Will Saddam Cut a Deal?

American officials are denying that the intent of showing captive Saddam being poked, prodded, and shorn of his locks was to humiliate the fallen Iraqi tyrant. But other supporters of this war openly gloated at the sight of the lion de-maned, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported:

“Eran Lerman, Israel director for the American Jewish Committee, said: ‘The humiliation of Saddam in the video at the press conference carried a very important message. Here is the great braggart, with his whole fantasy world, disintegrating in front of us.'”

It was left to the Vatican, in the person of Cardinal Renato Martino, to defend civilized norms:

“‘I felt pity to see this man destroyed, (the military) looking at his teeth as if he were a cow. They could have spared us these pictures,’ he said. “Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I had a sense of compassion for him.”

The New York Times reports Rummy’s contention that “no aspect of Mr. Hussein’s handling came even ‘up on the edge’ of violating the Geneva conventions,” but that is completely wrong. The Geneva Conventions plainly prohibit:

“Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.”

If anyone in the West doubts that this display was meant to humiliate and degrade the defeated Iraqi dictator, then the Iraqis present at Paul Bremer’s press conference the other day, during which the video of Saddam’s “medical examination” was shown for the first time, had no doubts. Just listen to their Banshee screeching and cries of savage triumph as Saddam is ritually abused.

It was a cold, calculated act of sadism. Choosing to broadcast images of a werewolfish Saddam being shorn of his beard, his mouth opened and examined – for what? Drugs? Bombs? Cavities? – was part and parcel of the Americans’ “shock and awe” campaign. A phony “medical examination” became a symbolic subjugation in which Saddam represented an entire people. As Egyptian writer Sayyid Nassar put it:

“I felt extremely humiliated. I felt it was not only a humiliation of Arabs but of all humanity. By shaving his beard, a symbol of virility in Iraq and in the Arab world, the Americans committed an act that symbolizes humiliation in our region, where getting shaved by one’s enemy means robbing him of his will. It’s also a humiliation for all Arab leaders and a message telling them that he who does not enter the poultry yard of the Americans will experience the same fate.”

As Saddam is displayed like a wild animal in captivity, the braying triumphalism of the War Party marks a low point, not only in our conduct of the war, but in the annals of modern military history. I have every confidence, however, that we’ll go much lower before the occupation is over.

It’s getting uglier and uglier. This is the theme song, the Zeitgeist of the post-9/11 era: a triumphant braying, a sound halfway between a jeer and a cheer. It’s the Muzak that accompanies the show trials, the propagandistic “news” coverage, the Orwellian hate campaigns directed at war critics. No decent human being can long exist in such a poisonous atmosphere without choking.

Thank the gods for the Vatican, the voice of reason and ethical clarity in world that is not merely morally adrift, but positively Satanic. We may live in a pagan age, where power is the chief god in the American pantheon, but there are some who still uphold the old ways of our Christian forefathers, who afforded dignity and humanity to defeated enemies. It’s the right thing to do, as well as a smart strategy. But that is not the course we are taking in Iraq, where vulgar chest-beating and Israeli-style (i.e. vicious) tactics are the order of the day.

The Americans are constantly claiming that they want to win the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqis. But that’s a polite fiction now entirely debunked by the release of this footage of Saddam’s treatment at American hands. If you’re trying to win over the defeated, why release what looks like an S&M video, with the fallen Iraqi leader in the role of the victim?

The truth is that the U.S. occupation is not about winning hearts and minds, no more than it is about implanting “democracy.” In the wake of our Pyrrhic victory, the President announced his “forward strategy” for the Middle East – a clear indication that Iraq is considered a forward base in what will be an ongoing military campaign in the region. As the former Mossad chieftain Danny Yatom put it:

“I would be very worried if I were (Syrian President) Bashir Assad tonight. President Bush has just signed a law which allows him to take drastic steps against Syria if it refuses to accede to the American request to … cease its support for Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. … The Americans are showing their determination. Despite more than 400 dead, they are still there and they intend to act. That should worry Bashir Assad.”

This war was always about advancing Israel’s agenda in the Middle East, with the mythical “weapons of mass destruction” merely a pretext, a Potemkin village of disinformation behind which the real motive for the invasion was concealed. The 200 or so soldiers who have died in Iraq, and the thousands seriously wounded or otherwise disabled, were sacrificed to make the world – or, at least, the Middle East – safe for Israel.

Deputy Defense Secretary Douglas Feith, Defense Board member and prominent war profiteer Richard Perle, and David Wurmser – newly appointed to a high position on Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff – are among the authors of a 1996 strategic plan developed for then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” – that proposed an effort to take out Iraq as a way to get at the ultimate prize: Syria. The road to Damascus, the authors averred, runs through Baghdad.

The passage of the “Syria Accountability Act,” pushed by the Democrats such as Tom Lantos and Nancy Pelosi, recently signed into law by a somewhat reluctant President Bush, marks a new stage in the escalation of the Mideast conflict. This Act is the prelude to a new round of warmongering, provocations, and bullying – possibly leading up to the culmination of the “Clean Break” plan, as the pressure is taken off of Israel not only from Syria but from Lebanon.

Sanctioned, isolated, and finally targeted for destruction, the Syrians are next on the Americans’ hit list, as composed by the not so hidden hand of the neoconservatives, such as Perle and Feith. The same cabal that lied us into war in Iraq is intent on luring us into making war on Syria, and the capture of Saddam Hussein could be a key part of this scenario.

According to a report in Ha’aretz:

“Deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein could be offered a deal in which he would give his captors information on if and how he hid weapons of mass destruction and if he smuggled some of them into Syria. In exchange, he would face life imprisonment and not be executed for war crimes, senior Iraqis attending a conference here on the future of the region have hinted.”

Implicate Syria, and we’ll spare your life. Will Saddam take the deal? The President is already proclaiming that Saddam deserves the death penalty. Throughout a good part of his career as a tin-pot despot, Saddam played cards dealt to him by the U.S. He has nothing to lose by playing one last hand.

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Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is editor-at-large at Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].