Saddam, Osama, Gaddafi, Chavez – and Obama

By Johan Galtung

Contemporary reality, but what is real? Two of the above were killed under Obama’s watch; Osama executed by Obama extra-judicially, in cold blood, the other two by proxies (Chávez: we do not quite know). Two of them were dictators; Osama had no state, Chávez had, but won elections apparently not more rigged than Florida 2004, Ohio 2008.

What were the problems, how might they have been solved?

A key problem, no doubt, was “Arab socialism”, a basic slogan half a century ago when Nasser’s coup brought the Arab world out of the secular-capitalist Italian-English-French imperialism that had followed the Ottoman empire–in Libya-Iraq-Syria, and other places.

One carrier of that idea was the Ba’ath party in Iraq and Syria, key persons Saddam Hussein and Assad father and son (whom they have not killed – yet). The idea spread to Afghanistan in the 1973 coup, and was picked up by Gaddafi, expressed in The Green Book.

Part One argues for direct, not parliamentary democracy; Part Two argues for socialism, not capitalism; and Part Three is about the Social Basis, the “driving force of history”: the family, the tribe, the nation, women, minorities, the blacks (who will prevail in the world), education, melodies and art, sports-horsemanship-shows–arguing very strongly against boxing and wrestling as “savage”.

Islamists in these and other post-colonial countries picked up the suppression of Islam and its post-Ottoman secularism. The USA, with the European client regimes going along, made use of islamists against the socialists; a blatant stupidity with well-known consequences. Some might have argued to use socialists against the islamists; much better would have been to help the Arab-Muslim reawakening. But USA-CIA anti-communism was driving their policies, no deeper understanding was needed or wanted. Working for US business, the CIA, etc. were in fact undermining their whole empire.

However, ignorance often comes with an arrogance undisturbed by facts; policy being based on the product of the two. Moreover, never underestimate bureaucratic inertia (Professor Graham Allison). As a result policies people rather liked, literacy, more equality for women, elements of welfare states, suffered a set-back. But the West has a hammer, arms, and sees all problems as security problems; their security. And they have one remedy: democracy; without federalism, meaningless in deeply fragmented countries.

But Saddam Hussein was not only a dictator; he also killed his own people, Kurds, in Halabja – gas? Not so obvious. Could also have been Iran in hot pursuit of their Kurds escaping, or Iraq and Iran fighting, both using gas sold to them by the USA. Maybe Saddam knew too much about this and might have given revealing testimony had he been in court and not been hanged for a minor crime before that. [2]

Osama was an islamist, not a socialist; see Messages to the World – The Statements of Osama bin Laden (London, New York: VERSO, 2005; edited by Bruce Lawrence). His enemy was not capitalism, nor Judaism-Christianity, but secularism. The book starts with “The Betrayal of Palestine” and ends with “Depose the Tyrants” – the House of Saud. The Obama administration confused his enthusiasm for 9/11 with being the organizer, but is never able to provide any proof.

Chávez was also different; a Christian struck by Jesus living with the poor, a left-wing social democrat, and a Bolivarian, sharing Bolivar’s vision of a united Latin America (and the Caribbean). The Fascist Coup Against Venezuela (Habana: Plaza, 2003) by Hugo Chávez brings this out clearly. Better read these books, cum grano salis.

Yes, two of them were dictators, with Assad three, of faultlined countries, Western colonies run brutally from Rome-London-Paris; demanding a democracy the colonials never managed. And an end to violence, but not to theirs, destroying Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan.

Very powerful visions, arguing what the Europeans have done, in a world with states – except the biggest – waning in significance anyhow. No space for US “world hegemony” or the US $ as the world currency.

Yes, all of this was disturbing to the USA because all four had visions beyond national economy and politics: Saddam (with the Assads) a unified Arab world; for Gaddafi also a unified Africa with its own monetary fund and currency; for Osama the Islamic umma, the community of the believers; for Chávez the unity of the America south of USA.

Who is Obama, by the way? Reported, by Nick Turse of The Nation, killing in 134 countries, sowing 134 blowbacks? [1] A president with left-wing Democrat rhetoric and right-wing Republican foreign policies, betraying his voters and democracy itself – a contract between the elected and the voters – punished in midterm 2010, paralyzing the USA with a disconnect between legislative and executive powers–preaching democracy; with no world vision. What should he have done?

Understand that there are more centers in the world and make the best of it. Rather than inviting counter-attacks – soon also from al-Maliki and Karzai – respect these strivings for unity and on equal terms with a more modest USA. Learn from US history, the accumulated experiences, from beating London colonialism, a terrible uncivil war, the whole agony of slavery and its abolition, de jure after 350 years, de facto 450? Learn to be on the side of history – Obama’s own words.

We know how it is going to end. The recent CELAC conference in Habana says it all: the heads of states of almost all countries south of USA, with the secretary-generals of OAS and UN, in attendance at this moment of world history. And with Kerry in November 2013 arguing equality between the two Americas. Conferences of a really unifying Arab world, an islamic world, Africa, will commemorate Saddam (and Assad), Osama, Gaddafi, with dignitaries, hopefully also US attending-Obama forgotten long ago. But not he who started it all: Fidel Castro.


[1] 17-01-14.

[2] Felicity Arbuthnot, Global Research February 1 2014 (Iraq: 935 Lies, A Tyrant with “Weapons of Mass Destruction”) puts it this way: “In Kurdistan, where the people in the Iran border were terribly caught in the crossfire from the weapons used by both devastated sides (and sold to both sides by the US) Saddam Hussein was firmly in the firing line for the terrible deaths at Halabja. However a meticulous US War College report threw doubts on the facts of even that horror, stating: Iraq was blamed for the Halabja attack, even though it was subsequently brought out that Iran too had used chemicals in this operation, and it seemed likely that it was the Iranian bombardment that actually killed the Kurds“. The reference is to

The late US Ambassador James Atkins told me that somebody in Pentagon had told him that Iraq did not have the type of gas used in Halabja. But, being less than sure myself I added a “maybe”.

First publiches at Transcend Media Service here.

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