By Mohammad Badrul Ahsan
December 19, 2014
FYODOR Dostoevsky writes in Crime and Punishment that it takes something more than intelligence to act intelligently. Those words rang hollow in the report on the CIA torture recently released by the US Senate Intelligence Committee. It confirmed that this resplendent wisdom was sorely missing in the hostility between the living former US president George W. Bush and late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Neither of them acted intelligently although both of them apparently used intelligence.
The CIA report isn't about invasion of Iraq or hanging of Saddam Hussein. It's more about the severity of the depraved American anger against Islamic militancy. It also comes as the latest peg in the coffin of American pride for being the fountainhead of freedom and justice. The Saddam episode comes into this picture as logically as menu flows from appetizer to main course.
That Saddam didn't act intelligently or have the right intelligence was a foregone conclusion from the very beginning. The swashbuckling Iraqi ruler confronted a superpower armed with nothing more than the power of his unbridled tongue. His army and firepower crumbled under the US attack like mud houses in mad torrents. Saddam's minister of information was a notch above the boss. Muhammad Saeef Al-Sahaaf was still bellowing that the American soldiers were committing suicide “by the hundreds” when combat sounds of the nearing American troops could already be heard in the background of the broadcast.
What about Bush? How did he act? He was immensely more intelligent or had access to superior intelligence, which was how he was able to pull the wool over the eyes of the world. He justified the invasion of another country based on hogwash. The WMDs he invented existed nowhere but in his own scurrilous imagination, and those of his advisers.'
It's now official that the CIA wilfully provided inaccurate information and misrepresented the efficacy of torture. In plain English, America's premier intelligence body lied about the techniques it used to torture terrorism suspects, apparently keeping rest of the world in the dark. It's an insult to intelligent minds that the US Senators took so long to unearth what should have been common sense to them. Lies beget lies, and cover-ups beget cover-ups. It was only expected for the CIA to bluff the government when it knew the government was bluffing the world to frame Saddam.
What we have here is a convoluted story of the solidarity of crooks. It's as redundant to ask if Bush knew about the torture as to ask if day comes after night. He must have gotten wind of the nature of torture as much as the CIA had gotten wind that the WMDs were bogus. It must have been that both sides saw it to their convenience to turn a blind eye on each other.
It's an irony that the victors always write history from their vantage point. Had it been Bush hanged by Saddam in the dawn of a Christmas day instead of Saddam hanged by Bush in the dawn of an Eid day, it would have been a different ballgame altogether. In that case, we could have a different set of conversations today, weighing crime and punishment under a different light.
In fact, that refraction of history needs to be corrected first. If the US Senate and the conscientious world mean business, then they should go back to the original sin when the Bush administration had decided to make its hunt for 9/11 perpetrators an excuse to go after the unrelated Saddam. It had the perverse pathology of our Rab members, who go after elusive criminals and then kill different targets in fake encounters.
The alleged charges against Saddam Hussein ran from 1974 to 1991 when he had apparently killed tens of thousands of people to crush Kurdish insurgency, quell opposition to his regime and invade Kuwait during the Gulf War. The dictator was certainly deluded by his depravity whetted by his hunger for power, solemnised by his misguided notion that he was at once saving his regime and his country Iraq.
What Saddam did in that context is what Bush also did in the pretext of saving his country and the western world. He invaded another country, plundered its museum and killed tens of thousands of its people, all that time under the false pretence of going after a psychopath who was a menace to the civilised world.
But George Bush has done more harm to the civilised world than Saddam could do even if the WMDs were real. The high priest of mischief blatantly lied, the CIA torture being merely a side-effect of its far-reaching fallout. Bush's weapon of mass delusion shattered the moral universe where criminals now feel encouraged to find a viable excuse so that they can commit their crimes and that without qualms.
Mohammad Badrul Ahsan is Editor, First News and an opinion writer of The Daily Star.