50 years of pawn

image from http://mathforum.org/I’ve been festering for days wanting to write about the execution of Saddam Hussein. I’ve read so much about recent Iraqi (and indeed, Middle Eastern) history that my head is spinning – there are so many interwoven stories, lies, truths – a persian carpet of intrigue. I can’t tell who was right and who was wrong – like most wars I guess, the real and painful issue is who’s left.

Sure, Saddam was probably second to none when it came to despotic depravity. Was he just a pawn built by the CIA in the first instance? What happens when pawns go bad? Paranoia fueled power, power fueled paranoia, stir in vast oil reserves providing legendary cash flows, and a sprinkling – perhaps a spraying, more accurately – of weapons of mass destruction all make for a story worthy of Ian Fleming. What I’ve found wrenching has been the underlying knowledge that almost all of the moves – covert and overt – have been made pornographic through media involvement (ably assisted by certain members of the US occupying forces), right through to the free availability of the video of Saddam’s hanging on the net. Psychiatry, medicine, education, prison systems, sexuality, power, the relation between power and knowledge, the history of Western thought – good grief, this whole drama has been an elaborate experiment in postmodern media manipulation; probably masterminded by Foucault himself, perhaps this explains why he visited Iran back in the 1970s.

Well, now that one of the main actors is dead, will the drama still make interesting viewing, or will we get bored? It seems efforts to get Osama (apparently also built by the CIA) back on screen continue to draw a blank. It seems hard to find a winner.

Where to from here?

Allan Little, writing Saddam’s obituary in the Times, had this to say:

As he goes to his grave, however, it is right to remember that – before he seized power – Iraq could have been one of the richest and most stable nations in the region. It had everything: fertile agricultural plains, a highly educated urban middle class with strong links with the English speaking world, near-universal literacy, plentiful supplies of water and, of course, oil.

Saddam squandered that inheritance in the pursuit of personal power. The legacy he bequeaths his people is the near destruction of their country.

Saddam’s had a mass media execution, Iraq has been hammered back into the dark ages; I guess the local populace might well be wondering if it was all worthwhile. At least American oil interests will continue to be protected, so that must come as some relief. Just probably not to the Iraqis themselves.

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