The rushed execution of Saddam Hussein has all the hallmarks of desperation. Bush needed some good news out of Iraq, particularly as any day now there will be the announcement of the 3,000th US military fatality in Iraq.
A key Shia faction in the Iraqi government, the Dawaa, wanted to show some decisive action in the midst of the chaos and death that today constitutes normal life in Iraq. Thus the execution did not wait for the end of Saddams second trial for the 1988 gassing of thousands of Kurds in Halabja. The fact that Saddam was executed before the Halabja trial finished alienated many Kurds who feel that their oppression is being downplayed.
But it is obvious that Saddams demise will not end the escalating sectarian conflict in Iraq. In the absence of a non-sectarian and multi-ethnic workers movement Iraq is falling apart. On the scaffold Saddams very last words, condemning the Persians while crying long live Islam, were calculated to enflame the Shia-Sunni sectarian divisions.
Bush may hope to gain some kudos from Saddams execution. But, while a majority of Iraqis will shed no tears for the former dictator, his death will probably mean increased Shia demands for the withdrawal of the US and British occupying forces.
Both Bush and Blair, given the obvious disastrous outcome of their war of choice in Iraq, have chosen not to overplay Saddams execution. But secretly they are relieved that he is dead. As many have already commentated so long as Saddam was alive Washington, London and many other governments faced the danger that far more details would emerge of how they backed Saddam up until his 1990 invasion of Kuwait. This is why Saddam was not charged with anything in relation to the 1980-88 war with Iran.
It is important that this imperialist support for Saddam is not forgotten because the nature of his overthrow, trial and execution has already led to him been seen, especially by Sunni Arabs, as an anti-imperialist fighter and now martyr.
The CWI was unflinching and active in its opposition to the US and British invasion of Iraq. We stated that this was an imperialist war aimed at giving a demonstration of US power and securing control over the Middle East and its oil supplies. All of Washington and Londons propaganda about democracy, human rights and ending oppression were cheap words.
Just look at Bush and Blairs craven attitude to the reactionary feudal dictatorship in Saudi Arabia demonstrates their hypocrisy. The British government talks about Saddam being made subject to the rule of law, but only a few weeks ago Blair stopped a criminal investigation that would have exposed exact details of how the corrupt Saudi elite loot their own country. Bush and Blair sometimes speak about the struggle for peace, but were silent, refusing to even call for a ceasefire, when their ally, the Israeli government, unleashed its onslaught against Lebanon earlier this year.
But the CWIs opposition to imperialism and its invasion did not mean support for Saddams rule. We opposed the war, but did not support the continuation of Saddams dictatorship. We argued that the only way forward for the Iraqi people would have been if they themselves overthrow Saddam and begun to build an Iraq ruled by workers and poor peasants. Today this remains the only option that can offer a way out of the horrors facing Iraqis today.
Saddam deserved to face trial, but a real trial organised by the Iraqi working people themselves that would have exposed not only all his crimes but also all those who supported him. Much is being said about a precedent being set as Saddam was the first leader to be convicted of crimes against humanity. Yes, a precedent has been set and one of the tasks of the socialist movement when it is able to overthrow capitalism will be to put on public trial all the rotten, corrupt and brutal leaders from around the world. And prominent in the dock will be Bush, Rumsfeld, Blair and all the others who plunged the Iraqi people into a dark night of chaos and terror.
Two articles, although written by non-socialists, published in the Independent on Sunday (London) on 31 December 2006 give useful summaries of how Washington, London and other governments backed Saddam up until August 1990.
One is by Robert Fisk, He takes his secrets to the grave. Our complicity dies with him and the other is by Rupert Cornwell, How Washington and London helped to create the monster they went to war to destroy (both open in new windows).