The Fall of Baghdad as seen by an American - 2
- Layla : Hello again Malcolm, let's continue...
If I "hear" you right, Americans absolutely had to demonize Saddam to get to Iraq. I am thinking if it was only a question of getting rid of Saddam Hussein, they could have gotten rid of him without having to destroy Iraq and the decades of hard work. Why did they need to destroy the Iraqi infrastructure, the cultural and historical "patrimoine" and more importantly why did they need the collaboration of another country on the axis of evil - Iran - to achieve their aims ?
Malcolm : The propaganda was all aimed at Saddam, yet some politicians realized that the country consisted of more than one person. By publicly demonizing Saddam, it was automatic that the U.S. citizenry would extend its hatred to Iraqis as well.
The scenario leading up to the March 2003 invasion was quite bizarre. We kept hearing that Saddam was a butcher who did not allow students to have pencils. There was not one word saying that the U.S. would not allow pencils into Iraq during the embargo. One leftist journalist wrote an article in 2006 titled "Education System in Iraq Is in Danger." I thought to myself, "Finally, a look at the reality of the invasion." He began by saying that Iraq had a great education until Saddam came to power. Then, he ruined it. The writer claimed that no teacher could leave Iraq for any reason. If he/she did, the penalty was death. I was aghast to read this. In 1973 and 1974, Iraq sent thousands of teachers overseas to obtain advanced degrees. I wrote to the scribe, yet never received an answer.
The U.S. tried at various times to get rid of Saddam. They were all unsuccessful. In 1996, Allawi, the British citizen from Wimbledon, had wormed his way into the good graces of the U.S. He planned an overthrow of the Iraqi government using Kurdish troops. From day one, the Iraqis knew all about the plan. When the Kurds began to march, they were massacred by Iraqi forces. That was the last direct intervention the U.S. had in trying to kill Saddam. From that time on, the U.S. government used proxy elements, such as Ahmed Chalabi to try to do the job. As we now know, they all failed. These attempts made the Keystone Cops look like world class detectives.
From early on in the Bush II administration, the U.S. kept hearing that the Iraqi people hated Saddam. Once a force was assembled to invade Iraq, the people would welcome it. This story was re-hashed so many times that even those who made it up began to believe it.
The main battle plan did not work. In it, the U.S. troops were to easily take Baghdad, wait a few days to get their stooges in place, and then march toward Syria and Iran. But, something called the resistance changed all that.
With all the experts talking of an easy victory, not one mentioned how Iraq had transformed itself from an almost medieval society to a modern one in just a few decades. The U.S. did not take this into consideration, but the Iraqis did. Not one U.S. "expert" said that the Iraqis would fight back.
Originally, the plan was for a quick move to Baghdad after the city had been bombed heavily. Along the way, Iraqi forces would be given the option to change sides. They would meet up with an American unit and then side-by-side would march on Baghdad. The commander of every Iraqi unit had received messages from the U.S. military of this. But, not one Iraqi unit changed sides. This was the first miscalculation that the U.S. experienced. Next, they did not expect the Saddam Fedayeen to fight so relentlessly.
Another problem was the supply lines. Once the Americans moved on, the Fedayeen would appear and cut the U.S. supply lines. Still, the U.S. had Iran and Syria in its crosshairs. The staged events of April 9, 2003 benefited only the U.S. public. They thought the war was over, but the Iraqis took no notice of this. Sure, a few stooges went in front of TV cameras and said they were glad that "freedom" had come to Iraq.
Something happened on April 10, 2003 that threw all predictions out the window. The Iraqi resistance made its first attacks. Each day saw more movements against the U.S. forces. Plus, there was no surrender document, so the fighting was only beginning.
The original plans had Iraqi soldiers marching with U.S. military personnel on Baghdad. The residents would then line the streets and welcome them. The U.S. would quickly either kill Saddam or find him and the, what the U.S. thought, small handful of people who supported him. Then, they would make Saddam, or the highest ranking government official available, sign a document of surrender. Next, they would find some unheard of general called Ibrahim Ahmed Ibrahim Mohammed Ramadan Imaschmuck and make him the new Iraqi leader and he would praise the U.S. and promise elections in six months. About 50,000 U.S. troops would remain in Iraq and gain the adoration of the Iraqi people. Then, the two-pronged invasions of Syria and Iran would begin, after the U.S. had heavily bombard them.
This may seem like a preposterous scenario, yet every night, each national TV station in the U.S. had "experts" talking of the same results: the Iraqis hated Saddam; they would welcome the U.S.; not even the Iraqi military would lift one finger to defend Iraq. Also, there were the Iraqi "experts" who talked of the "liberation" of their nation. Most had either never lived in Iraq, or they had been out of the country for decades. Ahmed Chalabi played a major part as a true patriot wanting his country to experience freedom. Nobody mentioned that Chalibi left Iraq in 1958. His only other appearance in the country came in 2002 when he spent two weeks in the Kurdish area. In that time, he bilked the Kurds out of eight million dollars. Then he left.
By the time George Bush declared victory on May 1, 2003, the plans for Syria and Iran had been scrapped. At first, the U.S. tried to make a case for demonizing both nations to soften up public opinion for a future invasion once they had taken care of the resistance.
It soon became evident that Iran could assist the U.S. in tempering the effects of the Iraqi resistance, as well as create sectarian violence, an occurrence that would benefit both Iran and the U.S. From that time until today, both sides have worked together. I tell people, "Iran is helping the U.S. too much and the U.S. is helping Iran too much for them to go to war." If you remember, a couple of years ago, there was much talk of a U.S. invasion of Iran. Anyone who held only a nominal knowledge of what was happening knew there would be no confrontation. At that time, many of my colleagues said the U.S. would invade Iran and that I, of all people, should be able to see this coming. I am not a betting man, but I did make some wagers with friends in which the loser had to take the winner out to lunch. Most of the time, we ate at a restaurant run by Mahmoud, a Palestinian-American. Every time I came into his restaurant with someone at lunch-time. Mahmoud laughed and said, "I see where you just won another bet."
To encapsulate an answer for your question, the U.S. did try to take Saddam out on various occasions. The results were disastrous for the U.S. Then, they tried to mobilize the Iraqi public against him. Again, that did not work. As we saw with Saddam’s imprisonment and subsequent execution, the Iraqi public, even those who were not fans of Saddam Hussein at one time, solidified their nationalistic views and made it more difficult for the U.S.
At first, Iran was on the U.S. target list, but ensuing occurrences changed that. Today, there seems to be a balancing act that benefits both countries in the occupation of Iraq. In early 2003, neither nation could see itself allied with the other. Today, their actions in Iraq that assist each other make them inseparable partners.
- Layla : Much food for thought here...Several things come to mind. After the "capture" of Saddam Hussein, the Resistance did not stop its anti-occupation struggle. The anti-war movement and its liberals called them "insurgents" using the same language as the occupier. Furthermore this same movement kept parroting "its all about oil". I noticed you did not mention oil- not even once.
The second thing is Iran. You mentioned that Iran was next on the target list of the axis of evil. However, all the so-called Iraqi opposition were formed and landed mainly from Iran. The U.S administration knew that and Iran helped the US in Afghanistan prior to 2003. So my next question is -- is it really all about oil with Iran becoming the main geostrategic player in the region and what do you make of the current state of the Iraqi resistance ?
- Malcolm : Of all the groups involved in the Iraqi fiasco, the so-called "left" or "anti-war" groups must be held as the most disingenuous people of all. At times, they made Chalabi look legitimate.
Shortly after I began my column in October 2003, I began to receive messages from them telling me that I was all wrong. They mentioned how Iraq had been rid of a brutal dictator and, although the country had been blown to smithereens, it would recover and be a beacon of freedom in the Arab world. They also said that Iraqis hated Saddam and it was a good thing he was no longer in power. A popular statement from U.S. anti-war people was: "No to occupation. No to Saddam." How sad it was to read the explanations of these idiots. Not one had a clue of Iraq’s history or culture.
Then, when the resistance became stronger, they distanced themselves totally from it. United for Peace and Justice, an organization representing 1,400 peace groups actually paid for an advertisement in a Baghdad newspaper commending Malilki on his work and welcomed him to the U.S. when he visited the UN. And these were supposed to be the people who opposed the war.
Finally, when pressed about their attitudes of the Iraqi resistance, Phyllis Bennis, the guruess of the anti-war movement, made her opinion quite clear. She said that not only did she not support the Iraqi resistance, but she opposed it. This was a sad day for humanity.
I haven’t mentioned oil because the subject is so evident. Plus, the "peace" groups only mentioned it because they had no idea of any other matter concerning Iraq. To me, the murdering of three million people; the re-writing of Iraq’s history; the dismantling of Iraqi culture; and the amazing hatred produced by anti-Iraq propaganda far outweigh the subject of who controls Iraq’s oil. The oil is still there, but the three million dead are not. I have left that to economic writers to describe. Some have done a wonderful job. But, to me, the oil, although a major factor, is far less important than what happened to the people of Iraq. The U.S. could have easily gained control of the oil without wiping out 5,000 years of history and culture and making Iraq a non-entity.
The subject of Iran is complicated. The U.S. did accept Iran’s help in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Iran thought it had bought a "get out of jail card" by assisting the U.S. However, Iran soon learned that the U.S. would turn on the country even if it did help the U.S. The allowing of Chalabi and his court to reside in Iran was more of an anti-Iraq move on the part of Iran than a pro-Iran stance of the U.S.
There have been reports by many U.S. officials in the know who maintain that Iran and Syria were on the list of targets. If you remember, at the beginning of hostilities against Iraq, Iran complained of U.S. jets flying over its territory. This was a warning from the U.S.
What the U.S. did not anticipate was the sectarian divide that Iran could create in Iraq. Once this became clear, Iran became safe from being attacked. As I mentioned before, both countries are helping each other so much in Iraq that a U.S. invasion will not occur.
The U.S. has a strong history of fucking over its friends or changing an enemy to a friend. Look at Pakistan. A few years ago, it was a bulwark of U.S. influence in the area. India was apprehensive and thought it would be at a disadvantage if it was attacked by Pakistan. Today, the U.S. is bombing Pakistan almost daily and warning it to change its ways. Just across the border, India is being heralded by the U.S. as a strong up-and-coming world player. In a year or so, we may actually see words of praise for Iran in the U.S. press. Remember Ghadaffi? He was U.S. enemy number one. Then, he became a "good Arab" and all was forgiven. He caved in to U.S. demands.
If you want a good laugh, check out the U.S. annual report of human rights issues of the nations of the world. Venezuela, Bolivia, Russia, China, and Vietnam are perpetual violators of human rights. However, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Colombia and other U.S. stooges are always improving their human rights records, when, in fact, they are getting much worse. Of course, Israel is never mentioned in a negative manner. After all, it is the "only democracy" in the Middle East.
As surprising as it may sound, Iran was still in the U.S. crosshairs at the beginning of 2003. By the end of the year, they were kissing cousins. The statement going around Washington in March and April 2003 was, "Real men go to Iran." This came from military and civilian officials.
As for the resistance today, it is definitely up and running. The days of almost every Iraqi highway being a death trap may be over, but there is still much activity. For one, Baghdad has been ethnically-cleansed. And, there are 28 sectors that are hidden behind 12-feet-high concrete walls. To add a slap in the face to the Iraqis, the cement used to make these walls was purchased from Israel.
In addition, U.S. troops are now conducting "search and avoid" missions. They leave their bases and park their tanks in a safe place, call in to headquarters and say they are on patrol, then return and say there was no action. This has led to a considerable decrease in U.S. deaths.
On the other hand, each day you read about dozens of Iraqi police, politicians or military personnel being killed by the resistance. The resistance is still formidable. Only its targets have changed.
In the next couple of years, I believe we will see an upsurge in resistance attacks for a couple of reasons. The Kurds are now trying to show their military prowess and some Arabs who were not part of the resistance will join and you will see a lot more Kurd vs. Arab confrontations.
The Awakening Groups, the Iraqi resistance fighters who were bought off by the U.S., are finally coming to the conclusion they were fucked by both the U.S. and the quisling group in Baghdad that calls itself a government. Already, some have returned to the resistance, but I think we will see large movements of Awakening Group members re-join the resistance.
To conclude, let me go back to your statement that the anti-war people are calling the resistance fighters "insurgents." This in itself was very inaccurate, but those days are gone. Today, U.S. leftist and peace groups call resistance fighters "terrorists." The U.S. administration does not have to produce much propaganda if its "opponents" use the same terminology about Iraq as it does. With enemies like this, they don’t need friends.
- Layla : You've covered quite some grounds here...a lot of grounds actually and I thank you for that. I am not sure I agree with your analysis on Iran (e.g preliminary U.S strategy vis a vis Iran) but this interview is about you not about me. You have just published a book on Iraq - Mother of all Battles. Why this book and why this title ? As some would argue -- Iraq was defeated with the Fall of Baghdad and there was no Mother of all Battles to contend with.
- Malcolm : Last Sunday, I gave two speeches about my book The Mother of All Battles to different groups. I opened up with a quote from a reader, an expatriate Iraqi professor (forced, April 2003) now living in the UAE. He thanked me for asking him questions about the life in Iraq prior to 2003 and said that most Western writers knew nothing of this. Then, he said he was proud that I wrote an article telling the truth about the capture of Saddam Hussein. I looked at the crowd and said, "By the way, Saddam was not captured in a spider hole. He fought it out with U.S. troops at a friend’s house, but was greatly outnumbered." Their eyeballs popped out of their heads and their mouths opened. I then explained the true story of his capture and they were captivated.
The capture of President Saddam Hussein and the following trial were a sad part of history that has been twisted immensely in the West. There is too much to go over in this response, so I will give a quick analysis. In my book, I go into great detail about the incidents.
The U.S. and its Iraqi stooges thought that by televising the trial, it would eliminate any last support for Saddam Hussein. They were wrong. On the first day, Saddam was a few minutes late. The judge asked why, and Saddam said, "The elevators weren’t working." To which the judge replied, "I’ll ask the Americans to fix them." Saddam looked him right in the eye and said, "You won’t ask them. You will tell them. You are an Iraqi." From that statement on, Saddam had a huge TV audience in which he stood up for Iraq and proved that the cases against him were bogus. The first judge was trying to be fair, but he was taken off the case and later told the press that he did not do what his bosses told him to, which was to denigrate the defendant and not give him a fair chance at a defense. Another judge was also relieved of his duties for making the statement to Saddam, "You were not a dictator."
When the verdict came down, no one was surprised. From that day until his hanging, Saddam Hussein was the freest man in Iraq. He may have been behind bars, but he was free. He never sold out when he could have been given a one-way ticket to some Pacific island and spend the rest of his days on the beach sipping on a drink if he helped the U.S. in stopping the resistance.
The last few minutes of Saddam’s life converted even some of his previous enemies to his side. He did not flinch or show one act of fear. This really upset the U.S. because for years, they had tried to kill him, isolate him, and generally make life miserable for him. Even if Saddam flinched for one second, the U.S. would have claimed victory. But he didn’t.
My book goes into great detail about the trial. I was fortunate to have Curtis Doebbler, one of Saddam's foreign lawyers, write the final section of the last chapter of the book. In it, he compared the integrity of Saddam Hussein the human being and that of George Bush. I don’t have to tell you who came out first in this area.
About a few months after the March 2003 invasion, I knew I had to write a book on Iraq and its destruction. But, it would not be like any other book written on the subject by a Westerner. I took much time to correspond with as many Iraqis as I could. I wanted to know about their housing, the medical system in Iraq, the education system, the social activities of Iraqis and many other things. These subjects were never mentioned in the Western press yet they were crucial to why the U.S. devastated Iraq so heavy-handedly and how Iranian-backed militias and Iran itself took over the country and assisted the U.S. in wiping out Iraq’s history, dignity, and culture. The stories I received from Iraqis differed greatly from those I read in the mainstream Western press.
Shortly after I began my webpage, Lagauche Is Right, in October 2003, I began to receive messages from many Iraqis, as well as other Arabs. They were amazed that I wrote in the way I did. I was quite happy to receive these accolades, but, even though I have my own political views, journalistic integrity came first. I checked out as much as I could to verify the stories sent to me by Iraqis. Sometimes I had to dig hard and deep, but most of what they told me checked out.
My writing about Iraq did not exactly make me the darling of U.S. journalism to either the mainstream press or much of the so-called "progressive" element of the media. I would say that I received more vile remarks from the left, anti-war people than I did from the conservative element of U.S. society. They are so dogmatic in their ways that they will never listen to anyone who challenges them. Plus, they all claim to be intellectuals who are more intelligent than anyone else. I’ve told you that a common statement in 2003 from the left was, "No to occupation. No to Saddam." When I challenged leftists on this, I would start by discussing the once-great Iraqi education system. They would agree. Then, I would speak about the health care system. Again, agreement. I spoke of subject-after-subject of the greatness of Iraq during the Ba’ath years. Then I would ask, "How the fuck could Iraq have these great institutions if its leader and his cronies were all madmen as you say?" Very few could even attempt to answer that.
During the 1990s, I accumulated much information about Iraq from Iraqis living in the U..S. who would occasionally visit Iraq. The Iraqi Interest Section, working out of the Algerian Embassy in Washington, D.C. sent me issues of the Baghdad Observer, a daily Iraqi newspaper written in English. In most matters, the truth emerges eventually. With Iraq, the same is true, but only it was always too late. For years, I would check out what Iraq said about something and then read the U.S. version. The U.S. always said, "You can’t believe anything the Iraqi government says." Most U.S. citizens left it at that. However, I had a scoresheet that showed, over time, every incident was reported truthfully by Iraq and the U.S. versions were outright lies.
When I had to come up with a name for my book, I thought of many. Then, it hit me. On January 17, 1991, when the first bombs hit Baghdad, Saddam Hussein said, "The Mother of All Battles has begun." Everyone in the West laughed. How could Iraqi withstand a U.S. bombardment and ensuing ground war?
Nobody looked into the previous year’s activities in Iraq in which Saddam warned the Arab world that the U.S. was ready to take over the area. He gave many speeches on this subject, the finest one delivered in February 1990 in Amman, Jordan (included in the appendix of my book). He laid out the blueprint for what happened since 1991. In no way was he referring solely to the Iraq vs. U.S. military actions of 1991. He was speaking of a much longer battle that would eventually transcend the borders of Iraq.
In 2000, Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, visited Saddam. He called the Iraqi president his "brother." Chavez went back to Venezuela with information on how Iraq used its oil to produce a modern and functional society. At the time, only Venezuela had a government in Latin America that was not in the hip pocket of the U.S. For years, Latin American right-wing governments, with the assistance of the U.S., held sway.
Chavez used his nation’s oil to improve health and education services. Since then, Evo Morales of Bolivia has been elected president. Also, Correa of Ecuador and Ortega of Nicaragua. Just last week, for the first time in the nation’s history, El Salvador elected a leftist president. All of these people changed the way their nations did business. They began to nationalize their raw materials and use the revenues to improve the living conditions of their people. Only Colombia is still in the U.S. sphere. It is surrounded by governments that consider the raw materials of their countries the birthrights of their citizens, not items to be owned by one person or company and then sold at huge profits to the people
So, the Mother of All Battles is in swing in Latin America today. The Mother of All Battles represents the battle of the forces of imperialism against those of countries who prefer self-determination. Saddam’s statement went far beyond the events of January 1991.
I can not believe anyone can say that the fall of Baghdad was the end of the Mother of All Battles. It was just the extension of it. In 1994, Iraq began a citizen defense program under former Vice President Ramadan and Izaat al-Douri. In August 2002, at a large parade in Baghdad, various units of these defense teams marched. Getty Images ran a photo of this and anyone can see it by going to Google. Tariq Aziz stated, "We will welcome the Americans to Baghdad, Unfortunately, we’ve run out of candy and we’ll have to substitute bullets." Everyone laughed at Tariq Aziz. No one noticed the civilian defense squads marching in Baghdad. Today, U.S. leaders still say that they biggest miscalculation they made was not thinking a resistance would emerge.
If the Mother of All Battles is done, why are there about a hundred attacks a day on the occupiers, the quisling police, soldiers and politicians. Rarely does a day go by when one does not read of successful attacks by the resistance.
One may say, "Well the U.S. will be leaving Iraq soon." If that is true, the Mother of All Battles will continue, only with different players. But, they U.S. is not ready to leave Iraq. Obama said he will withdraw "combat" troops by a certain date and leave 50,000 soldiers behind. Well, if this is true, what are 50,000 soldiers carrying weapons and riding tanks going to do if they’re not going to be engaged in combat? Plus, there will still be tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of U.S. civilian mercenaries in Iraq. The Mother of All Battles still rages.
The Mother of All Battles still rages...and upon those words, my 9th of April "celebration" of the "Fall of Baghdad" is concluded.
Thank you Malcolm Lagauche, it's been wonderful having you "on board."
For those interested in ordering Malcolm's book, here are the details :
The Mother of All Battles: The Endless U.S.-Iraq War consists of 400pages. In it are 52 pictures that have never been shown in the U.S. before. For ordering information, please visit this link ---> http://malcomlagauche.com/id8.html
The price for the book is normally $27.95. For readers of this blog (Arabwomanblues), please make a notation that you are a reader and you will be given a discount price of $20. The mailing price for overseas (USPS Priority) is $12.95. But, two books can be fit into one USPS envelope, so if you order two books, you will be saving on the shipping charges.