Saddam, Ford: One Killed, One Pardoned

Call me superstitious, but somehow I always tend to hope for the maxim that speaks: All’s well that ends well. And hence, certainly in the last week of this month, I had not imagined the year 2006 would leave such bitter memories behind.

It all started with one death: Gerald Ford’s. And ended with one execution: Saddam Hussein’s.

What has Ford got to do with Hussein? I would probably have not wondered aloud such an analogy on another occasion. After all, one was the celebrated president of world’s oldest democracy, and the other was the disgraced president of a dictatorial regime. For celebration of Ford’s legacies, there are museums, schools, world leaders and history books. For Hussein, only condemnations follow from all above quarters. We are observing memorial services cherishing the memories of Ford beginning Friday, whereas the global condemnation ceremonies to mark the former Iraqi head have started from Saturday. New York Times while pouring in rich tributes for Ford churned out a news story out of an obituary, headlined its editorial as “Gerald R Ford” to portray the legend on Thursday. And yet on Saturday, the liberal paper had made an editorial out of a hard news piece, and headlined its lead story of the day thus: “Dictator Who Ruled Iraq With Violence Is Hanged for Crimes Against Humanity.” Yes, that’s the headline from world’s most respected newspaper, not a sentence from some kangaroo court.

And yet, amidst the word-games of the colonial language that accentuates the stark differences perpetuated by its mainstream media masters, I am struck by few similarities between the two dead former leaders.

Both climbed the ladders of politics not through legitimate elections, but by assuming power. Ford quietly succeeded a corrupt tax evader Spiro Agnew to become the vice president, and with a lot of pomp and show, inherited a corrupt war criminal Richard Nixon’s throne to become the president. Similar “corrupt bargains” were made in Iraq for Saddam to remain in power. Hussein quickly ascended Ba’ath Party ladders without the credentials, political, military, or otherwise. And earned his fame and glory in his attempt to assassinate the then Iraqi head Abdul Qassim. Ironically, just like Ford who rose to power without any mandate except merely with approval from the US Congress, Saddam’s claim to fame was reached through the American interventions in Iraq to fund the Ba’athists to get rid of left-leaning Qassim. In a sure manner well recorded, but seldom quoted, the US war machine created both Saddam, and Ford.

A New York Times columnist in an editorial piece had done some elaboration, at least about Saddam, a few years back:

“The Iraqi leader seen as a grave threat in 1963 was Abdel Karim Kassem, a general who five years earlier had deposed the Western-allied Iraqi monarchy. Washington’s role in the coup went unreported at the time and has been little noted since. America’s anti-Kassem intrigue has been widely substantiated, however, in disclosures by the Senate Committee on Intelligence and in the work of journalists and historians like David Wise, an authority on the C.I.A.

From 1958 to 1960, despite Kassem’s harsh repression, the Eisenhower administration abided him as a counter to Washington’s Arab nemesis of the era, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt — much as Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush would aid Saddam Hussein in the 1980’s against the common foe of Iran.

Then, on Feb. 8, 1963, the conspirators staged a coup in Baghdad. For a time the government held out, but eventually Kassem gave up, and after a swift trial was shot; his body was later shown on Baghdad television. Washington immediately befriended the successor regime. ”Almost certainly a gain for our side,” Robert Komer, a National Security Council aide, wrote to Kennedy the day of the takeover.

As its instrument the C.I.A. had chosen the authoritarian and anti-Communist Baath Party, in 1963 still a relatively small political faction influential in the Iraqi Army. According to the former Baathist leader Hani Fkaiki, among party members colluding with the C.I.A. in 1962 and 1963 was Saddam Hussein, then a 25-year-old who had fled to Cairo after taking part in a failed assassination of Kassem in 1958.

According to Western scholars, as well as Iraqi refugees and a British human rights organization, the 1963 coup was accompanied by a bloodbath. Using lists of suspected Communists and other leftists provided by the C.I.A., the Baathists systematically murdered untold numbers of Iraq’s educated elite — killings in which Saddam Hussein himself is said to have participated. No one knows the exact toll, but accounts agree that the victims included hundreds of doctors, teachers, technicians, lawyers and other professionals as well as military and political figures.”


The US war mongers funded the Iraqi despot to continue murdering communists and innocent civilians. At the same time, back home, they got Ford to continue the same legacy. Not surprisingly, Ford became not just the only unelected president, but even the most unpopular one at his time. He pardoned without any conditions whatsoever the biggest war criminal of recent times: Richard Nixon, the officially recognized disgraced president. Like Hussein, Nixon was a zealot anti-communist, a massive war and hate proponent. And Gerald Ford whose six day national mourning continues with half-mast flags, was the greatest supporter of Nixon. He provided all the support that Nixon required to save face, and his life. And no, all thanks to Ford, Nixon was not hanged.

Times have changed. But times do not change philosophically on their own tunes. They change just the way the ruling classes decide. And as predicted, after an initial hue and cry by the marketplace of ideas, Ford continued to be cherished for having pardoned Nixon and saved America’s image. Saddam, soon after the demise of communist powers, was brushed off as forgotten legacy that could have otherwise tarnished America’s image.

Today, alas, if we recall history accurately in its sequence and reasoning and ruling class motives and working peoples resentments, there is just one fallen guy between the two. And not surprisingly, Ford has been pardoned.

But there is worse in store. Now that Saddam is not there anymore, perhaps true to the nature of obituaries, true to the nature of support lent to Ford’s legacies after his death, many of us would invariably see light in Saddam as well. In the battle of ideologies, perhaps it would seem as though Saddam fought a different battle than that of American power elites. And after much accentuation of these differences, the corporate media would have succeeded in establishing a hyper reality of virtues and vices. And the reification of historical insanities may again begin when we either pay rich tributes to Saddam to posit him against America or vice versa. Or like the European allies in the war, when we take the moralist positions against capital punishment in order to oppose Saddam’s death.

Saddam’s death should have been quite predictable. After all, those that stop serving the masters, are condemned to harsh course. It’s the masters that we need to beware of. The masters that enslaved Africa, colonized Asia, and impoverished majority of world population through global capitalism. If they kill their disobedient agents, that’s not a bother. We didn’t ask for the agent anyway. The point is we need not take the masters any longer either.

And neither do we want any more of their agents. Some of them may rally behind the masters, like Pinochet who died a natural honorable death recently. And some may yet go pose a challenge, like Bin Laden who may end up in Saddam’s shoes one day soon. But any indulgence in positing the agents against the masters is well playing into the plans. Its like supporting the European leaderships today who are their virtuous best in the criticism of American punishment degrees. Or listening to New York Times declaring how the criminal against humanity is our man no more.

Either way, we would miss the boat. The issue is not in differences between two such elements borne out of greed, competition and oppressions. Not the difference between Ford and Hussein. It’s the similarities among them that should make us shiver.

Brother Malcolm X used to open his address with: “brothers and sisters, friends and enemies.” If we succeeded in identifying the categories, we hopefully would have left the worst of times behind as we start marking a new year tomorrow.

(Originally published in Radical Notes)

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Bring the War Home (Part II)

So the CNN poll says that most Americans feel no one is winning the war in Iraq. Apart from the statistical tables drawn from little more than a 1000 people who were telephoned, the CNN forgets to mention one more word in its headline: Ignorant.

Only when people are deliberately kept ignorant about the state of affairs, can they make any such claim. CNN, after perfecting the art of mediocrity and disparaging neutrality during periods of great crisis, has been able to contribute to the pool of mythmakers who lull the population. The fact of the matter is that the Bush administration is winning the war.

Because the war is not being fought in Iraq. The war is being fought right here inside the United States. It’s just that this is the war that the corporate media would not like to talk about. Just as in any other capitalist country in the world today, media in the US have decided to bury the hatchet after digging the graves.

Colors of the Wars

Why is it that we call it a war only when a western country involves itself in external aggression? Be it the so-called “World Wars”, which were nothing but capitalistic battlefields for profits, or the “Cold War”, which was nothing but hot pursuit at destroying civilizations through barbaric American interventions, or the “Gulf War”, which continues in various names the showmanship of white masculinity despite international condemnations—the war is the game that men play, and worse, the game that the dominant ruling class men play.

Is it any coincidence then that the real colors of the war are shoved to obscurity through deliberate dislocation of the locale—geographical and psychological? Since the massive acquisition of world power following the world wars that led to obscenities such as G-7 and NATO, by color, wars are now being attributed solely to irresponsibly dangerous people of color. And by locales, they are always being fought only outside the Euro-American soil!

Omissions and Psychological Warfare:

In a recent exhibition to sensitize the American public about what it feels like to be in a war-ridden territory, Doctors without Borders had organized artificial refugee camps in the heart of New York City. I was struck by a world map that welcomed the visitors who were spoon-fed distorted history of warfare by a very able NGO propagandist. The physical/political map depicted the countries that had internally displaced population in the world today. Two kinds of refugees were enumerated: those who are foreigners to the warring country, and those that are resident aliens. Much careful planning must have gone through in preparing this exhaustive map, as the small group audience gasped at the reality.

The gasps of disbelief! Photo by Saswat.

Whereas people—mostly European-Americans–were clearly disturbed at the glaring map, they were visibly comforted as well. Reason: Each and every country in the world seemed to be depicted on the map as having displaced refugees, except for the country of United States and continent of Europe! It was as though the entire world was dotted with crisis, except for these two western regions that are entirely without a problem!

The Doctors without Borders expert then went ahead to narrate her personal experience in African countries and Muslim countries. Audience roared at first with laughter at the model of toilet that ‘those people’ use. And when the narrator said that some Muslims would not use the toilet when it would be faced in the direction of their mosque, some in the audience sneered at the preposterous audacity of ‘those ungrateful people’. It was not merely shocking for me to go through the public mockery at the toilet design that I had grown up with most of my life, but even for an atheist like me, the entire lack of religious sensitivity was quite disgustingly unpalatable an experience.

…and the vacuum of indifference Photo by Saswat.

The kind French doctor then took us around more to the way camps are set up, the hardships that NGOs face while saving the lives of the war-torn people and while distributing bare minimum food supplies to cornered people. And all the while, the exercise seemed like a self-congratulatory exercise of sizeable measure. Worse, it was the victory of sorts for the actors in global psychological warfare.

Acts of genocides caused by repressions by colonialists and imperialists in Africa and Asia were suddenly dismissed by the well-meaning reformist activist circles of organizations like Doctors Without Borders as processes to stop “civil wars” brought forth by “infighting” and “tribal clashes” and “Muslim conflicts”. The international organization even went to the extent of celebrating the beautiful, noble and charitable roles that European countries were playing in rehabilitating the greedy, fanatic and needy infighters.

In fact, nowhere in the narration at any point were the people told of the role of the “safe countries” that lead to the ravages in the affected countries. No where were we reminded that the safety in the western front is only a swelling mocking silence at sheer indifference that comes with luxurious ignorance. That’s because the reformists work to depict the wretched, torn, poor in a neutral way, after remaining silent at the continuous supply of arms by the militarist yet ‘safe’ countries to the warring sides. The war against Lebanese people is a case in point. It was depicted as though Middle East is a crisis. Not us—not even if we in the first world actively remain silent when our leaders negotiate arms deals with militarist regimes that we support actively through money, germs and warfare.

Revisionist Reactionary History Retold:

What the Doctors without Borders were essentially doing was continuing the legacy to distort the reality by replacing them with lasting impressionist images that are value-laden.

First off, the reassuring idea that Western World has no refugees and no war inside the countries is a blatant white lie. The kind French doctors should only have looked at war-torn (in their language ‘rioting’) Paris. The New Yorkers should have only looked at war-torn (in their language poverty and homelessness) Bronx. And the map could have been altered and the definitions of genocides and wars could have been revisited, as also attributions of perpetrators and victims.

Secondly, the perpetrators themselves have always become the largest preachers. In the name of church, they sanctified holy wars. In the name of charity, they legitimized unholy alliances. Unable to contain the mass resentments at colonial expansionist motives to force Africa to debt trap, the Euro-American alliances have now resorted to throw rice bags at warring tribes who have been forcefully devoid enough of their lands to the extent that staying sane has become an unknown privilege for them.

Thirdly, the preachers and moralists of the first world liberalism have helped themselves in getting rid of a guilty conscience that sure would have popped up, if not for sheer inaction and lack of imagination. So, the well-meaning doctors and journalists and peaceniks get together once in a while to pat each other’s back in their hard-earned efforts to hail the British sophistry to claim civilization, to herald Europe as the well-meaning citadel of freedom and continue the Nirmala (of Missionaries of Charity fame) doctrine: Poverty is the gift of God. Then, war must indeed be a perpetuating gift to be treasured as well, that continues to spin the money, influence and moral sense.

What’s the war about?

Plain and simple: the war that’s being fought now is a misnomer. Its just another scale of capitalistic perversion indulged in by the Eurocentric liberals. A sudden sense of powerlessness that engulfed the white ruling class world impaired its confidence to such a great deal that out of the vacuum came many a pseudo liberal and conservative movements. From safeguarding church sanctity, to curb communism, to attack sovereign lands, and to pose peace marches to oppose such attacks by terming them as wars: we have seen the hegemonists staking claim on both sides of the mainstream politics.

All along, what these reformers and reactionaries alike have consciously refrained from doing is to recognize the kind of war that’s the need of the hour. There is only one war that is needed to be fought today, and that is the Class War. In my view, the class wars have the following inherent features. (Bestselling works have different –often spiritual– types of Seven Laws. But that’s merely because they have a different population in mind):


1. Class wars are not fought outside the ‘national’ boundaries. Indeed, class wars do not recognize any divisions other than Class.

2. Class wars are organized attacks on global capitalistic economic system. They are not peaceful reform movements based on appeals and petitions and requests and preachings.

3. Class wars are not fought by recruiting working class people to fight on behalf of the imperialist masters. Quite the contrary, class wars force the capitalists out onto the street to fight their own battles and in fear or new found knowledge, many from capitalist classes join the working class people, and out of the enslaved mindsets, many from working class prefer to join their former masters. Apart from Bolsheviks, one could find instances in Black Panthers and Weathermen Underground, where people of all classes came onto the streets, many changed their class loyalties and consciously chose sides and fought the battles on principles.

4. Class wars are organized through radical education of the youths, by disavowing old reactionary knowledge, by replacing canonic texts and reactionary history and colonial languages with brand new narrations by the oppressed, language of the dispossessed and writings of the agitated. Vladimir Mayakovsky and Che Guevera and Maxim Gorky would come to mind who replaced the old texts with the new.

5. Class wars are fought against the entire lot of class elites, including the scientists who make bombs, doctors who pimp expensive drugs, teachers who teach classics, students who benefit from nepotisms. But since the class wars cannot be exclusionary in nature, the peoples sides always invariably accept those from different classes and backgrounds as long as they willingly change their statuses by giving up adamancies, class characters and superficial hierarchies.

6. Class wars always are organized, although outbursts are always spontaneous. It is the duty of the educated and privileged who feel oppressed, to heed to the call of the most dispossessed, and thereby help form the class in solidarity. In class wars, there are no gradations and levels and degrees. It’s an absolute war against the tiny minority of controllers of global resource, not against the exploited workers, mid-level managers or even those from the bourgeois class who are willing to consciously switch positions.

7. Class wars are not dogmatic, they do not follow arbitrary wishes of despots, and yet certainly do not entertain any reformist, and liberal understandings that look for intra-system micro changes. Class wars are about grand visions, great leaps and global single union of all workers.

It is only important for people of the biggest empire in world history to recognize that the war has to be brought home. With due apologies to Doctors without Borders, refugees are not outside of Europe or America. It is the majority of people in these countries that are the refugees within the ruling class boundaries. Just for an example, to take a leaf out of last month which was observed in the US as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, one needs to only redefine the scope of internally displaced people: Acts of domestic violence occur every 12 seconds in the U.S. – making it the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the country – more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. More than 4,500 women are killed each year in the U.S. by abusive husbands or boyfriends. This is the state of women’s rights in the country that goes on preaching morals to China about human rights abuse and along with its European counterparts like UK, and France—which are even worse performers on human issues–issues warrants to Muslim countries regarding the freedom that ‘their women’ deserve and to ensure that, they declare wars on poor people. Largest undertrials, and biggest military-industrial complexes, fraud elections that steal the polls, education system working for the rich, healthcare industries at the call of the privileged—on almost every count of human dignity, the majority of people in the so-called first world are living in no better condition than the working class lives in the victim countries. And yet, the wars–to enforce a standard of governance that has invariably failed to deliver everytime—continue against the poor people of the world and crocodile tears are shed by the enlightened liberals at their plights. Its almost in charity towards the poor that the emotions are misspent, instead of asking the crucial question regarding who leads to their plights and thereby organizing them on an international economic class basis.

These utter hypocrisies of the elitists have led the world to believe in the external aggressions as some kind of feasible war, whereas the truth of the matter is, this is just a genocide being caused against the working poor of the world by the moral pundits of the first world who spread their neo-colonial tools of culture, media and redundant, privilege-ridden talk-shows laced, media-hyped, bogus talks about equality and liberty and freedom and all other superficially diverting values of plutocracy.

The real war needs to be brought home, and the demarcations need to be made. We did let go of the Katrina disaster that brought out the class dynamics because there were not enough among us who identified with the suffering black people of America who would like to give up our knowledge about issues defined by the structure as ‘issues’. Hence we looked at race dynamics, we looked at geographical dynamics, we looked at political dynamics. We entirely missed that it is the class that creates the divides across, geography, race, gender, religion, sexuality, disabilities, nationalities, political systems—to name but a few. Not the other way around. Yet again, this month, let us not allow the farcical elections blind us to a system that just doesn’t seem to be working for the people. This election is another reformist tactics to get rid of one ruler while upholding the structure that will seat just another. The absurdities surrounding these imposters are so well known that their media bombard us with multitudes of news only to force us to forget things we should have noticed. For example, John Kerry disgraced himself after talking about who gets stuck in wars. Sure, I don’t think it was a disgrace because Kerry was wrong in content. Just that he forgot to say he got out of Vietnam not because of education alone. But ironically he disgraced himself again for a second time (truly in sync with Democratic Party tradition of eating words) by apologizing: implying that it’s a good thing to be conscripted after all… Whose bickerings are we even choosing our sides for: These are not even worthy fights!

We don’t need militarists to misspell imperialism as some necessary war. We also don’t need peaceniks to preach against all sorts of wars. The fact of the matter is, we have submitted to these jargon jugglers for a long time now. And the need of the hour is for the ongoing class wars to be recognized and organized and brought back to homes—to every place of this planet and unionize our class identity before they move the focus to their media machines and central parks.