An American year |
Shahpar Selim, Department of Geography, London School of Economics
What a year it's been. I marched in disbelief as they went to war. I watched in trepidation as Saddam's statue was covered with an American flag, signifying an American endeavour. I watched with relief as Saddam was finally captured, but cringed at the rhetoric? A strong American accent, stating that they, the Americans, have "got him". It is funny how at this age of political spin and mirrors, the White House has not bothered to cloak the single-handedness behind this war, notwithstanding what the allies might like to believe. No doubt, 2003 has been an American year, as much as Blair would like to think it's their "special friendship" that got the results, it was nothing but sheer American determination, guts, and arrogance. As de Touqueville put it, Americans are different from their cousins in their rationale and actions, they are "exceptional", a loaded term if there ever was one. The year 2003 saw American "exceptionalism" at its best. And the Bush administration will think that's a compliment.
They may have "got" Saddam, but subtle political perspicacity and restrained nobility still eludes them.
What I'd like to see in the coming year is how Saddam will be tried. America will no doubt throw legality issues out the window and schedule the trial on American soil. One can only hope that an Iraqi court will be set up, with an international dimension to ita fair and dignified court. But I suspect just how "international" the trial will be in reality. Saddam should be tried as a "war criminal" against charges of genocide, which would enervate the UN Charter into setting up an international war crimes tribunal for the Kurdish massacre (similar to Milosevic after Kosovo). Bush is unequivocal about wanting Saddam dead. While the allies (specially the UK, which is anti-capital punishment) may squabble over it, the ultimate decision should rest with the Iraqi people. Judging by the recent motion passed by the Iraqi governing council, the possibility of executing Saddam was not unanimously accepted, as some voting members abstained. But do we want Saddam to be elevated to the status of a national hero by having him hanged? Some fates are worse than death, and Saddam deserves to live out his days in unimaginable indignity and humiliation.
Another thing I'd like to see is how the Bush administration deals with the trial with regards to the WMD, which was the reason they cited for going to war. They had not used the Kurdish genocide or corrupt administration as reasons for the war. Since the WMD have not turned up yet, will Bush still attempt to try Saddam as possessor of illegal WMD, or simply as the hub of all evil? Maybe I am being too hasty, maybe the WMD will be found yet! It amused me greatly to see the recent interview that Bremer gave, denying statements made just a few short days ago by Blair, that nuclear laboratories were found in Iraq. Talk about "sexed up" statistics! And the Hutton Inquiry report hasn't even come out yet! One might suggest that the Bush administration start doing something about the smaller weapons that are so prolific in Iraq today. The guns and bombs are causing more deaths than the mythical WMD have caused in this war.
An excellent illustration of America's "exceptionalism" is how the war is influencing their domestic politics. Bush may say that he is not going to use this war for re-election in November 2004, but given the state of the economy and the Democrats, Americans are probably going for another term of Bush. On the other side of the pond, the very same war is spelling all kinds of woes for Blair, with Claire Short suggesting he resign immediately. Given the Hutton Inquiry debacle, the Gordon Brown rebellion, top-up fees and foundation hospitals, it's been a remarkably bad year for Blair. I look forward to the next year with much trepidation. Hey, if nothing else, the Michael Jackson trial should be entertainment enough!