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February - March 2004

Political News

Saddam Hussein In US Custody - Implications for Iraq

by Sashanka Sekhar Banerjee

" I am Saddam Hussain, the President of Iraq . I am willing to negotiate " so said a haggard-looking, bearded Karl Marx-like figure dragged out from a ' rat hole ' in Ad Dawr next to a sparse farm house located within 15 kilometres from Tikrit, the home town of the Dictator who ruled Iraq with an iron-hand for 35 years . Not knowing what to reply, a soldier of the US Army who stood in front of him replied in jest " President Bush sends his regards ". Saddam Hussain chose not to pull the trigger of his revolver and decided to give himself up . It saved his precious life but condemned him to live the rest of his life in utter humiliation . Thus ended on December 13, 2003 the freedom of Saddam Hussain, on the run since the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003 . Whatever the true circumstances were, this was what we were told on TV and the print media .

Reaction In The USA
In terms of the domestic politics of the US , Saddam's dramatic seizure sent the anti-war Democratic Party's Presidential candidates for the 2004 elections into total confusion and disarray and almost ensured, other things remaining equal, the re-election of President George W Bush for a second term .
Notwithstanding the possible electoral gains for George W Bush, the validity of former Vice President Al Gore's contention remained undiluted . He was quoted as saying while declaring his support for Howard Dean, the Democratic Presidential candidate " Our country has been weakened in its ability to fight the war on terror because of the catastrophic mistake the Bush Administration made in taking us to war in Iraq ". What is more, thanks to his unilateralist convictions,
Bush had failed to comprehend the majority opinion across the world who opposed the War on Iraq . This led to his isolation from the rest of the world, weakening the moral argument of his War on Iraq. Saddam's capture did little to alter Bush's case for war .
Reaction outside the US

The European Union Governments like France and Germany who had opposed the War on Iraq, did not waste much time in rushing to welcome Saddam's arrest by the US, hoping to speed up the transfer of sovereignty to the transitional Iraqi Government and establish conducive conditions for social and economic reconstruction of Iraq . Some would see in this sudden reversal of stand by Paris and Berlin as nothing short of capitulation before Washington in the background of the recently announced Pentagon decision denying countries that opposed the war from bidding for the US funded reconstruction contracts . The new-found goodwill from these EU countries towards the US - whatever be the reasons for shaping it - surely provides an opportunity to the US to begin mending the transatlantic rift!

The uni-lateralism versus multi-lateralism debate between the Anglo-American Alliance on one hand and the Paris-Bonn Axis on the other has divided the Western Alliance into two hostile camps at a critical phase in the US-led War on Terror . Such a schism only strengthens the perceived enemy ensuring a needlessly pro-longed war of attrition . Compare this with the
Western Alliance, standing as one solid block during WW1, WW2 and the Cold War . All these wars were fought on ideological grounds and the West won on all the three occasions. Needless to say that such policy differences within the alliance have weakened its resolve and its fighting potential.
The opposition to the War on Iraq by the three Asian powers - Russia, China and India weakened the War on Terror further . A re-assessment of the threat perception by the major powers must be underway in the light of these differences . Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden must be having his daily diet of fun and laughter seeing these divisions in the enemy camp .
The capture of Saddam Hussain, the self-proclaimed Saladin of modern Islam, in such pathetic circumstances as being pulled out of a filthy rat-hole by an ordinary soldier and ignominiously taken prisoner by the US Army has horrified the Arab-Muslim World . It has badly punctured their prestige . Here was a great leader broadcasting video and audio messages to the Islamic World, often holding an upright sword or a gun in his hand, to rise and fight satanic America to the last drop of blood . And here was the same man hiding for life in a disgusting hole in the ground and giving up meekly without a fight . Make no mistake, radical Islam never held Saddam in high esteem, his secularism being an anathema to them .
Saddam's roll call of achievements in the areas of his specialisation is quite impressive . He had built an Army which was incapable of fighting foreign invaders . It was an instrument of internal repression . The mass graves found all over the country are a testimony of his repressive regime . He had attacked Iran and Kuwait killing over a million men in the wars .Hundreds and thousands of Kurds and Shias died in attacks with biological weapons . He was financing terrorism paying out $25,000 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers killing Israelis . The tyrant's capture could dry up this channel of terrorist funding which must bring hope to the Israeli people . Even in Iraq, there will be very few people who will mourn Saddam's passing into oblivion .
One wonders, in what subterranean part of mother earth the other two protagonists of terror are lodged in hiding : Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammad Omar ? From all accounts it appears that Saddam's capture has encouraged America to seek out Osama, redoubling its efforts . Is the waiting going to be long or is there a time frame given the proximity of Presidential
elections in the US in 2004 ? Will their capture herald the collapse of the challenge of resurgent Islam against the West ? In other words will the world see the end of Islamic fundamentalism's terror campaign ? Frankly the prospects do not look very promising .
Franchising Terror Network.
According to a report published in The Washington Post dated November 21, 2003, the leaders of the Al Qaida terrorist network have franchised their organisation's brand of synchronised, devastating violence to home-grown local groups across the world, posing a formidable new challenge to counter-terrorism forces . The report goes on to say that the recent terrorist attacks in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and Iraq show that the smaller organisations, most of whose leaders were trained in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan have fanned out imbued with radical ideology and the means to create or revitalise local terrorist groups . With most of its senior leadership killed or captured and its financial structure under increasing scrutiny, Osama bin Laden's network , now run largely by mid-level operatives, relies increasingly on these groups to carry out the Jihad against the US and its allies . Al Qaeda has turned to inspiring and instigating such attacks .

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