The capture on December 14 of Saddam Hussein is being touted by US/UK authorities and propagandists as a victory for them and a sign of progress for Iraq. While it is certainly an important psychological, symbolic blessing for Iraqis who suffered so terribly under Saddam’s dictatorship, it changes nothing on the ground for a people now living under a chaotic, dangerous occupation. In fact, his capture could turn out to be bad news for George Bush and Tony Blair.
Jubilation among Iraqis is totally understandable –” they see this as closure, the end of a dark era in their lives and country’s history.
However reporters, analysts and experts have rightly pointed out that this will not alleviate the daily ordeal for ordinary Iraqis –” dire poverty; unemployment; malnutrition; checkpoints; lack of medicines, schools, drinkable water, electricity and fuel; an entire infrastructure destroyed by allied bombing and UN sanctions; an entire economy up for sale to those responsible; and the heavy-handedness of a US occupation force with little understanding or care for Iraqi life, sensitivities, hopes, grievances and concerns.
All this from an administration in Washington that was so keen on war that it forgot, or didn’t care, to plan for peace, ignoring its shallow promises of a better life for the Iraqi people, who were freed from one set of miseries and shackled with another by outsiders experimenting, playing God with their futures.
Bush and Blair have long claimed that Saddam’s capture would take the steam out of the resistance. They assumed, naively and against the advice of officials and generals on the ground, that Saddam was still "running the show" (a haggard, disoriented old man caught sleeping and alone in a small dirt hole is hardly a model resistance leader).
They assumed, against the evidence from reporters who interviewed resistance leaders and fighters, that they were fighting primarily in his name, in the ludicrous hope that he would return to Baghdad to rule once again.
They assumed, simplistically and inaccurately, that Iraqi opposition to Saddam would translate into blind support for occupation. Remember the laughable expectation that Iraqis would greet their "liberators" with roses? Remember the fanfare following the killing of Saddam’s sons? How quickly these petered out into obscurity.
The resistance will not vanish. Saddam’s capture will not be the answer to Bush’s and Blair’s dreams, because they have wilfully ignored and belittled the widespread opposition by a proud people against the occupation of their country by those who for decades supported the tyrant who brutalised them, who bombed a prosperous, educated society into the third world, who maintained sanctions that punished everyone except the regime it was supposed to target.
The resistance will continue, and Bush and Blair will be left to find another bogeyman, another sorry excuse for the chaos they have sowed. This will not stop the opening of eyes to an insurgency quite separate from Saddam.
The masses who are against the occupation of their country will still be against it. Those suffering under the current mismanagement will still suffer –” in fact, his capture may focus their minds even more on their daily plight. And those peripheral elements who fought for him may well continue to do so with renewed vigour, out of revenge.
All in all, Bush and Blair may soon wish they kept Saddam on the run. That way, they could have continued to pour blame on an influence and persona that died the day Baghdad fell.
Now the blinkers are off. Saddam’s capture is certainly a good thing, not least because Bush and Blair have one less reason to stay in Iraq, and because this may well cripple the propaganda machine built around him to obscure the very legitimate, serious and obvious grievances behind Iraqi opposition to occupation.