Classicist historian Victor Davis Hanson may not be much fun at a party (or maybe he is – you can’t judge the man by the writing), but he sure has a way of boiling down complicated matters to their essentials. he doesn’t glory in war, but neither does he shun its efficacy under appropriate circumstances
Here he sums up Saddam and our relationship with Iraq. Is war with Saddam inevitable? It has been since 1990:
- The first Bush administration – despite all the creative postbellum exegeses – failed to grasp that the purpose of war is always to achieve a strategic closure, in this case the removal of the reason we had to go to war in the first place: Saddam Hussein himself. He was what Thucydides called the aitia – the truest cause – of the war. Had Gettysburg been followed a year afterward by the election of McClellan and a tolerance of continued slavery, then all those thousands killed really would have fallen in vain. Like the allies at Versailles in 1919 who let the Germans surrender in France and Belgium, in the years after the first Gulf War we sought a tough armistice – inspections, no-fly zones, sanctions, and boycotts – without first ensuring that the enemy felt defeated. Generosity is preferable in peace, but only when adversaries have first been crushed in battle and disgraced afterward.
So in some sense, Saddam, the illiterate peasant – and not our degreed generals and nuanced diplomats – knew his history. He, not us, better understood that our devastating victory on the field of battle in 1991 was not synonymous with real resolution. Along the way, his tactic of using Western hostages as human shields, sending 39 Scuds into Israel, torching the oil fields of Kuwait, and murdering Shiites and Kurds within sight of victorious but impotent American troops revealed a ruthless audacity that for a time caught both Israel and us off-guard.
So is the current Bush administration’s bellicose policy toward Iraq really a matter of W’s wanting to close the loop for Daddy? (Hillary Clinton seems to think so) Maybe so, but it needs to be done anyway.
I took my son to the doctor the other day. I know the doctor pretty well and we have always been quite friendly. He asked what I was doign now and I told him about this site. He asked if I get into politics – I said when appropriate. he asked my opinion on Iraq. I told him I was infavor of regime change as quickly and completely as possible.
He said I was nuts, that Saddam is benign, is no threat to us, and that he didn’t believe Saddam had killed thousands of his own people, often in the most ruthless and sadistic manner possible. I sputtered in disbelief, recovered, explained my position as best I could. This would have helped:
- He had been a student of Islamic history, language and religion in the holy city of Najaf, but was forced to quit his studies after he refused to join the ruling Ba’ath party. His ambition was to write books that would show how Islam could open itself up to modernism.
In Saddam’s Iraq, this was a dangerous occupation, especially for a Shiite. Shia Muslims are the majority in Iraq, but Saddam and his inner circle are Sunni. Many Shiites were under suspicion as enemies of the state.
“My father was scared for me,” says Mr. Jaiyashy. ” ‘You know how dangerous this regime is,’ he told me. ‘You know how many people they kill.’ ”
Mr. Jaiyashy continued his studies on his own. But, eventually, he was picked up, along with a dozen acquaintances who had been involved in political activity against the regime. They were sent to Abu Ghraib. The others did not get off as lightly as he did. One was killed by immersion into a vat of acid. Ten others, he recalls, were put into a room and torn apart by wild dogs. Several prominent religious leaders were also executed. One was a university dean, someone Mr. Jaiyashy remembers as “a great man.” They drove a nail through his skull.
For three decades, the most vicious war Saddam has waged has been the one against his own people. Iraq’s most devastating weapon of mass destruction is Saddam himself. And the most powerful case for regime change is their suffering.
Sometimes, it is almost impossible to believe the accounts of people who survived Saddam’s chamber of horrors. They seem like twisted nightmares, or perhaps crude propaganda. But there are too many survivors who have escaped Iraq, too many credible witnesses. And Mr. Jaiyashy’s story, horrible as it is, is not unusual. [GLobe and Mail]