The Spin and Reality of the Capture of Saddam Hussein
Revolutionary Worker #1224, December 28, 2003, posted at rwor.org
"There was an attitude that was pervasive. It was uppity."
Lt. Col. Steven Russell, on why his forces entered Tikrit
In the ancient Rome empire, captured kings would be marched through the imperial capital in chains--before being sent to slavery or execution. The spectacle was intended to send a message: that the empire was unbeatable.
Today's modern imperialists have now paraded a confused, disheveled Saddam Hussein across the TV screens of the world to deliver that same message. Here is a man who many people feared, and who many people also saw as a symbol of Iraqi sovereignty--and he now sits powerless before U.S. guns and cameras.
Even Iraqis who hated his harsh and oppressive rule reportedly felt humiliated to see the troops of a foreign invader pawing the former head of their government.
For the spin-doctors of the empire, the capture of Saddam Hussein in a farmyard bunker was a moment to exploit from every side.
A Spectacle of Lies and Power
"Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated."
The Borg, humanity's enemy on Star Trek
"When you take this leader, who is at one time a very popular leader in this region, and you find him in a hole in the ground, that's a pretty powerful statement that you're on the wrong team."
General Richard Myers, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff
In Iraq, U.S. psychological warfare operations have kicked into high gear. After his capture, rumors were quickly leaked that Saddam Hussein had been betrayed--by his own clansmen or by some top aide under U.S. interrogation. U.S. generals said they now had documents uncovering the secrets of the Iraqi resistance--including the names of leaders and lists of infiltrators operating within the pro-U.S. forces. Publicizing such claims, whether they are true or disinformation, is intended to spread demoralization within the Iraqi population and resistance.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., this capture is being used to build war support among an increasingly troubled population. Thanks to typical American amnesia, millions of people in the U.S. simply don't realize that Saddam Hussein was once a favored ally of the U.S. government--one of the many Third World oppressors that the U.S. has found so useful. This local gangster fell out with the world-class gangsters in Washington--and the U.S. has demonized him as some special embodiment of "evil." Now everyone is told (over and over) that "the world is a better place."
Like a hustler conning people with three-card monty, the White House tries to distract the crowds: "Uh, forget about those non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Here--what about that capture of Saddam in a spider hole?!"
As if the capture of one man now justifies conquering and wrecking a whole country. And as if Iraq's people will be better off in the hands of the U.S. military, ferociously hungry corporations, and some new generation of corrupt and obedient Iraqi puppets.
In a true media frenzy, every American couch potato has been urged to debate how the captured Saddam should be punished. "Thumbs up? Thumbs down? Life? Death?"--the torture and execution of captured presidents of other countries becomes a new "reality TV show" in a modern-day Rome.
Even so, the spin-doctors are having trouble whipping up real enthusiasm. Reality disturbs the spin. Many people sense this war is wrong and wrapped in lies. Even the top officers don't dare predict easy victory. And in Iraq, many people have pressed on to show their outrage and resistance.
Bringing Samarra"Up to Speed"
"While Washington and London were still congratulating themselves on the capture of Saddam Hussein, U.S. troops have shot dead at least 18 Iraqis in the streets of three major cities in the country."
Robert Fisk, Baghdad, Dec. 17
"A top-secret report prepared for the American military command in Iraq.argued that seizing Saddam could provoke more attacks by making the insurgency more acceptable to Sunni Muslims who weren't members of Saddam's Baath Party elite, according to senior administration officials who've seen it."
Sudarsan Raghavan and John Walcott Miami Herald , Dec. 16
"Given the location and circumstances of his capture, it makes it clear that Saddam was not managing the insurgency, and that he had very little control or influence. That is significant and disturbing because it means the insurgents are not fighting for Saddam, they're fighting against the United States."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Vice Chairman, Senate Intelligence Committee
Across Iraq, the capture of Saddam triggered huge protests against U.S. occupation. The U.S. authorities responded with extreme violence. The following accounts come from various bourgeois press and could not be independently verified by the RW , but they give a sense of what's been happening since the capture.
On Monday, December 15, anti-occupation protests broke out throughout central Iraq. U.S. troops reentered the town of Samarra (which they had shelled only two weeks before). They opened fire into the crowds and left 11 people dead.
The U.S. command then unleashed "Operation Ivy Blizzard." Over 2,000 U.S. troops surrounded Samarra. Dozens of armored vehicles commanded the streets while U.S. soldiers went house- to-house. They blew up the doors off homes with plastic explosives and barged into people's houses. They screamed "You're dead, you're dead!" as they seized and beat men at gunpoint. They took at least 86 men away.
"Samarra has been a little bit of a thorn in our side," the commander said. "This operation is designed to bring them up to speed."
Shooting the People
"Any demonstration against the government or coalition forces will be fired upon."
U.S.-backed Governor Hussein al- Jaburi in central Iraq
As news of the massacre in Samarra spread, the protests across Iraq took on a heightened intensity.
In Ramadi, over 700 people dared to take the streets. Videotape shown around the world shows U.S. soldiers opening fire on the unarmed crowd--killing at least three people.
In Tikrit, hundreds of schoolgirls took to the streets to protest the occupation. The pro-U.S. police opened fire over their heads. As the city seethed, the U.S. authorities paraded 30 U.S. tanks through the city. This was necessary, their commander Lt. Col. Steven Russell told reporters, because the people were "uppity."
As the soldiers rolled in, people of Tikrit gathered on the sides of the road in silent defiance. At one point, U.S. troops jumped out and took combat positions, threatening the people. A tank cannon pointed straight at the crowd as a U.S. soldier screamed in English: "Fucking move!"
The loudspeakers on U.S. armored vehicles played a recording by their puppet regional governor Hussein al-Jaburi: "Any demonstration against the government or coalition forces will be fired upon."
In the northern city of Mosul, a thousand students took to the streets against the U.S. occupation. U.S. troops shot three people. And a pro-U.S. cop was later shot in a drive-by.
Meanwhile, there were continued armed resistance attacks on the occupation forces. One report describes 30 attacks on U.S. forces around Baghdad alone within 24 hours.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government announced they were sending 2,000 more troops to Iraq and forcing 3,500 troops who are already there to stay longer -- for the coming operations.
President Bush himself gave a little pep talk to the battered and terrified U.S. collaborators in Iraq. "All Iraqis who take the side of freedom have taken the winning side," he said.
A look across the tortured landscape of Iraq shows what this "freedom" means. Anyone who speaks against the occupation--in newspapers or sermons--faces immediate arrest and brutal interrogation. The U.S. has announced that the future government of Iraq must not be chosen by election, since Iraq's people might very well choose an anti-occupation government.
Ten thousand Iraqis are held in growing prison camps. Trade unions are banned. Hundreds of civilians have been shot in raids and roadblocks.