Even if nobody has so far succeeded in showing evidence of a direct link between the 9 /11 terrorist operation and the regime of Saddam Hussein…A link, which the Bush administration might exploit in its Iraqi projects, as well as in its ongoing attempt to set up a new regional order in the Middle-East, many doubts would still remain in the background of the picture concerning a possible connexion between the events preceding 9/11 on the one hand, and the events following it on the other.
We hardly need to remind the reader that 9/11 was not born out of the nothingness, but rather out of the chaos: regional and international chaos following the destruction of the fragile balances in the Middle-East. While delivering Kuwait from the brutal and mortal “fraternal” embrace of the Iraqi “Big Brother”, “Desert Storm” é when it calmed down- not only left all the thorny questions raised by the invasion of Kuwait, without answers, but even ésomehow- heightened the tensions to an unprecedented level. If Kuwait was liberated, the 23 million Iraqis were actually hijacked, because they have been taken between Saddam’s unyielding anvil, and the hammer of the UN sanctions.
On another side of the picture, the two most important accords between Arabs and Israelis é after Sadat/Begin/Carter’s Camp David’s peace- reached an unsaid ébecause unacknowledged – deadlock. Neither Jordan nor the Palestinian Authority succeeded in selling their peace with Israel to the other Arabs. How would they? Peace actually resembled to anything but peace. President Clinton, who probably was attracted by the perspective of entering American and world history as the man who achieved peace between Arabs and Israelis, did not hide his bitterness when and after the negotiations failed. He will not outdo Carter’s achievement. He certainly passed by so close to the Nobel Prize. He would not fill his golden retirement with the souvenirs of such a glory. Instead of that, he would pass in history as the Don Juan of the White House, which is not really a thin achievement.
Anyway, when his successor came to the White House, almost everything in the Middle East was to be re-settled.
The Israelis and the Palestinians resumed their interminable war. The Iraqis were suffering a thousand pains under the embargo. The Syrians were still recalcitrant and doubtful. The Lebaneses found another reason to continue the struggle in Shabaa. The Jordanians and the Egyptians were jammed with their peace accords: on the one hand they could not deny them, and on the other their hearts were bleeding because Israel has not changed. And all those people along with their Arab and Muslim brethren, from the mountains of Afghanistan eastward, to the confines of the Great African Sahara westward, were living “the time of the assassins”, to use a well known expression of Henry Miller.
In effect, never before that time the Islamic radicalism attained such an authority in those surroundings. The New Assassins were not the direct descendants of Hassan al Sabbah’s middle-aged sect, albeit they use similar techniques of terror against their enemies. They are not doped with Hashish as their Ismaelite predecessors, but rather with modern brainwashing techniques, that have been used é and even gained credit and fame- by the CIA. The Manchurian candidate of the Cold War has become a remote souvenir, although his “fathers” have é unwarily – begotten the new robots of the suicide-bombing mania. A proof é if any- that even in the terrorism business, there is also a lot of work and a lot of progress.
It was 9/11 operations that will make an evidence of these episodes. Since then, everything would sound different.
The friends and the allies are no longer the friends and the allies we know. It has become necessary thus to raise the right questions: Who are our allies and friends in this world? Asked the Americans. Out of the blue, they woke up in a hostile environment, like someone who after wreckage finds himself alone in a little island in the ocean. And the questions followed up: Why do they hate us? Are we then so alone? Whenever they look around them, the Americans saw little sympathy, a lot of hypocrisy and hate and envy. Whereas they thought of themselves as the nicest people on earth, they were dismayed by the fact that this very earth did not send them back the genuine reflect of their image. So, what’s wrong?
The new president who had to tackle the crisis found it easier to resort to the good old Manichean precepts of good and evil. Henceforth, we are the good people, and they are the evil. And like in the cartoons, the cinema, and the comic strips, the good hero would have to fight the evil and prevail. That’s évery simplified- the strategy of nowadays’ superpower.
Once the strategy settled and adopted, the new administration had to find the enemy. It was not hard. If Saddam was self-designated, it was Usama bin Laden who would take on his back the blow. However, to strike at Saddam’s door first would seem nonsense. Everything happened thereby as if while cleansing the Afghan caves and destroying the Taliban and al-Qaeda’s bases, the Bush administration was all that time long preparing the true, the delicious, and the much attractive, much succulent meal. It was not the stony Afghanistan that concerned America, but well the wealthy Iraq. And it was not the shadowy Bin Laden who represented the real weight in the international balance, but the ruthless Saddam Hussein.
After all, even if there is not the least connexion between al-Qaeda and Saddam… Even if 9/11 has nothing to do with the embargo imposed on Iraq, what could the Americans take from Bin Laden? His life? It is worthless now. His $300 millions? It is a drop in the ocean. Then, compared to the real fortunes of American wealthy people, what is Bin Laden? Afghanistan? That’s easy, but it never belonged to Bin Laden. He was just a refugee out there. Yet, if Bin Laden seemed so worthless, it was Saddam who appealed é almost naturally- to the American Vendetta.
Why a vendetta? Because 9/11 happened. And behind 9/11, there was a dark conspiracy where anybody in the Arab-Islamic world could be involved to some level or another. Maybe this sounds a little paranoid, but there is no other way the CIA and the folks of the Secret Service think. After all, what is al-Qaeda if not the international Islamic terrorist network? Somehow like the International Communist in the Cold War, but with a different ideology.
Saddam appealed to the American anger é that had anyway to focus on some party é not only because he was the model of “evil” decried by president Bush (so numerous other models continue to live unharmed, though), but most of all because something valuable could be snatched from him, and if achieved, such a project could be as rewarding to the USA as punishing to its enemies.
It is obvious that the award is Iraq itself.
Snatched from the hands of Saddam, Iraq would help America in settling the old accounts with its enemies, on the one hand, and in opening the way to the new regional order so wished by Washington, and so waited by Israel, on the other hand.
This is not to mean that Saddam Hussein was an obstacle to America’s plans in the Middle East. Anybody with a little présence d’esprit knows that Saddam actually helped Bush father and son. He helped the father entering in force in the Gulf, when he invaded Kuwait, just because ambassador April Glaspie did not object anything to his plans. He thought that the Americans were encouraging him to overthrow Al Sabbah House, which would enable him to control more than 50% of the Middle East’s oil. It goes without saying that the previous American assistance to Saddam during the war against Iran made him believe that Washington would comply with his wishes if he invaded Kuwait, in order to pay back the billions he owed to almost everybody. Such foolishness was unmatchable. Besides, Saddam was ready to sell Iraq and his own mother to the Bush administration if he was allowed to stay in power. He would have stayed twenty or thirty other years over the hearts of the Iraqis, because their pains meant nothing to him. The collective graves the world is discovering in Iraq would have been nothing compared to the dark future the sinister dictator was preparing for his people. Today the veritable question is not whether Bush was right to attack Iraq or not, but rather whether Saddam was right to cling to the power or not.
As to the pretension of Saddam to lead the “resistance” against the American occupation, this is merely a joke. A bad joke indeed. And his “letters” to the Americans or to the Iraqis or to everybody, relayed by Al Jazeera, sound to be the concern of the same low brand of humour. We know that the dictator is élike many of his kind- a humourless person. Yet, who éamong the rational Iraqis é could take him seriously?
Saddam a resistant? Sure, that was in the fifties of the last century. We are in 2003. And the majority of the Iraqi people cannot be assumed to be so foolish, so masochistic, and so stupid as to wish the return of a Tyrant.
Finally, there is certainly a link between all those events, if we read them thoroughly. Neither America is a model of nicety and goodness, nor the rest of the world is all evil and conspiring against it. From the period preceding 9/11, we can probably find a lot of indirect reasons for hatred. After 9/11, the Americans should wonder whether their policy helped to make the world a better place or not. Some of the questions they raised are still unanswered. For the true answers are not to be found in the books and the press, but rather on the field… in all those regions of the world that have been plagued by varied sicknesses, and that are still waiting for the good to come, for their peoples experienced nothing in their lives but evil.
To be faithful to their creed, the Americans are not expected to play the good Samaritans, but just to follow the Ariadne thread, in order to understand and make themselves understood.
Hichem Karoui is a writer and journalist living in Paris, France.