Monday, January 08, 2007

Saddam's Execution

Only a week ago, was Saddam Hussein, a name that has been on the lips of global watchers and commentators for nearly three decades, executed through hanging. Hussein was still the incumbent leader of Iraq, if one considers the current dispensation a mere puppet of American and British masters who have occupied the country through illegal means and using flimsy lies to justify their assault on Iraqi sovereignty. His execution, which was televised as a grainy video taken through ostensibly a mobile camera, has been followed by responses bordering upon anger in places where ethnic or religious identity of people have been closer to Hussein's and disappointment and outrage in other places. There have also been voices which have welcomed Hussein's execution, voices that are not only emanating from the mouthpieces of Imperia, but also from ethnic identities which were persecuted for certain reasons during Hussein's chequered rule of Iraq.

A friend of mine writes this eloquent piece about how American Imperialism has cajoled, coaxed, apart from throttling and dismantling sections of third world populace to establish hegemony and this very feature dominates reactions to Saddam's execution. He writes as to how, the execution of Saddam, wrought out through the means of "victor's justice" flies at the logic of reason and rationality that the so called liberal world over Iraq based its premise for the continuing occupation of Iraq.

While I agree with his assessment of the structures of hegemony work and how this enforces pliancy of opinion even among those who are oppressed by the very same structures, and while I also agree with his characterization of the aftermath of the Saddam execution, I don't agree with his understanding of Hussein himself.

Hussein has been described by many as a coherent voice against imperialism and a person who articulated pan-Arab nationalism, someone who was a consistent secular voice and someone who upheld these "virtues" for years. This painting of Hussein has been used by anti-imperialists of late, especially after his execution to drum up more noise against the illegal occupation of Iraq.
Personally, though I disagree with this underestimation of the subversive role played by pan-Arab nationalism and its skewed variation of socialism articulated as Baathist socialism, that was propounded and expounded by Saddam Hussein.

Maidul Islam in the aforementioned article says this: "During the Iran-Iraq war, however, Saddam could manage to consolidate a significant Shia population in Iraq under the banner of Arab nationalism where the linguistic and cultural identity of both the Shias and Sunnis of Iraq was made distinguishable from the non-Arab Persian linguistic and cultural identity of Iran besides the use of repressive state apparatus for the mobilisation of war. "

While trying to explain how American duplicity (support to Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war while painting Hussein a mass murderer today) has worked, fitting into the patterns of imperialism, Maidul has displayed a correct understanding of the American project in West Asia, his portrayal of the Iran-Iraq war as a battle between Arab nationalism vis-a-vis expansionist Shiaite Islamism with the primary contributing factor being Imperialism seems problematic.

I argue that the dynamic of nationalism and the contours of Islamic conflict over centuries was dialectically processed by Imperialism to achieve certain ends and not vice-versa. One only has to understand the history of conflict and politics in the Arab and Persian West Asia to see the point that I am making. The very history of the Baath party and its Saddamist version after merely a few years after formation, its articulation of socialism and its radical opposition to class based socialism as articulated by the different Communist Parties of these Arabic nations (Syria and Iraq for e.g.), the problematics of the Islamic Revolution in Iran (which was welcomed by the Post-Modernist Foucault who saw different structures of resistance from Marxist resistance) has a dynamic that goes beyond mere imperialist influence.

Seen in this prism, Saddam Hussein's portrayal as an Anti-Imperialist, to put it mildly, is wrong, in my opinion.

The above understanding is important in the context of understanding the response to American occupation of Iraq. Fuelled by an understanding that doesn't divorce from the minutaie of ethnic, sectarian and nationalist responses to imperialism, the resistance to imperialism remains fractured, incoherent and self-defeating in certain respects. The very fact that car bombings and sectarian warfare contribute more to Iraqi casualties rather than American oppressive tactics, proves this argument.

As Aijaz Ahmad had pointed out, until and unless, a clear understanding of the contradiction that imperialism has imposed between the hegemon and the hegemonized, is not realized by those oppressed in Iraq, a coherent response to Imperialism will not emerge. Therefore, even if the American forces withdraw from Iraq tomorrow, ostensibly, due to internal opposition in America, Iraq will not succeed in becoming a coherent nation that Vietnam became. The internal contradictions that plague Iraqi resistance in comparison to the class based articulations that drove Vietnamese resistance will plague the Iraqi identity further.

1 comment:

Srini said...

My friend Moid replies....and I am publishing it word-for-word...

I think Srini has put it correctly and albeit with a much refined articulation than what he used to do previously in JNU. Srini's language has changed a lot and a kind of sophistication in his style of expression is probably due to the elegance of Rochester academia and the softness coming from the core of the heart in a person whose wedding bells are going to ring on 23rd January, 2007. Now, some (non)serious suff. I think Srini's analysis about my article is apt and I agree with him but with a difference. First, my portrayal of Saddam as a "one of the most dissenting vociferous voice for resistance against American imperialism at least in the last one-and-a-half decade" is important to notice. I specifically locate Saddam's anti-imperialism in a span of last 15 years. That is to say, he had 'moments' of anti-imperialist subaltern voice.
Any subordinate/subaltern character has his/her nuances and complexes as subaltern space is a contested zone of relativization where multiple positioning of the subaltern can happen over a period of time. This is precisely what I argued in my article although not explicitly enough apart from narrating the 'modes of sanctioned violence', 'dynamics of imperialist hegemony that creates a difference between two similar acts of imperialist violence so that a discrimination is produced within the spectacle of response towards imperialism' that Srini missed out while appreciating my article. In a separate academic paper namely 'Nationalism and Islam: In Search of a Subaltern Maududi' to be presented in an international conference of 12th Cultural Studies Workshop jointly organised by CSSSC, SEPHIS etc. in Hyderabad (28th Jan--2nd February)I elaborately analysed the multiple locations of a subaltern/subordinate/oppressed character between occupation of a subaltern space and vacation of a subaltern space. Let me give one example. When you are being sacked by your boss by following hire and fire policy, then at that particular moment, you can be a subaltern. When you come to home and assaults your wife in frustration, then your wife occupies a subaltern space and you vacates your previous subaltern space and then your wife in turn beats her children and the story may go on between oppressive assaults and subaltern resistances.
Now, Saddam was definitely collaborating in a tactical way with imperialism during Iran-Iraq war, but one cannot deny his anti-imperialist credentials during the last 15 years. Do you know where Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late President of Iran was staying in exile during American backed monarchical regime of Shah after the CIA sponsored quo that butchered thousands of Tudeh party (Communist party of Iran)members who were in the Mossadegh's secular front that first nationalised Iran's oil resources for which he had to pay the price? Khomeini was in Iraq during that particular period. Saddam thought that after the exit of Shah he could make a tactical understanding with Khomeini where he would become the big partner in the deal and in the long run become the reigional leader of the entire west Asia. When that didn't work after Khomeini took an independent foreign policy detached from Iraq's regional interests then Saddam took an offensive against Iran and the CIA exploited this particular moment. So, to say that the internal structures of division between Shia and Sunni of the Muslim world has always been there as Srini's comments seem to suggest, I am afraid is not historically correct.
Moreover, in my article I argued that imperialism is capable enough to make fissures and fragments among the oppressed by fanning some non-antagonistic contradictions like ethnicity, religion, sects, caste etc. to suit its own interests. I don't know why Srini repeats it by misunderstanding me. Thus, on this count, there is no disagreement with Srini. Now as far Saddam's potrayal of an anti-imperialist character, as I pointed out earlier that we have to take note of only his last 15 years and some rare moments like the election manifesto episode and not his entire political life.
In Islamic traditions, there is a concept of 'Tauba', which means you swear that you will not commit further mistakes and sins of the same kind that you had done previously over a period of time. Now, after 'Tauba', if the person becomes really truthful about his deeds then his previous sins are forgiven by Allah (God). Now, not going into the religious and spiritual components of Islam, if one could only philosophically read Islam then I think there are 'moments' that are important when assessing a particular character. Now, obviously, in our personal lives too, often we make freinds and break relationships very quickly on the basis of a particular 'moment' or incident or a certain lived experience. I think one has to carefully
(re)evaluate the toatality of life by viewing myriad contrasting parts. The binary between white and black are too simple to understand the problematics of life as there are important grey shades that has to be reconsidered.
I am taking refuge to religious explanations by being a Marxist never actually gives me a sense of hypocrisy. I think one has to re-read Marxism-Leninism while analysing the marxist take on religion. In an important research based book of Chris Harman, 'Marxism and History' he points out that the Progress Publishers of Russia excluded some important opinions of Marx in their collection called 'On Religion'. He mentioned in his book that Marx in his 'A Preface to the Critique of political economy' said that 'religion gives man a sense of understanding about the unevenness of the unequal system and offers suggestions to fight it out." I firmly believe that apart from the modern social sciences, philosophy, humanities, literature and the latest addition of a Marxist psychoanalysis by Fanon, Lacan, Zizek, Deluze, Guattari etc. one has to rehabilate 'religion' in Marxist analysis. Marx cannot be parcelled up a single or multiple subjects of various academic experts. He has to be seen in totality. Struggle against everyday discrimination, exclusion, injustice and oppression! Long live REVOLUTION! Hope to get some more comments. Lal Salaam! (Maidul Islam ala Moid)