It’s pretty well agreed: Saddam is evil and has to go.
US President George W. Bush says so. According to Bush, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq is part of an “axis of evil,” including Iran and North Korea. And a few days ago the president pointed out that, “We are vulnerable to evil people. And this vulnerability increases dramatically when evil people have access to weapons of mass destruction.” Bush added that “doing nothing [about Saddam] is not an option.”
Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat, said, “The unique threat to American security by Saddam Hussein’s regime is so real, grave and imminent that….we must be prepared to act alone.”
And the man known as the Bush administration’s dove, Colin Powell, says, “Even if Baghdad readmits UN arms inspectors, the US will still pursue a ‘regime change’ policy, with or without the support of allies.”
So overwhelming is the desire in Washington to depose the Iraqi leader that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told aids within an hour of the Sept. 11 attacks that Saddam must be toppled, even though intelligence sources pointed to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network as being behind the attacks, according to CBS evening news.
Now, one of the most vigorous critics of US foreign policy, Noam Chomsky, is echoing the politicians in Washington. “[Saddam] is as evil as they come,” Chomsky said in a Sept. 5 interview, adding that Saddam is “a major criminal.”
Following British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has said that no one would be more pleased by Mr. Hussein’s ouster than the Iraqi people themselves, the MIT linguist told interviewer Michael Albert that, “The world would be better off if [Saddam] weren’t there, no doubt about that. Surely Iraqis would.”
And in April, the prominent American dissident told interviewer Tony Jones, “An attack, I mean, to get rid of Saddam Hussein, that would be a boon.”
But that’s not the only time Chomsky has voiced support for toppling Mr. Hussein. In a January interview with Stephen Shalom, the US foreign policy critic said, “If there is a serious proposal as to how to overthrow Saddam, we should surely consider it. He remains as much a monster as he was when the US and Britain supported him.”
So Republicans, Democrats and prominent left-wing critics agree: Saddam’s a monster, the world would be better off without him, and serious proposals to overthrow him should be considered.
But before we get carried away on a wave of consensus, it may be fitting to ask a few questions.
If Saddam Hussein is a monster, aren’t Bill Clinton and Tony Blair monsters, too, if not bigger ones? They launched a war of aggression on Yugoslavia, and, in supporting sanctions against Iraq, are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis. As political scientists John and Karl Mueller point out, sanctions have probably killed more people than all the weapons of mass destruction ever used (many of them by American presidents.) Indeed, couldn’t you make the case that every US president back to Truman (if not further) was a “monster”?
And how about George W. Bush? Bombarding Afghanistan, threatening to the kill thousands upon thousands of Iraqis in an all out war, caging battlefield detainees — these hardly fall into the category of non-monstrous, humanitarian acts. Bush surely is not only a monster — he’s a monster with his hands on the largest arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in history, rather than a monster who might someday acquire a very small arsenal, as Saddam Hussein is.
Granted, Saddam is an unpleasant fellow. So are Bush and Blair. But when I hear Tony Blair say, “This is an appalling, brutal…vicious regime,” or Bush talk about “an outlaw regime that continues to possess and develop weapons of mass destruction…[and] continues to thumb its nose at the world,” I can’t help but think of the United States.
And when Bush says, “We must not allow an outlaw regime that incites and uses terror at home and abroad to threaten the world,” I can’t help but think that what he says is true, only that the biggest outlaw regime — and one that relies most on terror to threaten the world — is the regime he heads, and that it must be stopped.
The logic is compelling. If the world would be a better place without monsters like Saddam, it surely would be just as strongly, indeed more so, a better place without monsters like Bush, Blair, Rumsfled, Cheney, and Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (not a hawk, a velociraptor, according to those who know him.) Democrats, who have shown themselves to be just as monstrous as Republicans, must also be included.
So why all the fuss about Saddam, on the right and the left? You can understand why politicians in Washington might demonize the Iraqi leader, but why would left-wing critics like Chomsky do the same, to the exclusion of bigger — and potentially more dangerous — monsters? I may be wrong, but I doubt Mr. Chomksy has ever called a US president “a monster” or “as evil as they come.” My guess is he’s more likely to caution against demonizing, and to encourage a systemic understanding of why US presidents behave in monstrous ways. Shouldn’t the same apply to Saddam Hussein?
And if an argument were made that the world would be a better place were the Bush administration thrown out of office, wouldn’t Chomksy caution that that all depends on who — or what — succeeded it? So how can he be so sure that the Iraqi people would be better off with someone else as their leader? That someone else is almost guaranteed to be a puppet of Washington, and perhaps even more of a monster than Saddam himself.
A few days ago I saw an article titled, “How to topple Saddam peacefully.” How much better I thought, were Americans to stop looking at the small monsters outside their borders, to address a question that would make the world a better place in a more significant and lasting way: how to bring down a much larger monster; one that has taken the lives of millions and condemned numberless others to misery — Washington’s insistence on dominating the world, militarily, politically and economically.
Mr. Steve Gowans is a writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada.