Christopher Hitchens Iraq’s 1979 Fascist Coup
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[Christopher Hitchens Iraq’s 1979 Fascist Coup]
[Christopher Hitchens:] Source: LYBIO.net
I suppose I’ll start with Iraq, which is best described by – has best been captured by under its old regime form, a brilliant author an Iraqi-English, half Iraqi, half English author called Kanan Makiya, who had to write for a long time under a protected pseudonym of Samir al Khalil, and wrote a tremendous book called The Republic of Fear, which is the best four-word description that one could have of the regime of Saddam Hussein. If you can get hold of it, and you can if you go back to look at the program that Kanan Makiya and Hodding Carter once did for Public Broadcasting, you can actually get to see one of the most chilling, annihilatingly chilling actually, videos that was ever made in the 20th century.
It shows the moment at which Saddam Hussein, the actual moment at which Saddam Hussein seized power in Iraq for himself.
We don’t have that moment in Germany, we didn’t have that moment in Russia, we don’t have that – we know what happened after the assassination in Leningrad and the opportunity it gave to Stalin to seize supreme power. We know roughly what happened in the Night of the Long Knives when Adolf Hitler realised that he could massacre every rival of his not just in German politics but within his own party, which is always the crucial thing.
But with Iraq, we do have the actual moment, and you see it, there’s the Central Committee of the Baath Party, perhaps 100 people, are sitting in a very formal array in the conference room, and Saddam Hussein is chairing them from a podium, smoking a large cigar, and suddenly without warning to anyone, in is dragged between two guards and in chains, a broken man, a man who has obviously physically and mentally been utterly destroyed; his personality has been evacuated. And prodded a bit, he stumbles through a confession that implicates himself and others in a plot to destroy the Iraqi Republic to remove the regime of the Baath Party, and to ruin the Iraqi Revolution, the counter-revolution no less. He says the regime behind it is the Syrian regime, it could have been anybody, it could have been international Zionism, it could have been anything you like, but it actually implicates in this case the Syrian – the Syrian Baath Party rivals.
Having confessed for himself and having begged to be executed for his crimes, having been reduced to a state of complete abjection, the man then says ‘The following members of this Central Committee were with me in this plot’, and he begins to read out their names, slowly, and as this happens you can see as the guards move, every time a name is mentioned and they grab the members/man and lead him out of the door. And after about a dozen of these, there’s panic, sheer animal panic starts to spread, among those who haven’t yet been named, and in the hope that they’re not going to be they start screaming and jumping up and saying ‘Glory to Saddam Hussein our leader; all praise to him the sun, the moon, the stars of Iraq’ praying that it won’t be them but of course there’s nothing makes any difference, the harvest just goes on randomly. They’re taken off the chessboard and taken out, and so half of them are gone and the rest are just limp and done for and almost dying with relief that it wasn’t them.
It’s the most extraordinary live show of a real for keeps political purge that you’ll ever see.
And then there’s the second half which has been seen by much fewer people and was not shown on PBS where the surviving half are told to go out in the yard and are given guns and are told to shoot the convicted half. Now they’re in the plot. Now they are cemented to the leadership.
Now Kanan Makiya in his book says correctly, he says Hitler wouldn’t have thought of that. Stalin didn’t even think of that, and he thought about these things a lot, about how to get one member of the Central Committee to betray another member and keep them all guessing, so that you’re the ultimate beneficiary but this is that added little touch of sadomasochistic genius, this is the adding of The Godfather and The Sopranos to the mixture of Nazism and Stalinism that was in fact the birth of Baathist ideology to begin with. In case you don’t know or haven’t studied it, the Iraqi Baath Socialist Party was modelled in large part on admiration for European National Socialist and Fascist movements, hoped to emulate them especially in their nationalism against the West. But mutated by Saddam Hussein it became also one that very, very much admired, he had a great admiration for and grew a special moustache in admiration of the work of Yosif Vissarionovitch Dzugashvili, the great Georgian known to us historically as Stalin. So you had him in modern Iraq, a regime in our own time, that was openly, directly modelled upon the two most extreme examples of European totalitarianism.
When I used to go there in those days, it’s often very difficult when you come out of a country like this, to explain to people quite what it’s like when you’re there; the atmosphere of terror, the look that comes into people’s eyes when you mention the name of the leader, the absolute look of flash of panic, ‘anything could happen to me now’. The person who spills their cup of coffee in the morning on a copy of the party paper that has the leader’s picture on it, and everyone in the café goes completely quiet. He just desecrated a picture of the leader; the police are on their way now. You’ve just made the biggest mistake of your life, and it’s very likely that your family will go to prison with you, and maybe they’ll have to watch you being tortured, and if they do, they’ll have to applaud. And if they have to watch you being executed they’ll be later sent a bill for the bullets that were used to be fired into the back of your head because no-one’s exempt.
[Christopher Hitchens:] Source: LYBIO.net
It’s often I think very, very hard for people who live in civilised countries, democratic countries, to understand what it would be like to live even a day under a regime that was like this.
I used to find in arguments about Iraq that I knew right away when someone didn’t know what they were talking about.
The dead giveaway would always be when they would say, ‘All right, I agree, Saddam Hussein is a bad guy’, I’d say, ‘Now that means you don’t know, you don’t know anything about him, if that’s what you think. You don’t know what it would be like to be sitting at home wondering where your daughter was and finding out because the police came around and, banging on the door, handed you a video while they stood there, of her being raped by their colleagues, just to show you who was boss.’
The word ‘evil’, which I began with, I think does need a bit of justification.
Many people think that to even use the word ‘evil’ is sort of naive or morally too judgmental or, you know what I’m driving at, too simplistic.
And yet it’s somehow a word without which we cannot do.
Hannah Arendt in her study of totalitarianism borrowed from Immanuel Kant the concept of radical evil, of evil that’s so evil that in the end it destroys itself, it’s so committed to evil and it’s so committed to hatred and cruelty that it becomes suicidal.
[Christopher Hitchens:] Source: L Y B I O . N E T
My definition of it is the surplus value that’s generated by totalitarianism. It means you do more violence, more cruelty than you absolutely have to to stay in power. You’ve already made your point, you’ve done everything you need to do to make people realise that you’re in power, but you somehow can’t stop, there has to be a special appetite that must be special prisons for rape, there must be special mass graves just for children. There must be the desire to see how far you can go, and even if you know this will in the end bring retribution, it’s worth it in some sense, for its own sake. Maybe that’s the only redeeming thing about it, maybe the irrationality is the – is the one saving grace of it, but at any rate it’s not a word it seems, that we can abolish from our vocabulary.
Christopher Hitchens Iraq’s 1979 Fascist Coup. The surviving half are told to go out in the yard and are given guns and are told to shoot the convicted half. Complete Full Transcript, Dialogue, Remarks, Saying, Quotes, Words And Text.