Global Trends by Martin
Monday 8 January 2007
An inauspicious start to 2007
It was not a good start
to the New Year. Saddam Hussein’s hanging was seen as a mob lynching
and raised questions of double standards. Why are other “war criminals”
let off and allowed to parade as world statesmen? In Asia, there was
bad news of an air crash, bombings in Bangkok and continued jamming
of Internet services. Signs of the “interesting times” we will live
through in 2007.
It’s been an inauspicious
start to the New Year. One week into 2007, and we have seen the adverse
consequences of the blotched hanging of Saddam Hussein, a spate of bombings
in Bangkok, and the first air crash of the year – in Indonesia, with
the aircraft not found for several days – and serious clashes between
Palestinian factions in Gaza.
Meanwhile, the fragility
of global inter-dependence is still starkly on display with internet
connections still slow or in some cases inoperable in Malaysia and other
Asian countries weeks after the earthquake off Taiwan damaged the undersea
The execution of Saddam Hussein
is proving to be the most costly mistake of the United States and Iraqi
governments -- that his trial was so blatantly biased, that he was executed
at all, that it was done so quickly after the failed appeal, on such
a religiously auspicious day, and in the manner of a mob lynching rather
than a quiet hanging.
The consequences are opposite
to what the US and Iraqi governments wanted. First, Saddam has been
elevated to a posthumous hero of the Arab and Muslim world, for having
stood up to the American and British invaders to the last, and for behaving
in a dignified manner despite the taunting during his last minutes.
The tyrant who killed thousands
when in power was transformed into a martyr by the nature of his trial,
his defiance in court, and the nature of his death.
Second, the hanging and its
circumstances will now worsen the sectarian violence in Iraq and widen
the rift between the Arab and Muslim world on one hand and the Western
countries on the other.
And third, questions are
now increasingly asked about the double standards. Yes, Saddam did
monstrous things, like waging wars and killing thousands of his own
Saddam was hanged for his
crimes. Chile’s former President General Pinochet, who overthrew an
elected government and killed many thousands was not only let off but
won tribute from the American administration when he died last November.
An even more pertinent question
being asked is why Saddam was hanged when those responsible for his
hanging retain their “statesman” status and go free.
It is widely recognized that
the invasion and war against Iraq was illegal, and thus so is the present
Many thousands of civilians
have died as a result, either due to the actions of the occupying forces,
to sectarian violence or to the terrible deterioration of social and
economic conditions. A famous recent scientific paper in the Lancet
estimates the death toll at 600,000.
Many people around the world
consider United States President Bush and British Prime Minister Blair
to be guilty of war crimes. If Saddam was tried, so should they. The
reason Saddam was tried and convicted in an unfair trial is that he
lost and the victors sought vengeance.
Western writers and politicians
themselves are highlighting the double standards. Robert Fisk, probably
the most respected Western journalist covering the Middle East, wrote
two powerful articles at the time of Saddam’s hanging last week.
“History will record that
the Arabs and other Muslims and indeed many millions in the West will
ask a question not posed in other Western newspapers – what about the
other guilty men?” wrote Fisk in The Independent of London.
“No, Tony Blair is not Saddam.
We don’t gas our enemies. George W. Bush is not Saddam. He didn’t
invade Iran or Kuwait. He only invaded Iraq. But hundreds of thousands
of Iraqi civilians are dead because Messrs Bush and Blair and the prime
ministers of Spain, Italy and Australia went to war in 2003 on a potage
of lies and mendacity and with great brutality.
“We have tortured, we have
murdered, we have brutalised and killed the innocent…and yet we are
supposed to forget these terrible crimes as we applaud the swinging
corpse of the dictator we created.”
Boris Johnson, British Member
of Parliament, attacked Blair for having remained silent after Saddam’s
hanging when he was “directly co-responsible” for the execution.
“Was this what we fought
for? This wasn’t justice, it was a sectarian lynch mob. This was a
snuff movie. How dare the British Prime Minister pretend it has nothing
to do with him?”
Many people are now arguing
that since the war on Iraq was illegal (as even Kofi Annan recognized,
when he was still United Nations Secretary General), then those who
led it should be held accountable and punished.
Bush and Blair and others
should be tried in an international court and if convicted sentenced
at least to long jail terms. And if they themselves believe Saddam’s
crimes are worth a death sentence, then they should make themselves
eligible for the same level of punishment.
That it is unthinkable this
will happen shows how much control the Western powers have over the
international system of military action, security and justice. They
decide who to bring to trial at the International Criminal Court, and
who not to.
The United States does not
recognize that court, and has its own methods of dealing with
people it does not like,
as witness how Saddam Hussein ended up, or the kidnapping and detention
of persons it chooses from around the world.
Thus, the New Year began
with a reminder that we live in an unjust world of double standards
and selective justice. Some persons are treated as criminals and others
who are equally or even more so criminals are treated as statesmen and
Other than the Saddam saga,
the start of 2007 came like bad news for the Palestinians, who now have
increasingly violent conflict between the Hamas and Fatah factions besides
their having to contend with Israel.
In Thailand, the New Year
eve bombings in Bangkok have exposed the undercurrents of dissent and
are a harbinger of uncertainty, confusion and instability.
And our other neighbours
have also had a bad start – Indonesia suffering an air crash so soon
after floods, and the Philippines plunging into another crisis as the
public protests over the handing over of an American soldier convicted
of rape to the American embassy.
As pointed out in Global
Trends last week, we are going to live through “interesting times” in
this New Year.
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