There is no way to reduce the capture of Saddam Hussein to a meaningless event. It is actually even more important for President Bush than the capture of Baghdad. For if with this last event, a regime collapsed, freeing the way to the occupation of Iraq, with the capture of Saddam it is the modern history of the country itself –” and much of the Arab region- that fell.
One of the greatest supporters of Saddam Hussein, the Egyptian journalist Mustapha Bakri, expressed his bitter despair, saying:
"This is a black day in the Arab history"!
Such an expression may seem shocking for the Westerners, or at least incomprehensible. For when in Iraq, people wish to make of this day a memorable national celebration, others intend to turn their joy into a “black hole”! Why so? Indeed, Bakri is not the only nostalgic for Saddam. Other Arabs believe that Saddam was a hero and a good ruler, who was fought by the USA only because he represented a threat to Israel. For them, it is the position vis-Ã -vis the Zionism that prevails over all other considerations, because Zionism is the threat for the Arabs, not Saddam. The latter in this analyse was victim of a wide conspiracy in which Israelis, Americans and other Westerners, along with defeated and no less dictatorial Arab rulers played together to bring a powerful country able to challenge Israel and upset its plans to its knees.
But Saddam’s victims –” former opponents and exiled people- who do not hesitate to depict him as a Hitler and his regime as a neo-Nazi, and his party as a neo-Fascist,would have none of this discourse which they deem to be paltry propaganda. About Baathists and nostalgic for Saddam’s days, they would say ironically: Why not? Hitler’s followers were also convinced that they had the right leader. And if after more than half a century of the Second World War, there are still neo-Nazis and neo-fascists in Europe, why would we wonder how come some Arabs are still attached to Saddam?
Indeed, provocation is not absent from these attitudes. Some of it is directed against the Pan-Arab and Baathist militants, and some other is directed against the Americans and the British. Many among the Arabs are yet not willing to see any victory for the Iraqis in the American control. There is no identification between the coalition forces and the liberators. People are still talking about occupation. The armed resistance is the violent expression of such a split between the new authorities and the Iraqi society. From this point of view, the capture of Saddam is believed to be more serving the American interests than the Iraqi’s.
Some people hate Saddam and his regime. Yet, they don’t like America. They don’t believe that the Americans are doing them any good in overstaying the collapse of the Baath regime and the capture of Saddam. Some of them would even be more willing to take arms against the coalition forces, now that they no longer fear to be identified as Saddam’s agents.
We are talking here about another dimension of the problem: It is all the wide gap separating the Arab culture from the Westerner. In Iraq, unless the Americans transfer power to the autochthones, nobody would believe in any “Marshall plan”. Besides, this is not Japan either. They have not been crushed by two atomic bombs. They are still willing to resist by all means. They do not identify to America’s goals. They cannot because also of the American siding with Israel against the Palestinians.
From this perspective, in the last three decades of the XXth century, the Baathist regime of Baghdad was claiming to play a main part in all the regional controversial issues, from the Zionist occupation, to the “Arab common work” (the official euphemism for the Arab League), and the social and political aspirations. Inside he Arab regional system, the Baath party has never been a party like another. Because of its internal (territorial command) and external structure (national command), the party claimed to be that of all the Arabs. And because of the traditional personification of power, the territorial command –” Saddam himself- was sooner or later to be confounded with the national command, the pan-Arab that is.
Because Saddam “was” Iraq, as the party claimed, when he fell, it was the whole country, which fell with him. And because Saddam “was” the party, his capture by the Americans and his expected trial, would probably be the capture and the trial of the Baath party, which is –” as we all know –” inextricably mixed with the modern history of the Arab region since the end of the Second World War.
Yet, why the capture of Saddam sounds more important for Bush administration than the capture of Baghdad?
1-The capture of Baghdad did not put an end to the speculations about the validity or the outlawness of the coalition intervention.
2-It did not end the international opposition to the intervention.
3-It did not put an end to the hopes of Saddam’s followers to regain hold of the resistance.
4-It did not put an end to the armed resistance.
5-It did not break the psychological barrier vis-Ã -vis cooperating with the coalition.
6-It did not end really the era of Saddam, since many Iraqis were wondering whether he would come back.
7-It did not end the myth that has been anchored in the minds of the majority of the population.
8-Because the Americans were out for war against Saddam rather than against Iraq.
9-Because a defeat inflicted to an Iraqi army, not really willing to fight as proved, was not a real victory for Bush without the capture or the death of Saddam.
10- Because as the days went by, and the armed resistance augmented, it has come to be confounded with a guerrilla well prepared by Saddam himself, as he promised a few time before the invasion.
11- Because that resistance caused many casualties among the Americans, and was more and more felt in America –” and everywhere –” like the beginning defeat of Mr Bush at the hands of Saddam, who was reportedly pretended to be directing the operations from a hidden place westward of Iraq.
12- Because Mr Bush was encountering every day more criticism about everything he did in Iraq (and the same for Mr Blair).
13- Because without Saddam’s death or capture, the presidential campaign would be much harder, and Bush would seem like a hunter who comes back home chanting a victory without a trophy.
14- Because the expected trial of Saddam and his men would play an important part in the psychological build-up accompanying the Iraqi reconstruction and the American presidential elections.
15- Because it seems easier now to convince the Iraqis to be more cooperative with the new authorities, without fearing Saddam’s reprisals.
16- Because it seems easier also to convince Americans, Arabs, and Europeans that neither Saddam nor any other ruler can challenge America and stay unpunished.
17- Because the psychological impact of Saddam’s capture and his expected trial would erase the images of his omnipotence from the minds of the Iraqis and the Arabs for the years to come.
18- Because against all rationality, many Iraqis (and Arabs) were thinking that Saddam was still in the game and even trying to win it back, although the country is under American control.
19- Because people forget the power detained by some leaders as soon as the latter fall from it.
20- Because history is written by the victors.
21- Because people admire the victors, and are more willing to omit their mistakes, while from the defeated they would remember only their mistakes.
Anyway, That is what the Bush administration may think. But is it really what’s going to happen?