Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Current Baathist-Islamist Alliance Refutes the Anti-War Theory that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq Would Never Have Allied with Al-Qaeda

           One of the many arguments used by opponents of the Liberation of Iraq was to minimize or dismiss the terrorist threat to Americans from Iraq’s Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein was that the Baathists, whom the war opponents refer to as “secular,” were unlikely to cooperate with al-Qaeda or other Sunni Islamists because of political or religious ideological differences.  However, the recent reports of cooperation between Sunni jihadists, who had been affiliated with al-Qaeda, and former Baathist regime members disprove this anti-war argument. 

            Before the Liberation of Iraq in 2003 by the United States and its allies, some of the opponents of the war had raised the possibility of terrorist strikes against Americans or its interests in retaliation for attacking Hussein’s Baathist regime, which openly sponsored terrorism, as a reason not to go to war.  During the war, after no such attacks occurred, these anti-war critics reversed their argument and minimized or dismissed Iraq as a terrorist threat.  Some of these critics of the War on Terrorism or other American policies of self-defense justify terrorism, which is the targeting of violence toward innocent civilians, as an emotional or rational response to those foreign policies they, like the terrorists, oppose.  However, terrorism is neither emotional, nor rational and is never justifiable.  It is evil.  Apparently, the opponents of liberating Iraq did not explain why terrorists would oppose the overthrow of Hussein’s regime by the Americans and its allies if they thought it did not matter to their Islamist objectives.  The fact that many militant jihadists, including a significant number affiliated with al-Qaeda, entered Iraq to fight the Americans, their allies and the new Iraqi regime, only proved the Islamists’ strategic interest in preventing Iraq from enjoying representative government that respects the liberty of its people and is an ally of the U.S. in the War on Terrorism. 

Although the opponents of the war had linked Iraq with terrorism and then later minimized or denied any link, the overall relevance of Iraq to al-Qaeda was undeniable.  In fact, al-Qaeda’s largest gripe against the U.S. had been the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia.  Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden’s hatred of Americans was such that he regarded their presence in that kingdom to be a desecration of Islamic holy sites, even though the U.S. troops were not anywhere near the holy region.  The American troops were present in Saudi Arabia to protect it from an invasion by Iraq and to enforce no-fly zones over Iraq to protect Arab Shi’ites from Hussein’s oppression.  One of bin Laden’s other chief complaints against the U.S. was the trade embargo against Iraq

Furthermore, there were al-Qaeda affiliates present in Iraq before the overthrow of Hussein’s Baathist regime, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who had been responsible for the murder of an American diplomat in Jordan.  Regardless of whether his presence was known or tolerated by the totalitarian Baathist regime, his presence alone refutes the anti-war argument that al-Qaeda was not present in Iraq before its liberation in 2003. 

The anti-war argument rests upon the theory that because Saddam Hussein’s Baathist Iraqi regime was  “secular,” their religious and political differences with al-Qaeda were too great for the two ever to cooperate against American interests.  The theory is based upon a misunderstanding of the word secular within the context of the Islamic world.  There, secular means “non-theocratic,” (not ruled by clerics), not “non-religious.”  In fact, the Baathist regime was coated with an Islamic veneer, despite being non-clerical.  Its language and symbols were Muslim.  For example, Saddam Hussein was officially portrayed in art as dressed in traditional religious garb; he made sure to be seen praying five times daily, and even spoke about his dream in which Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, appeared to him.  Hussein even saw himself as a modern Saladin, the Muslim leader who fought the Christian Crusaders.  Both were from Tikrit, Iraq.  Hussein and al-Qaeda were both anti-American Sunni Islamic militants and terrorists, despite their differences.  Although the record is not certain as to the exact relationship between Hussein’s regime and al-Qaeda, it does suggest there was at least a non-aggression pact between them.  I have noted in other posts the tendency of various rogues to cooperate.  If even atheist North Korea and theocratic Muslim Iran cooperate, it would not have been far-fetched that Hussein and al-Qaeda would have cooperated.  It would have been irresponsible for the U.S. to base its security on the hope that these two enemies would never have made an alliance, especially if their survival was in jeopardy.  The current cooperation between Baathists and Islamists proves the Liberation of Iraq was justified.

            Moreover, the sponsorship of terrorism by Iraq’s Baathist regime under Saddam Hussein should not be dismissed or minimized.  Iraq both harbored and financed terrorists and other militant Muslim suicide bombers who targeted and killed Americans.  Among others, Hussein’s regime had harbored for many years Palestinian terrorist Abu Abbas, who had led the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985, during which his terrorists murdered a disabled elderly American by dumping him overboard.  Abbas was also the conduit for Iraqi funds to subsidize Palestinian suicide bombers, including the ones who successfully targeted an American-owned restaurant frequented by Americans in Jerusalem, among a number of other attacks on Israelis that also resulted in American casualties. 

           Whether or not there were links between the Baathist regime of Iraq to al-Qaeda is irrelevant as to whether or not Iraq was a terrorist threat to Americans, as links to al-Qaeda are not the sole standard by which to judge whether or not a terrorist was a threat to Americans.  All terrorism is unacceptable, but that which targets Americans or its interests or allies is of particular concern.  The War on Terrorism is not only the “War on al-Qaeda,” but a campaign against all terrorists who threaten Americans, which included the Baathist regime of Iraq.  In fact, state sponsors of terrorism, whether the states themselves carried out acts of terrorism or not, were of particular concern because of the safe harbor they often provided terrorists, in addition to providing them resources.  Hussein’s regime was a sufficient terrorist threat, apart from al-Qaeda, for its overthrow to be justified, among other reasons.  The recent events in Iraq only remind us of the greater strategic threat posed by that regime in the War on Terrorism.  

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