• History,  Iraq

    Neoconservatism: A Lament

    In 2003 I did not just support the Iraq War, I supported an ideology associated with many of the most vocal proponents of that war: neoconservatism. The purpose of this post is not to criticise Tony Blair for his decision to go to war, although one has to admit that Iraq in 2016 is not the liberal democratic paradise of which many had dreamed, but to note that neoconservatism as an ideology is a soiled good. There is no simple definition of neoconservatism and neoconservative writers have not all sung the exact same tune with the exact same words. In my opinion neoconservatism is about promoting democracy abroad, opposing regimes…

  • Iraq

    Lest we forget

    Here’s a reminder of why some of us supported the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. (Hint: It had little to do with alleged weapons of mass destruction and nothing to do with oil.) What was (and remains) unforgivable, and borders on criminal, was the utter failure to deal competently with the situation on the ground in the immediate aftermath of Saddam’s ouster. For that George W. Bush must shoulder most of the blame, but Tony Blair must take his share too. Sorry, Owen. No groveling. (Hat tip: Julie Lenarz)

  • Iraq

    How to Build Nations

    This is  a cross-post by James Snell The story of Emma Sky, newly told in her memoir The Unravelling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq, is a fascinating one. An opponent of the war in Iraq – someone, in fact, who had proposed serving as a human shield in the first Gulf War – does not generally end up in effect administering a province, as Sky found herself doing very soon after her arrival in the country in 2003. But this is what she did. And more than that, she spent much of the following seven years in Iraq, working closely with the very American military she and many like-minded…

  • Book Review,  Iraq

    Kamel Sachet and Islamism in Saddam’s Security Forces

    This is a cross-post by Kyle Orton Book Review: The Weight of a Mustard Seed: The Intimate Life of an Iraqi Family During Thirty Years of Tyranny (2009) by Wendell Steavenson Wendell Steavenson’s The Weight of a Mustard Seed—the title drawn from a verse of the Qur’an about the difference between attaining heaven and hell—comprises five years of research about Kamel Sachet Aziz al-Janabi, one of Saddam Hussein’s favourite and most senior generals. Born in 1947, Kamel Sachet joined the Iraqi police straight from school in the mid-1960s and joined the army in 1975. Sachet was soon in the Special Forces, training in mountain warfare in Germany in 1978, taking part in…

  • Iraq

    Did Saddam Hussein Become A Religious Believer?

    This is a cross-post by Kyle Orton It should be stated up front that the question posed in the headline is, strictly speaking, unanswerable: only Saddam Hussein could ever answer that question, and even then any out-loud answer given by Saddam could be untrue in any number of directions, for any number of reasons. Still, from the available evidence it does seem Saddam had some kind of “born-again” experience. Of crucial importance, however, is that while Saddam’s actual beliefs had a significant impact in providing some of the colour and shape to the Faith Campaign, even if one believes Saddam remained a secularist and Islamized his regime as a wholly cynical…

  • Iraq

    The Iraq War: Not Illegal, Not Immoral, and Not Over

    This is a cross-post by James Snell Today sees the publication of an entirely excellent article in The Times by Nigel Biggar, Regius Professor of Moral Theology at the University of Oxford. In it, the good professor takes apart a number of myths which have been allowed to coagulate about the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein, one of the most evil men in recent history whose autocratic (and kleptocratic) rule led to the foundation not just of ISIS – as if it was not enough – but the creation of much of Iraq’s current sectarian turmoil. In the wake of an absurd and self-serving and opportunistic pledge from…

  • 'Islamic State',  Iraq

    A Response to Criticism: Why the Ex-Saddamists in the Islamic State Matter

    This is a cross-post by Kyle Orton In the Jerusalem Post on Sunday, Seth Frantzman wrote in opposition to the idea that the ex-military-intelligence officials of the Saddam Hussein regime had contributed significantly to the success of the Islamic State (ISIS) in taking over large swathes of Syria and Iraq. Much of what Frantzman says, about the overestimation of ISIS and Iran’s growing Imperium pushing Sunnis into ISIS’s camp, is unarguable, but he is in error about the time-frame of the ex-Saddamists’ migration into ISIS and underestimates their impact. The core of Frantzman’s case is: 140 or so men who served under Saddam are thought to play a role in middle…

  • Glenn Greenwald,  Iran,  Iraq

    Glenn Greenwald needs to stop being a cheerleader

    This is a cross-post by John Sargeant at Homo Economicus Glenn Greenwald likes to call people tribalists and cheerleaders. He should know, he used to be one in praise of George W Bush. Now, he is a tribalist where everything comes back to the evil of Bush and Blair. I engage with his desire to say that Tony Blair, rather than Saddam Hussein, is the one to blame for innocent people being killed. Glenn Greenwald chose the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 bombing to write a piece criticizing the terrorism that killed over fifty people and injured over 700 civilians as they commuted on the tube and a bus in…

  • Iraq

    Saddam and the Taliban

    This is a cross-post by Kyle Orton In the last two posts, examining the Saddam Hussein regime’s long relationship with al-Qaeda, a noticeable sub-theme was the connections the Saddam regime had with the Taliban theocracy in Afghanistan. The evidence accumulated suggests that Saddam’s policies in his later years, namely the Islamization of his own regime and instrumentalization of Islamists in foreign policy, included welcoming relations with the Taliban. The Saddam regime’s contacts with al-Qaeda date to the 1990-91 Gulf War. The first direct contacts between the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) and al-Qaeda took place after bin Laden moved to Sudan in 1992. Saddam and al-Qaeda reached a non-aggression pact in 1993. After bin…

  • Galloway,  Iraq

    Galloway’s dancing partner dies

    Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s former foreign minister and deputy prime minister, who loyally provided an urbane facade to Saddam Hussein’s unspeakably brutal regime, has died in hospital at the age of 79. George Galloway once wrote of his experience on “the crowded dance floor of a North African nightclub … dancing with Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister of Iraq.” After Aziz was arrested, Galloway called him a “political prisoner” and said: “The obvious fact is that Mr Tariq Aziz is a more respectful man than the people who are holding him now. He is viewed with high esteem worldwide by figures like the Pope in the Vatican and other international…