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Don’t cry for him,


By Shobhan Saxena


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Sometimes the epithets come so easily. Sometimes a life full of meaningful actions can be dismissed in a few meaningless words. Saddam Hussein is gone and we are being told again what he was--a ruthless dictator who ruled Iraq with brutality, a man so cruel that he got his sonsin-law killed when they dared to defect to Jordan, and a bloodthirsty monster who didn’t think twice before gassing the northern Kurds and southern Shiite Muslims when they tried to raise a banner of revolt against his tyranny. Sometimes the epithets miss the complete picture. They only tell one side of the story.

President Saddam Hussein was a dictator. There is no doubt about it. But he was just one of the many dictators who called the shots in the Third World during the ‘70s to ‘90s. And he was not just a dictator. He was something more than that. In an Arab world clouded in medieval darkness, Hussein created a modern, secular republic. There was no place for religion and religious fundamentalism in his country. In his Iraq, women wore skirts and worked in offices and men freely drank in the bars. And fanatics with religious agenda ran away to Iran, taking shelter under an Islamic revolution.


Unlike, some of its neighbors, Iraq, under Hussein, never allowed its foreign policy to be guided by religion. On the Kashmir issue, Iraq always backed India at the UN and other international platforms, totally nullifying Pakistan’s Islamic card. But he made the mistakes all dictators make--putting personal glory ahead of everything else. During his reign, Hussein’s statues and palaces went up in big numbers as large parts of Iraq remained trapped in poverty and bondage. Despite its vast oil and gas resources, Hussein failed to lift the masses out of poverty. And he made the terrible mistake of alienating the country’s major ethnic groups.

And, in the early ‘80s, he made the huge tactical error of trusting the Americans on the issues of the Middle East. The US backed Hussein in his eight-yearlong war against Islamist Iran. The American ambassador to Iraq gave him a clear go-ahead for invading Kuwait. And when he did so, the Americans moved in on him to neutralise him. With the war with Iran over, Hussein was no longer useful to the US. The invasion of Kuwait was the beginning of the fall of Saddam Hussein. He was demonised by Western leaders after his army invaded the oil kingdom and the Americans launched their first war against the ‘dictator’.

Hussein survived George Bush Sr’s Gulf war, but it broke his back. With UN sanctions in place, Iraq could never recover from the attack. Amid allegations of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and supporting Al Qaida’s terrorism, came the second Gulf War which made Hussein take shelter in a spider hole. It was all over for him. He was captured and tried by a court that was recognised only by the US and a government backed by the superpower. Now we know that there were no WMDs. We also know that Hussein was not a sponsor of terrorism. Maybe one day we will know whether the gory tales of his dictatorship were indeed true or not.


There is no point in crying for a dead dictator, but a man hanged by a kangaroo court deserves to be seen in the right perspective.




Courtesy The Times of India




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