queda. But he and Al Queda can only exist because there is a great rage out there. The foot soldiers that sustain Al Queda -and there seems to be an endless supply of them these days- come from all across the Islamic world.

If individual Moslims were asked to single out ‘the’ biggest reason for their outrage towards America, to a person they would answer, "Are you kidding? Support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians." Now, this can open up a whole other set of essays and debates, which intellects greater than mine have been waging for years. Let me just stipulate that A) Israel’s right to exist, securely, is SACROSANCT, and B) the attacking and slaughtering of innocent civilians for political purposes, when other options exist, is indefensible.

However, to Moslims sympathetic to, and enraged by, the plight of ordinary Palestinian refugees (not to be confused with the radicalized Hamas, Al Aqsa Brigades, everyone’s favorite bogeyman Yasser Arafat, etc.,) Israel, behind the sheild and money of the United States, is seen as an occupying force that brings roofs down on the heads of sleeping children, and has no intention of ever letting up on the refugees until every last Palestinian has been driven across the Jordan River. Certainly, looking at maps of the region starting in 1948 and continuing on through to today, it’s irrefutable that Israeli territory expands as the carved up remains on which Palestinians hope to someday make a homeland, continue to disappear.

For its part, Israel is paralyzed by fear. Just as the ruling whites in South Africa were afraid of what awaited them if they ever lost power to the black majority, many Israelis live in fear a Palestinian state coming into being. Instructive, are these famous lines from the pen of Alan Paton: "Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear…. For fear will rob him of all…". But ultimately, it is just that: ‘fear’. And their fear is ‘robbing’ Israelis of the reconciliation and peace that South African whites have belatedly discovered. That, and the religious zealotry of ultra-rightists, preclude Israel from ever truly allowing a negotiated deal with the Palestinians to take hold. Even after a most recent triumph in Geneva, where non-official teams from both Israel and the Palistinian territories just hammered out an agreement that took them two years to achieve, the Sharon-led Israeli government is rejecting and denigrating the effort. Left to themselves, Israelis and Palestinians are incapable of working out peace and a two-state solution. They’ve proven this again and again.

The difference now is, that, America can no longer unquestioningly support Israel. Islamic terrorists are holding America responsible for the misery of the Palestinians. And have brought war to America’s shores. So America now has no choice but to hold Israel’s feet to the fire and make them accept the reality of statehood for the Palestinians. I repeat: Because its not going to happen any other way, a re-elected President Bush is going to impose on Israel the acceptance of a viable Palestinian state.
But timing in this is everything.

Bush is convinced that media coverage of his father in 1992 turned sour coinciding with his administration’s crackdown on Israel, when Israel was caught using U.S. taxpayer’s money to expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The younger Bush is convinced, and he has said as much, that this cost his father re-election. He was determined not to repeat the mistake of crossing America’s Christian right/Jewish voter nexus. Until he is re-elected, that is.

But in the meantime, there have been other important ‘groundwork’ steps to be taken. The main one being that if Israel were to be forced by America into making a deal with the Palestinians, America would have to guarantee Israel’s security.

Now let’s have a look at this. The Arab world has de facto accepted and recognized Israel as a sovereign neighbor. Last year, behind Saudi Arabia’s leadership, the Arab League adopted a peace proposal that grants Israel full diplomatic recognition if Israel allows statehood for Palestinians. Egypt and Jordan long ago made peace with Israel. Lebanon is gingerly putting itself back together after decades of destructive civil war and poses no serious threat to the integrity of Israel. Libya’s Muammar Khadaffi has said that it is time to make peace with Israel. Syria vacillates between negotiating with Israel and not, but they are not crazy. They’re just angling for political leverage in the region. The same can increasingly be said for Iran.
Frankly, the only real threat to stability in the Middle-East has always been Saddam Hussein. He started two wars against his neighbors. He attempted to drag all Arab nations into the Gulf War by bombing Israel with Scud missiles in 1991. The man is a twisted miscreant who was the worst on his own people. GOD FORBID if he ever had gotten his hands on THE BOMB. All of humanity could have been pulled down into a war between civiliations in that case. There is no way that Israel could have been dragged into making deals that it felt compromised its security, with Saddam Hussein still in power just a volley of lobbed missiles away. But now that excuse has been removed.
It is at this point, that I’d like to thrown in that there were secondary and tertiary motivations too, for the ouster of Hussein’s regime.

After America’ s support for Israel, the next biggest source of outrage to Moslims had been the deaths of thousands of Iraqi children each year due to the American-led embargo on Iraq. Not just America, but the United Nations and its member nations too, backed the embargo. Nobody wanted to see Hussein rebuild his arsenal for making war. The problem was, he managed to play hide-n-seek with U.N. arms inspectors, and kept on building new palaces for himself, even while Iraqi children were dying. The embargo was a failed idea that was killing children, impoverishing ordinary Iraqis, but not accomplishing much else. The Arab world seethed at this. Though he would never admit so publicly, Bush –and even more so, Secretary of State Colin Powell - knew the sanctions regime had to go. But damned if they were going to go back to leaving Hussein to own devices. And then there was the presence of the ‘infidel’ American armed forces stationed on the sacred Islamic lands of Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca and Medina. This presence dated back to thirteen years ago, when Iraq had invaded Kuwait. The U.S. stayed on in order to deter Hussein from trying to grab Iraq’s ‘19th Province’ again, or worse yet, Saudi Arabia itself. But this indignity always stuck in the craw of conservative Moslims. Never forget that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi citizens. Though that this was the reason behind an abrupt policy change is one more thing that the U.S. would never acknowledge, actions speak louder than words. With Hussein removed from power, U.S. forces got out of Saudia Arabia, in toto, this past August.

There is a lot which the U.S. cannot admit to, but that is behind its actions. When you get down to it though, a stunned President George Bush must have huddled with his advisors shortly after September 11, 2001 and asked, "How can the Muslim world hate us so much?" And then, "What can we do to stop it?" After that, Saddam Hussein never stood a chance.

© JT Brown December 8th 2003
2003 in Review and 2004 Predictions
{All of JT’s previous articles are indexed at

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