Just how evil was Saddam Hussein? In Hussein’s 30 year hold on power he has launched two attacks on the neighboring states of Iran and Kuwait. That, however, merely puts Iraq in the same category with Israel which has acted likewise in the ’67 War and again in 1982 with the invasion of Lebanon. Despite the advertisements of the Israeli government, Israel was never seriously threatened in either case.
Nor was either attack on Iraq’s neighbors entirely irrational or without justification. The revolution in Iran brought to power a radical Shiite theocracy which was determined to export its revolution across the border where Shiite underground groups with close ties to Iranian intelligence had carried out terrorist attacks and assassinations against the Iraqi government, a country whose population was 60% Shiite. In 1980, because Iran was distracted and weakened by the throes of the theocratic revolution, and in the face of efforts of Tehran to promote revolts by both the Shiites and the Kurd populations in Iraq, Saddam launched a limited war aimed at capturing a strip of land along their common border. The result was an eight year long war in which both sides suffered a million or so casualties.
The United States, who also shared with Saddam an interest in curbing the export of a radical theocratic revolution, cooperated with the Iraqi government by supplying Saddam with economic assistance, weapon sales, the assistance of the US naval battle group, and satellite and other intelligence information in regard to the placement of Iranian troops.
In 1983, at a time that Iran and Iraq were both engaged in gas warfare and Saddam was dealing with efforts to suppress a Kurdish revolt, including the episode in which President Bush claims that Saddam Hussein gassed his own people, Donald Rumsfeld, acting for the Reagan administration, met in Baghdad with Saddam Hussein and pledged increased cooperation between the two nations.
The efforts of Iraq at that time to capture a strip of land at the expense of Iran bore some of the character of the Israeli attack on Egypt in 1967 whose purpose, aside from the capture of the West Bank, Gaza , and East Jerusalem, was to capture the Sinai from Egypt and to hand a defeat to the Egyptian President, Gamel Abdul Nasser, a champion of Arab nationalism and who appeared to be emerging as a charismatic regional Arab leader. This pre-emptive attack came at a time when the Israeli leadership had been assured by its generals that Egypt could be defeated in a matter of days.
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was initiated only after Saddam had receive a “green light” from the United States. On the eve of that invasion, US Ambassador April Glaspie told Saddam, ” We have no opinion of the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.” The State Department had earlier told the Iraqi leader that the US government had “no special defense or security commitment with Kuwait.”
The invasion of Kuwait occurred at the conclusion of the war with Iran when Iraq was recovering from the damage to its economy incurred by that war. Kuwait had refused Iraq a loan of $10 billion or to write off debts that Iraq had incurred from the war with Iran even though Baghdad had felt that it had born the sacrifice of defending Kuwait from Iranian expansion. In addition, Kuwait was overproducing at a rate which exceeded the quotas set by OPEC which had the effect of driving down oil prices on the world market and further preventing Iraq from recovering economically.
In evaluating the evils of Saddam Hussein, the immorality of the internal repression within Iraq which included executions and torture must be weighed against the immorality of the 13 year US sponsored UN sanction regime which UN agency estimates has claimed the live of 5000 children and 7,500 people per month over a 12 year period. These sanctions transformed a nation with a burgeoning middle class and with a free coeducational education system and a free health care system, which reached 93 % of the Iraqi people and was known as the jewel of the Middle East, into one in which most of the deaths occurring were preventable given the proper medicines and clean water, neither of which have been available in adequate supply.
In fact, according to a UNICEF report in July 2002, “diarrhea leading to death from dehydration and acute respiratory infections together account for 70% of child deaths.” Via the UN sanctions, the US has orchestrated the breakdown of the Iraqi economy and the breakdown of the health care system by outlawing imports and purchases of goods on the world market up until 1995 when the Oil-for-Food program was passed and after that by restricting sales and by withholding such items as equipment for power generation, material for telephone and other communication, generators necessary for sewage treatment plants, chlorine for water treatment, medicines including vaccines for the treatment of hepatitis, tetanus, and diphtheria, as well as and medical and hospital equipment including heart-lung machines, blood gas analyzers, and incubators.
In an interview with TV journalist Leslie Stahl, Clinton’s UN representative Madeleine Albright was asked on CBS’s 60 Minutes “We have heard that half a million children have died [as a consequence of the UN sanction regime]é is the price worth it? Ms Albright replied, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price is worth it.”
It is unlikely that Saddam Hussein ever killed half a million children. Are we really in a position to self-righteously condemn Saddam Hussein for being the incarnation of evil? And by the way, Saddam Hussein was apparently telling the truth about weapons of mass destruction, it was George W. Bush who lied.