All the myriad ways
The following is based on remarks I made in another forum a bit over a year ago. It elicited zero response then. Perhaps deservedly so but, well, here ’tis again...
What a pretty pass we’ve come to. In the 22 August 2005 edition of The Australian, in an article headed “Wanted: A strongman to hold Iraq together”, Neil Clark, tutor in history and politics at Oxford Tutorial College in England, writes:
... [Saddam’s] removal from power was a colossal error. Rather than working for regime change, the US, Britain and Australia should instead have been collaborating with the Iraqi leader and acknowledging the key role secular Baathist regimes such as his had to play in the Middle East as bulwarks against a resurgent Islamic fundamentalism. After all, this was the West’s policy up until the first Gulf War in 1991. Why couldn’t it have been so again?
... To many, the idea that Iraq, under Saddam, was the least-worst scenario for both the West and the Iraqi people may seem depressing and defeatist. But 2½ years since his statue was toppled in central Baghdad, the evidence to the contrary is hardly convincing.
A brief glance at the calendar confirmed this was not an April 1st hoax. Gads, a serious consideration of an alternative non-military solution involving hitherto unspeakable collaboration with the genocidal arch-villain, Saddam Hussein. Could the old bastard have been rehabilitated from ‘embodiment of evil’ to ‘trusted ally’ (where he began)?
It’s hard to credit, but then proponents of the war didn’t want to see happen what now (as at August 2005) appears likely: an Iraqi constitution enshrining Sharia law and “the abolition of the Personal Status Law, which for five decades has protected the rights of Iraqi women in matters of marriage, divorce and custody”. Least of all was it envisaged that an Islamic republic might be in control of the world’s second largest oil reserves.
So let’s just for a moment consider the scenario proposed by Clark...
Saddam Hussein, instead of being vilified and militarily toppled from power – with tens of thousands of his subjects brutally ‘taken out’ in his stead – is coaxed and cajoled back into the Western sphere of influence. The Baathist regime, instead of being isolated and its very existence threatened from within and without, is no longer to be driven into the position of being a cornered shithouse rat, with all the associated behavioural traits. Consequently, the regime perceives less of a need for a pervasive and crushing security apparatus, let alone that chimeric human shredding machine.
Saddam’s Iraq becomes amenable to Western pressure towards improving its human rights performance (assuming this was thought to be desirable by Washington and London, pre-1991 practices notwithstanding). Humanitarian improvements are tied to measures such as reconstruction aid and trade privileges within and beyond the region. These and other measures are UNSC mandated and have the support of General Assembly resolutions.
A general flowering of Iraqi civil society ensues, with moderate Baathist officials increasing in influence and power. Saddam and his cronies are persuaded to be pensioned off (generously, I fear, but it’d have to be a comprehensive bribe), clearing the way for a civil society-led remaking of the Iraqi political landscape.
A decade or so down the track, the Iraqi authorities pursue the extradition of Saddam from Jordan, where he is now living in a typically palatial residence under the protection of King Abdulla (son of Saddam’s buddy, the late King Hussein), for crimes against humanity during his rule. After several years of proceedings and counter-proceedings, Saddam dies, a broken though still very wealthy man, in his bed of prostate cancer.
And, wow, tens of thousands of more people alive than dead. And, gee, no dispersion of DU particulates in urban areas. And, strewth, the Iraqi economy still under Iraqi control.
You may s-a-a-y I’m a dreamer... But is this scenario any less likely than a quick and easy victory, with flowers strewn before the invading armoured personnel carriers, and the establishment of LA in Mesopotamia?
On reflection, I have to say that this alternative scenario probably could never have happened. The reality is that a free Iraq was always way down on the list of priorities.
Incidental footnote: George W Bush, having failed to find another Satan, became a one-term president following his 2004 election loss. His mate, John, still got across the line on bulldust and interest rates.