In his forthcoming book “Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein”, former CIA analyst John Nixon, the first officer to interrogate the fallen dictator, argues that President George W Bush and his neo-con cabal got it all wrong when they invaded and occupied Iraq in March 2003.
The administration and the military leadership, he says, assumed that they would be able to nip the growing insurgency in the bud if they caught Saddam and decapitated the Baathist regime. But Saddam proved to be right when he told his interrogator that “you are going to fail. You are going to find that it is not so easy to govern Iraq… because you do not know the language, the history, and you do not understand the Arab mind.” What these words meant is open to interpretation. Perhaps, he wanted to say that Arab people are too proud and independent-minded to accept old, colonial-style occupation in the 21st century. It is worthwhile to note that at the time of Western intervention to bring about regime change in Libya, the Libyan strongman Moammar Qadhafi had made similar remarks, and proved right too.
But the CIA analyst’s understanding is that a ruthless dictator like Saddam was necessary to “maintain Iraq’s multi-ethnic state” and that a group like the ISIS would not have been able to enjoy the kind of success under his repressive regime that they now have under the Shia-led Baghdad government. And of course Saddam would have kept Iran – with which he fought an eight-year long war with the US-British and Arab support – at bay. Indeed, Saddam was a ruthless dictator whose largely secular Baathist regime “used every tool in his repertoire to maintain Iraq’s multi-ethnic state.”
Hence Bush thought invasion of Iraq in pursuit of his geo-strategic goals would be a cakewalk, but it turned out be a quagmire. As for the ISIS, it is worthwhile to note also that it did not exist before the US occupation of Iraq; it emerged from the chaos of that war to make territorial gains first in Iraq and later, taking advantage of Western and regional powers’ intervention in neighbouring Syria, to establish the so-called Islamic State. Thanks to the US-led misadventures in the region, ISIS now has a robust presence, aside from Iraq and Syria, in Libya and tentacles in various other countries.
Interestingly, the rise of populist leaders like the US president-elect Donald Trump in the US and some others in Europe has bewildered establishment thinkers and opinion leaders with the Oxford dictionaries coming up with a new word for the year 2016: post-truth. It is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” As far as countries like Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan are concerned, it has been a post-truth era all along.
False pretexts-such as Iraq needed to be rid of its (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction, and wars were necessary to usher in freedom and democracy in a post-9/11 Middle East – have continuously been used to mislead public opinion and exploit emotions.
Freedom, needless to say, is a universal value. People everywhere desire it. The Arab Spring has amply demonstrated that. The Western countries need to stop distorting the truth to reorder the world for the furtherance of their interests.