Iraq 13: An Iraqi writes: A personal view on the liberation of my country

April 11, 2003

CONTENTS

1. "The anti-Liberationists"
2. The lunatic Uday who is said to have 4,000 cars
3. "Imagine what could happen after the Saddamites fall and Iraq is born again"
4. "Iraqi discourses: Why the free world was right to rid us of the Saddamite tyranny" (By Hussein Damirji, April 2003)
5. "Dearest Hussein...
6. Overthrowing Saddam without American help was their fantasy
7. Members of the Saddamite regime must be brought to justice
8. Former friends berated me for supporting the liberation of my country



“THE ANTI-LIBERATIONISTS”

[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach a piece written by Hussein Damirji, a friend of mine, and one of several Iraqi recipients on this email list. Hussein lives in London where he practices as a lawyer, one of 400,000 Iraqi exiles in the United Kingdom. His father, who comes from a prominent Shi'a merchant family and is married to a member of a prominent Sunni family, was sentenced to death in absentia as the alleged leader of an attempted coup to overthrow the Ba'athist regime in the 1960s.

Hussein, who is in his mid-30s, describes the horrible scenes he witnessed during his last visit to Baghdad in 1990. He describes the problems he has had in recent months persuading his non-Arab friends in the UK and U.S. – whom he calls "the anti-Liberationists" so prevalent among the media and academic elites in London and elsewhere – to support the American-British campaign to topple Saddam.

He writes of the "emails and calls from friends and former friends berating me for supporting the liberation of my country."

THE LUNATIC UDAY WHO IS SAID TO HAVE 4,000 CARS

"But it took liberation and media images to convince our neighbors in Islington or Berkeley that we were not exaggerating the gross Saddamite opulence as the people starved. The amounts held by these cronies are conservatively estimated at billions of dollars leaving Imelda Marcos looking like a pauper. Like the lunatic Uday who is said to have 4,000 cars (including a Rolls Royce with the numberplate 1 New York, Baghdad). Regime change will see a greater proportion of Iraqi oil revenues flow down to the Iraqi people. A new Government must track down the untold billions pillaged from Iraq and held by the Saddamite henchmen in the West..."

He writes of how he will not attend the rally against the "American occupation of Iraq" planned for this Saturday in London, but how he does fear for the future.

"Re-introducing the democratic norms and the Rule of Law will be a hard task as few Iraqis remember that under a Hashemite Iraq there was indeed a primitive Parliamentary democracy that included Jews, Christians and Muslims."

-- Tom Gross


“IMAGINE WHAT COULD HAPPEN AFTER THE SADDAMITES FALL AND IRAQ IS BORN AGAIN”

Iraqi discourses: Why the free world was right to rid us of the Saddamite tyranny
A personal view on the liberation of Iraq
By Hussein Damirji
April 2003

I was too young to recall my family's flight from Baghdad and Beirut as the Ba'athists re-seized power in Iraq. My father, who comes from a prominent Shi'i merchant family and is married to a member of a prominent Sunni family, was sentenced to death in absentia as the alleged leader of an attempted coup to overthrow the Iraqi Ba'athist regime. Fortunately, my father was in America at a time when several of his alleged Iraqi capitalist and Jewish co-conspirators were hanged. As a family we were lucky to seek haven and become part of the 400,000 strong Iraqi Diaspora living in the United Kingdom.

I visited Baghdad in 1990 after my father's eventual "pardon" by the Ba'athist regime. My timing was impeccably bad. My March visit coincided with the horrific hanging for espionage of Farhad Bazoft, the Iranian born British journalist, and later with the invasion of Kuwait. I witnessed some of the horrors and tears suffered by my fellow countrymen. I saw the pathetic joy of the educated middle class that there was peace after a decade of war and their pride at seeing Western style burger stands and fried chicken fast food outlets in the new booming modern Saddamite Baghdad. Yet I witnessed friends beating their "friends" allegedly for insulting our esteemed leader or his sons. I will never forget the blood pouring from one man's face as he cried like a child before the roar of the Mukhabarat's black Mercedes screeched to a halt to pick him up – another prisoner taken for questioning based on the fabrications of an Accuser currying favour with the regime.

In 1990, His Excellency Saddam Hussein our brutal dictator dragged Iraq into yet another war. I witnessed the tears of grown men crying at the news of Saddam's latest bloody incursion into a sovereign state, Kuwait.

I recall vividly a friend, who had recently completed his compulsory military service and his anguish on the news of his redraft: "The Bloody bastard. I just left the army. My youth was taken away from me. I was an animal. I forgot what it was like to live like a normal person. I have just learnt how to eat properly, how to speak, how to inter-ract with people again. I am not going back. I will desert the army". This friend was drafted into the army and fortunately survived the Gulf War. He feared more the inevitable consequences of failing to report to duty and the inevitable reprisal killings of his family for such a failure. Every Iraqi can repeat countless and worse tales like these. I swore then that I would never return to my country, until the vicious dictatorship was overthrown.

The last few months have left Iraqis facing a moral quandary. Our country was and is being bombed, and innocent civilians died and continue to die. Can I justify this war in light of the overwhelming number of anti-war articles and the emotional feelings racking most non political Iraqis. Can I justify this war as innocent Iraqi civilians are killed. My friends email, write or call. A dear Arab friend wrote the following to me:

“DEAREST HUSSEIN...

"Dearest Hussein,

Please read the article I mailed by John Pilger. I understand totally your point of view but I feel you need to know exactly what these people will do before change comes about - if they let it happen. Allah istur. [God protect us]

People in Egypt on the street have said to me on several occasions: the Iraqis are the most special Arabs, powerful, clever, gifted etc. etc. and that is why the Americans want to destroy them! They actually believe that years of starving the country of medication, thousands of children dying every year were part of a campaign to destroy a magnificent people for generations to come. This is what outsiders think of your people. It may sound simple or simplistic but sometimes truths are hidden behind such statements. May Allah istur and protect the people of Iraq."

I read John Pilger's article. And Edward Said's. And Robert Fiske's. I re-read my friend's note. They were and are warnings of the dangers that they i.e. the Americans would impose on Iraq, while highlighting the deafening silence emanating from the Arab Worlds' governments and the world's apparent silence on Palestine. There appears to be an overriding fear in the Arab world that the Americans only want war to control the oil and that this is Israel's war by proxy. Why has no one forced the Israelis to follow UN resolutions and withdraw from Palestine? Why do the Israelis have chemical and nuclear weapons? Why does no one enforce UN resolutions against Israel for its continued oppression of the Palestinians? While Saddam is evil and a murderer, so is Sharon and he sees President Bush more often than any other foreign leader. The Americans brought in Saddam, why do they want to remove him now? How can you support a war that could destabilize the whole region?

Despite the shrill cries of these and many Arab authors and academics, the armchair liberators and self licensed voices of the "Arab street", I believe that the opportunity to free Iraq of this tyrannical and vile Saddamite regime was and is in the best interests of our people and those of the Arab world. Discussions of a "pre-emptive" and "hegemonistic oil war" continue to allow many Arabs to hide behind their veils of delusion, in the same way that Saddam attempted to hijack the Palestinian cause as his own. Stop the war was their battlecry. But ask for a solution and they invariably blame the West. Yes, there is hypocrisy in the West and, yes, the United States and its allies blundered badly by not removing Saddam in 1991. And yes, as Pilger quoted one former CIA director as stating about Saddam in the 1980s, "he's a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch." But ask the British people if Britain blundered by allowing Hitler's rise to power and the answer is, undoubtedly, yes.

These writers highlight the plight of millions of Iraqis who have suffered through sanctions. Few recall, as many Iraqis were starving, that the regime's top priority after the Gulf War was the importation of marble. They ignore the complicity of so many of their countryfolk in propping up the Saddamites. Many writers obsess about the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories and forget that, as Iraqis, our immediate concern is the freedom of the Iraqi people. I do not support the barbaric and continued occupation of the Palestinian people. No Iraqi that I know supports Sharon's vile and brutal tactics nor absolves Sharon of the massacres in Sabra and Chatila. Iraqis know only too well the effects of war and the brutality of living in fear. But our immediate concern is Iraq. No Iraqi can allow the Saddamites to continue to hijack our country and allow them to hide behind their veils of antiquated arguments on Imperialism and false claims of defending the Palestinian people's legitimate aspirations to live freely in Palestine.

Many critics of the Bush/Blair policy on Iraq argued that there was a lack of immediacy and basis in international law for removing the Saddamite regime, fingering North Korea as a more immediate threat to the world. However, Saddam's regime was unique among the band of the world's dictatorships. Unlike North Korea's Kim Jung Il, Saddam's regime had gassed its own people and its enemies. A regime that lauded 9/11 and had proven its absolute ruthless use of chemical weaponry on all and sundry and a willingness to use all means at its disposal, hiding its "elite" thugs and weaponry among civilians, strikes me as more dangerous than one which threatens to use its weaponry so that it can blackmail the West into feeding its people. Not even Sharon's most ardent critics can claim that he has gassed his own people although I disagree with writers who try to finesse continued Israeli reluctance to adhere to UN Resolutions based on the nuances of Chapters 6 and 7 of the UN Charter. Saddam is unique in the annals of Middle Eastern history for gassing his own people as well as thousands of Iranians. In addition, Iraq's regime has failed to discharge the onus and burdens of proof required of the Saddamites by Resolution 1441. Kim Jung Il's regime has yet to be declared morally bankrupt by the international community.

OVERTHROWING SADDAM WITHOUT AMERICAN HELP WAS THEIR FANTASY

The arguments against liberation were misplaced. Ask people if they were in favor of regime change and an overwhelming majority of Iraqis, and indeed other Arabs, replied yes. Ask critics of Tony Blair and George Bush's policies what they would suggest, their limp response was not war. Leave Iraq as it is they cried. The people will revolt. Their blind appeasement ignored the impotent reality of the Iraqi people. The everyday struggles of normal Iraqis, people who were and are struggling to provide food and subsistence for their families. Overthrowing Saddam was their fantasy but the vast revenues of Iraq's wealth were pumped into the all-pervasive Big Brother, the infamous Iraqi security apparatus that dominated Iraq and would have made Beria proud. The Iraqis daily fight for survival and their betrayal in 1991 did not allow them the luxury of fomenting revolution. Even now as Coalition forces surround Iraqi cities and have liberated Baghdad, much of the local population is fearful of cheering the Coalition against the Saddamite behemoth. Even the scenes of joy at liberation in Baghdad were tempered by the continued fear of the Regime. People now understand how this regime has inculcated its ideas in the Iraqi psyche and how fearful the population is and has been.

The anti-Liberationists cries that the United States wants to control Iraq's oil wealth also rang hollow. Iraq supplies less than 5 percent of the US's oil needs. Agreements between Russia and the United States as well as other oil producing nations ensure that the United States does not need Iraq's oil. Arguably the United States presence in certain Gulf countries has already ensured that the United States controls the world's major oil fields. However, coupled with Tony Blair's promise to the world that Iraq's oil revenues will be put in trust for the people of Iraq counter those shrill passé cries that the war was one of pure hegemony.

The possibility of regime change was attacked for its sheer cost. If the US wanted to control a percentage of that oil wealth to pay for the removal of the Saddamite regime then Iraqis would welcome it. Iraq was and potentially is one of the richest oil producers in the world with vast tracts of untapped oil fields. Iraq is a country rich in water and agriculture and has a sizable and educated population that should have one of the Arab world's most thriving middle classes bar for Saddam's follies. Years of Saddam's brutal occupation of Iraq have seen the revenues of Iraq's vast natural resources and approximately $320 billion of debt squandered on weapons of destruction, the regime's Stalinistic security services and the endless revolting grandiose monuments and palaces for the greater glory of our former leader. Members of the Iraqi diaspora knew that the Saddam regime preferred marble to feeding its own people.

But it took liberation and media images to convince our neighbors in Islington or Berkeley that we were not exaggerating the gross Saddamite oppulence as the people starved. The regime's henchmen and family members living in the West allegedly hold Iraq's external wealth. The amounts held by these cronies vary but are conservatively estimated at billions of dollars leaving Imelda Marcos looking like a pauper. Regime change will see a greater proportion of Iraqi oil revenues flow down to the Iraqi people. A new Government must track down the untold billions pillaged from Iraq and held by the Saddamite henchmen in the West. Corporations that were complicit in propping up the Saddamites must be investigated and due compensation sought from them.

The Iraqi people have little to show for all of Iraq's oil wealth and the decades of Saddamite misrule. A country that was always at the forefront of Arab political, creative and intellectual thought has seen its people brutalized for decades to such an extent that the tallest order for any new Iraqi government will be the process of de-Ba'athification. The removal of this putrefying philsophy must be one of the first priorities for any new Iraqi transitional Government. Unlike the Iron curtain era of Eastern Europe where much of the population supported the communist ideology, few Iraqis ideologically support the dictatorship. People fail to understand how this regime has inculcated its ideas in the Iraqi psyche and how fearful the population is. The proof of this inculcation is only too evident by the fear of so many Iraqis to rise up against the regime during the war. The removal of the Ba'athist institutions and creation of democratic reform will take time and effort. Re-introducing the democratic norms and the Rule of Law will be a hard task as few Iraqis remember that under a Hashemite Iraq there was indeed a primitive Parliamentary democracy that included Jews, Christians and Muslims.

MEMBERS OF THE SADDAMITE REGIME MUST BE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE

A new transitional Iraqi Government must constitutionally implement a bill of rights that enshrines the individual's human rights. Islam is the State religion of Iraq but the rights of all to freely worship and follow their religions must be constitutionally enshrined. Similarly, the rights of the substantial Iraqi minorities and the Kurds must be assured within a Federal system of Government for Iraq. Elections must be held as soon as practicably possible to ensure that all Iraqis are properly represented in their own country. A new era of transparency must be presented in Iraqi governance. Members of a future Iraqi Government must recuse themselves and their families from any conflicts of interest and decisions revolving around business. Members of the Saddamite regime must be brought to justice for their gross violations of human rights but the transitional Government must ensure that there is no bloodbath in Iraq. Perpetrators of gross human rights violations must be tried under an internationally established Human Crimes Tribunal. In the same way that the Nazis were banned from taking Governmental offices, so too all Ba'athists should be banned from any Governmental position of responsibility. When you sup with the Devil, you cannot attend the Angels party. A Truth and Reconciliation Committee must be established to reveal the truth of what happened to victims of the regime's state sponsored crimes. As a member of the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Conciliation stated: "A nation's unity depends on a shared identity, which in turn depends largely on a shared memory. The truth also brings a measure of healthy social catharsis and helps to prevent the past from reoccurring.

I believe that a free and democratic Iraq, a country that uses its oil revenues to rebuild its infrastructure, for the benefit of its people and not a tiny oligopoly, can only be a credit to the region. The past months have already seen the effects of possible regime change being felt throughout the Arab world. Countries where ruling families were above any form of criticism are being criticised by members of their own ruling family in their national press. I continue to read articles sent to me by friends from all over the world who criticize the Imperialist US agenda and the lack of even-handedness in US policies in the Middle East as well as the seeming or wilful inability of Arab Governments to speak out on current events. And yet exchanges such as the one below with fellow Iraqis reinforced my belief that the armchair intellectuals were wrong and that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair were right to liberate Iraq.

Recently, I met with some Iraqis who had recently left Baghdad and were fortunate to arrive in London. The family is split up as some members are still in Baghdad and they have not heard from these relatives.

"Hussein, you've worked with these Americans. Do you really think that the Americans want to liberate us and get rid of Him?"

"Absolutely. But, let me ask you a question, Do you think that the people will join up with the Americans?"

"If the war is short and they bomb and devastate Saddam and his palaces, and show that they really want to get rid of him, then all the people except the Republican Guards will rise up against him. People are fed up. All they do is build more palaces and monuments to Saddam. The new Saddam Centre for Glory. The new Saddam Centre for Genealogy. The new Saddam Club for Oppression. Do you know that the lunatic Oday is said to have 4,000 cars (including a Rolls Royce with the numberplate 1 New York, Baghdad)?

People are fed up with the handouts to the Palestinians. Do you know how many Iraqi families can be fed on that $25,000 paid to a Palestinian martyr's family? We just want to live normally again in our country. And yes we would all welcome change and that includes the so-called Ba'athists who are taking bribes to allow people out already. Remember that there are very few people who really believe in Ba'athism – it's just a means of survival in that society. Even the Ba'athists know that the regime is crumbling, but we are all afraid. Everyone is fed up with Him."

"Well why aren't the people rising up against this monster in Baghdad?"

"You know what the Mukhabarat and Amn are like. We're all tired and fed up and fighting for our daily survival. You know that I have this sickness but other than curing this, I really pray that they will remove Saddam and his regime. All Iraqis will cheer and rise up for the liberation."

FORMER FRIENDS BERATED ME FOR SUPPORTING THE LIBERATION OF MY COUNTRY

This exchange was with someone who is suffering from the torment of cancer and bravely believes that a free Iraq is in their children, their own and Iraq's best interests. Yet I have received further emails and calls from friends and former friends berating me for supporting the liberation of my country. Another, non-Iraqi, friend (?) wrote:

"Anybody who's been paying the slightest attention to what the americans say and do realizes that the purpose of this war is not to do the iraqis a favor (after all,who are you??? you have zero power in the american domestic political scene. you are badly organized and have turned yourselves into a bunch of informants and collaborators with the CIA) but have their own elaborate agenda of hegemony over iraq and the middle east in general. (This war was waged as far as americans are concerned to serve three constituencies and none of them are the Iraqis: first republican mid western voters freaked by september 11 (rumsfeld), the oil business community big contributers to the republican party (cheney) and the right-wing zionist neo conservatives who are the brains behind this war (Wolfowitz and Perle) working to transform the Islamic world to adapt to Israel's agenda).

In other words, it was very clear from the beginning that the trade-off offered you people was we will rid you of Saddam but you have to accept that we, the Americans, will be your new rulers. Authoritarianism we will help you dispose of, but take the empire in its place. To say that no one wants Iraq occupied but to go on supporting this war because it will rid of you Saddam is a an instance of the will to ignore, the will to listen to half-sentences and to understand half-truths. Self-serving, isn't it? This leaves you in a nasty position which to me is indefensible morally and politically. You end up collaborating with the devil who you choose to see an angel... for the time being!

The irony of all this to me, is that the Iraqis who actually stayed in Iraq and truly suffered the brunt of Saddam's ungodly tyranny, proved to be more nationalistic and opposed to these so-called rescuers coming from the other side of the Atlantic ocean than you people who have left and live an affluent diasporic existence."

Another friend wants me to attend a rally against the "American occupation of Iraq" on Saturday in London. I will not attend such a rally and I will not publish my response to the other friend but I realize that while the battle for Baghdad has been won, the war is still not a victory. Every Iraqi that I know has relatives in Iraq. Members of the Iraqi diaspora are not all affluent, indeed, far from it. Every Iraqi is torn by the fear of continued loss of innocent Iraqi lives and the ultimate goal of a truly liberated and democratic Iraq. We fear now the dangers of starvation and continued deprivation that can turn Iraq into a complete state of anarchy. However, imagine what could happen after the Saddamites fall and Iraq is born again. Allah Y'istur.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.