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Hanging Saddam won't end crisis in Iraq
THE DEATH sentence passed on former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, for 'crimes against humanity', will do little to end sectarian violence in Iraq. After the verdict was read out, the response on Iraq's streets was clearly split along sectarian lines. In the Shia and Kurdish heartlands the mood was celebratory but in Sunni districts of Baghdad and cities such as Tikrit, armed demonstrators proclaimed their loyalty to Saddam.
Bush may have hoped the death sentence would at least help pacify the Shia Arab majority. However, opinion polls in Iraq show for the first time that most Shias support armed attacks on the US-led occupation forces. Moreover, the verdict will have little positive effect on his floundering US Republican party in the mid-term Congressional elections.
Of course, no-one doubts that Saddam Hussein's regime was bestial: hundreds of thousands died as a result of his wars against Iran and Kuwait. But the media largely whitewashes Western governments who supported the Iraqi strongman in the 1980s.
Then, the West conveniently overlooked the brutal repression of Iraq's Kurds and Shi'ites, along with the banning of trade unions, political parties and the imprisonment and murder of the regime's opponents.
In 1987 when Iran gained the upper hand in the Iran-Iraq war, the US offered Saddam $1 billion in agricultural commodity credits - a vital prop to Iraq. Washington also increased its military cooperation with Saddam's regime to frustrate Iran's attacks.
British arms sales were formally banned in 1985, but non-military exports to Iraq soared to $665 million in 1986. However, an illegal flow of arms to Baghdad continued with Tory cabinet approval, despite their full knowledge of Saddam's gassing of 5,000 Iraqi Kurds in Halabja in 1988. Within one month of this atrocity Tory MP Alan Clark flew to Baghdad and offered £340 million in export credits.
And what about the 'crimes' of the current US-led occupation of Iraq? Recent figures from The Lancet estimate that 655,000 Iraqi people have been killed and thousands more injured since the March 2003 invasion.
The United Nations calculates that 1.6 million Iraqis fled this bloodbath seeking refuge abroad, while a further 1.5 million have become internal refugees as Iraq fragments along ethnic and sectarian lines.
Iraq is an economic wreck. Mass unemployment and poverty is endemic. A once modern health service crumbles as doctors flee and resources dwindle. Water and electricity supplies only work intermittently, even in Baghdad. Billions of dollars in reconstruction aid has disappeared into 'security', providing massive profits for US and other contractors and siphoned off by officials from various ministries.
Bush and Blair both say coalition forces will 'stay the course'. But, with the mainly Sunni insurgency gaining ground while Shia militias fight each other for control of the oilfields, Bush and Blair desperately seek an exit strategy.
An overwhelming majority of Iraqis want an end to their country's occupation but they also want an end to sectarian violence and lawlessness, and to free-market policies.
None of these can be won without a united working-class struggle for a workers' government linked to the question of a socialist federation of the Middle East. Then it would it be possible to utilise the region's vast oil resources to end the poverty and misery of superpower domination and capitalism.
In The Socialist 9 November 2006:
War and terrorism
International socialist news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history