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.