"This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is a farewell kiss, you dog…This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." ~ Muntadar al-Zeidi
A pair of shoes thrown at one of the most blatant war criminals in history is hardly sufficient retribution.
Iraq has been through Hell and back, only to return against their will for more devilish desserts. Which of course is stamped: Made in the U.S.A.
The modern struggle for domination in the Middle East started – or at least this is as good of a place to begin our understanding as any – with the First World War, the alleged "war to end all wars."
It was then that the British sent T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) to organize the locals to fight for independence against the Ottoman Empire. They did and they won. But their success was quickly exposed as a British ploy to take over.
At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 the victors were busy dividing their loot.
Arnold Toynbee recounted years later how he overheard British Prime Minister Lloyd George talking out loud:
"Mesopotamia…yes…oil…irrigation…we must have Mesopotamia; Palestine…yes…the Holy Land…Zionism…we must have Palestine; Syria…h’mm…what’s there in Syria? Let the French have that."
From that moment on the region was doomed to being dominated and exploited by colonial and neo-colonial powers (i.e. U.S.).
In fact, during the British occupation of Iraq in the 1920′s it was Winston Churchill who favored using chemical weapons against "recalcitrant Arabs" who were seen as "niggers."
Noam Chomsky has repeatedly pointed to State Department memo’s shortly before the end and shortly after the end of World War Two where it was made clear that control over the region was a "stupendous prize."
In the late-1960s the British were in constant communication with the US about a charming young man who was rising to power in Iraq: Saddam Hussein. The British noted this was someone who was a "presentable young man" with an "engaging smile," "with whom, if only one could see more of him, it would be possible to do business."
And, oh, how we did "business" with Saddam Hussein.
In 1975 at a State Department meeting, which Henry Kissinger was heading and who Paul Bremer was in attendance, Saddam is mentioned in that he was to have a meeting with the Shah of Iran. It is also noted that Saddam is "a rather remarkable person" and "ruthless" and as a "pragmatic, intelligent power" it is clear that "we’re going to see Iraq playing more of a role in the area than it has for many years." All of which Kissinger replied: "that was to be expected anyway when they cleared the Kurdish thing."
Some might also remember that Kissinger testified on the CIA support of the "Kurdish thing" (i.e. state-sponsored terrorism): "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work."
Our support for Saddam escalated in the 1980′s after the Shah was overthrown in a popular rebellion. We removed Iraq from a list of state supporters of terrorism, started sending massive amounts of weapons, money and other forms of aid to help in the dictator’s aggression against Iran.
In 1983 Donald Rumsfeld met with Saddam as President Reagan’s special envoy in order to establish a direct link between Reagan and Hussein. All the while we are noting that Iraq is using chemical weapons against Iran on "almost a daily basis."
One of the most heinous crimes cited about Saddam is that he "gassed his own people." What is rarely mentioned is that at the time Saddam committed this crime we were blaming it on Iran and when Congress went to impose sanctions the legislation was vetoed by our president.
And there is still some dispute about whether or not Saddam was intentionally given mixed signals that led him to believe Washington would not interfere with his invasion of Kuwait, an act of aggression used as the pretext to invade Iraq.
But beyond the intent of April Glaspie’s private meeting with Saddam in mid 1990, it is indisputable that Saddam tried to negotiate his way out of Kuwait. The US objected. We wanted war. We wanted to demonstrate our power. We wanted to show off our new high-tech weapons and send a clear message to anyone who wanted to challenge our dominance.
The war happened and hundreds of thousands of people died. Some were buried alive in trenches, some were killed in a "turkey shoot" and even some of our own soldiers were exposed to harmful chemicals (i.e. Gulf War Syndrome).
After the war President Bush called for the people of Iraq to overthrow Saddam. When it became clear that the uprising was popular, and not military (meaning the revolution would not just be a change of figure heads) then Bush turned against the uprising and allowed Saddam Hussein to brutally put it down while American forces were still in Iraq. It was always an irony to hear our leaders cite this crime as an excuse to invade in 2003. Conveniently, the fact that we called for the uprising and then allowed it to be violently squashed has been tossed down the memory hole.
The DoD never even classified documents that showed we intentionally targeted water treatment facilities and then monitored their brutal effect on the population as the sanctions denied them the ability to repair. Not only was targeting the facilities a major war crime, but sadistically watching how the population was made to suffer goes beyond legal concepts of criminality, at least in my mind. This is truly the stuff of monsters.
These sanctions killed more than a million people, over half of which were children. In 1996 it was our Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, who said the effects of the sanctions mentioned above were "worth it."
Shortly after this callous statement two humanitarian coordinators – Dennis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck – resigned their posts in protest against sanctions which they saw as genocidal. The former also noted that the sanctions crippled the people of Iraq and forced them to rely on Saddam of survival, thus undermining any local attempt to rise against their despot leader.
In June 2000, former UN weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, wrote in an arms journal that there was a good case to be made that Iraq was fundamentally disarmed. Ritter also pointed out that the 5-10% of what was unaccounted for did not translate into a production, storage and delivery system. They were basically disarmed. Of course focusing on disarming Iraq says nothing about our actions, intentions, weapons programs or other allies in the region, namely Israel. The facts are still telling.
In February 2001 Colin Powell publicly noted that Iraq was basically disarmed as well. This comment has always largely been suppressed. Again, another toss down the memory hole.
So now we have roughly a centuries worth of relevant historical context to consider when looking at the war and occupation of 2003. The claims that Saddam was a tyrant were no doubt true but a highly pertinent fact was constantly and conveniently left out: his worst crimes were largely concentrated in a particular time when he was our ally. That our hands were stained with blood, and that we had no credibility to speak on these matters was rarely mentioned.
The "single" issue of WMD was largely bogus even before US forces got in to confirm what Ritter had said years ago, or what the UN weapons inspectors were reporting in early March 2003.
Even now Bush claims Saddam refused to allow inspectors. Yet it was Hans Blix and Mohammed el Baradei who told the world on March 7, 2003 that their access was great and that they uncovered nothing.
Some might also want to remember the Katherine Gunn issue, where Ms. Gunn leaked memos showing that the US was spying on the UN Security Council to see which way the members would vote on a pending resolution to authorize force in Iraq. The illegal espionage program didn’t elicit good results so the British pulled the vote out and the war was conducted in violation of not only the UN Charter, but the US Constitution as well.
Since the start of this blatant act of aggression we have seen more than one million people killed, countless millions more injured, over 4 million displaced due to ethnic cleansing, child malnutrition has doubled since the sanction regime, birth defects and cancer has increased due to our use of depleted uranium as a weapon, unemployment has reached levels as high as 75%, power is still not to pre-war levels, diseases like cholera have been re-introduced and the rights of women have gotten considerably worse.
To put this in perspective we would have to multiply the effects by twelve to get an idea of what it means to walk a mile in their shoes. And perhaps then we might want to throw them at ourselves, too.
Can you imagine how we would respond to an international crime that killed more than twelve million Americans?
Can you imagine how we would respond to an ethnic cleansing that disposed nearly 50 million Americans from their homes and neighborhoods?
So consider this history and the current living conditions of Iraqi’s and ask yourself if throwing a pair of shoes is unreasonable. President Bush deserves much more than a pair of shoes thrown at him. He deserves to be held accountable for his crimes. The people of Iraq deserve justice.