After Saddam Hussein’s Capture

After President Saddam Hussein’s capture two questions are being asked frequently: What will be the future course of resistance to American occupation, and what will be the future of Mr Hussein.

After President Saddam Hussein’s capture two questions are being asked frequently: What will be the future course of resistance to American occupation, and what will be the future of Mr Hussein.

About the first, nobody doubts that there is going to be very little impact on the course of resistance for some time to come.Regarding the second question, there are a number of courses of action open. However, there are a few things which are quite certain. He is less likely to be tried in the US, because there is very little to show that he has acted against America’s interests. There is hardly any precedence of American courts trying foreign citizens for offences committed against non-Americans in foreign countries. Even President Noreiga of Panama was tried for harming America.

Such trials have precedents in some European countries, but a death sentence is ruled out. Even a trial in an international tribunal under what are called “Nuremberg principles” would at the most get him an imprisonment-for-life sentence. His fate could possibly be similar to Yugoslav leader Milosevic’s, who is presently in jail and on trial by an international tribunal on charges of mass murder. Interestingly, Mr Hussein had opposed America-led NATO action against Milosevic.

The worst case scenario involves Mr Hussein being handed over to the Iraqi authority. In that case a swift trial and a death sentence is certain because there is a long history of political murders in Iraq, including a bothersome precedence of murder of deposed heads of state. What is true of Iraq is true of almost any other Muslim country, because Muslim countries are yet to develop a credible system of judicial fair-play or appropriate human rights standards. Ironically, the safety and well-being of Mr Hussein can be ensured only in a Western country, but that is not what has captors want. They would like him to be tried in Iraq by Iraqis, which is a sure indicator of trouble for Mr Hussein in coming weeks and months.


That arrest of Mr Hussein is not likely to slow down resistance to American occupation was clear from President George W. Bush’s statement on December 13. He said the arrest may not bring down the level of “violence” in Iraq. By violence he meant the fidayeen attacks on US and Allied forces as well as Iraqi police and international organisations.

Over his long tenure Mr Hussein had made more enemies than friends. But eve those who have been against him and his Baathist regime end up fighting the occupation because they are clear that they are fighting not for restoration of Baathists to power but for the liberation of their country from foreign occupation.

There are two ideological strands in the Arab political thought: one representing Arab nationalism, and the other Islamic internationalism. The strand representing Arab nationalism and Arab socialism has weakened over the years since the decline of Nasserism after Egypt’s monumental defeat by Israel in 1969. Israel defeated not only Egypt and captured Sinai, but also Syria (capturing the Golan) and Jordan (capturing Gaza and West-Bank).

Gamal Abdel Nasser, who was the icon of Arab nationalism and Arab socialism, lost his charisma after the defeat. In the years that followed another generation of leaders arose, who were inspired by his ideas of Arab nationalism––men like the two Baathists, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Syria’s Hafiz al Asad, besides Sudan’s Jaffar Numeiry. After Numeiry Sudan drifted and came under Islamist rule while Syria and Iraq stayed the course. Now that the Iraqi Baath is in wilderness and its most visible face behind bars, the Baathist version of Arab nationalism is in eclipse.

However, whether Baathism lives or dies, Arab pride is very much alive and the struggle against occupation will continue. A disturbing trend has emerged over the last few weeks which shows that far too many Iraqis are dying in the fidayeen attacks than occupation troops. Once the occupation forces are taken away from the cities and redeployed on Iraq’s borders it will get even more difficult for fidayeen to attack them, and the only targets available would be the Iraqi policemen. Thus this strategy will become even more irrelevant.



The most difficult problem that America has to address is the growing sense of hurt and humiliation in the entire Muslim world. For the first time in recent years this sense of humiliation among Muslims worldwide was articulated by Mahathir Mohammad at the Purtajaya meet of Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) earlier this year. Mahathir’s speech was applauded even by leaders like Indonesia’s Megawati Sukarnoputri, Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah, besides almost everybody else.

Mr Mahathir’s speech dwelt at large on the humiliation of Muslims by the West. The word “humiliation” figured five times in the speech, which led New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman to comment that the West must take care not to inflame this sense of humiliation any further. Mr Saddam Hussein’s arrest and his parading on TV has unfortunately aggravated the sense of hurt. Mr Bush tried to assuage this sense of hurt with the concluding lines in his statement of December 13. “God bless the people of Iraq, God bless America”, he said.

As Arab nationalism is in eclipse, common Iraqis are joining the struggle. A more serious challenge to the occupation comes from Islamic internationalists like al-Qaeda men who see the occupation not as an Arab problem but as an affront to Muslim dignity. These people belong to different racial and ethnic groups––white Europeans, black (as well as white) Americans, South Asians, South East Asians, Central Asians, and Arabs. These people never liked Saddam, but would like to die fighting for Iraq’s liberation, which means that America’s woes are not over with President Saddam Hussein’s capture.g



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