Sunday, August 08, 2010

Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz Speaks Out From A Baghdad Prison Cell, Considers U.S. Pullout From Iraq Premature

Here's a story you won't find in the Anchorage Daily News - primarily because they have no compelling interest to publish it. Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz has broken a silence of over seven years and has spoken out from his prison cell in Baghdad. Prompting him to speak out is the decision by the United States to hand over control of combat operations to Iraqi security forces on August 7th, 2010. Aziz thinks it's a bad idea because he believe America "killed his country" and that a complete U.S. pullout will finish the job. A report of multiple explosions causing scores of fatalities and injuries in Basra and Fallujah on August 7th would seem to validate Aziz' concern.

Read the full story of the interview with Aziz in the Guardian. Here are some highlights:

-- Aziz insists he was powerless to stymie the will of Saddam Hussein, and that none of the regime's blood was on his own hands. "All decisions were taken by president Saddam Hussein. I held a political position, I did not participate in any of the crimes that were raised against me personally. Out of hundreds of complaints, nobody has mentioned me in person."

-- Aziz opposed Saddam's decision to invade Kuwait in 1990, and tried to dissuade him, saying that it would lead to war with the U.S. which would be contrary to Iraq's interests. But once Saddam launched the war, Ariz said that as foreign minister he had to support it. Because of his loyalty to Saddam, Aziz's influence after the 1991 Gulf War rose substantially, and he became privy to virtually all the regime's secrets.

-- Aziz says the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. were shocking to both him and Saddam. "We were against that at the time, but we were not speaking to the American government. Saddam Hussein called me and said he would like me to write a letter to Ramsey [Clark, a former US attorney general] and say that we condemn the attack. I did that."

-- Aziz asserts that there was no secret weapons program, and no will to resurrect one from the ruins of Iraq's three bombed nuclear reactors and adjoining research laboratories. He found that his job of escorting skeptical UN inspectors around Iraq was largely futile, with the exception of a few courageous souls like Scott Ritter who told the American people that 90-95 percent of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capacity had been verifiably eliminated, and that the remainder was far too disjointed and disorganized to constitute a threat. Unfortunately, Ritter paid a price for his dissension from the official party line; he was arrested in April 2001 and again in June 2001 in connection with police stings in which officers posed as under-aged girls to arrange meetings of a sexual nature. Both charges were quickly dropped once they had accomplished the real goal of damaging Ritter's public credibility, thus clearing the way for the American attack on Iraq in 2003. Aziz believes George W. Bush and Tony Blair lied intentionally, claiming that they were both pro-Zionist and wanted to destroy Iraq for the sake of Israel, not for the sake of the U.S. and Britain.

-- Aziz also explained why Saddam played a cat-and-mouse game about the WMDs, saying that it was to keep Iran off-balance. Since Iraq had fought a destructive eight-year war against Iran, Saddam considered it his responsibility to deter them from becoming aggressive again. And since Iraq is no longer a bulwark against Iran, Iran has indeed become more truculent.

After the American invasion, Tariq Aziz surrendered to U.S. forces on April 24th, 2003 on condition that they allow his family to emigrate to Jordan. The U.S. honored that request. Aziz was then tried and convicted on one count of a crime against humanity, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. As of this report, he has served seven years and four months of that sentence. He is incarcerated under what he calls "excellent" conditions, saying that he is well-treated and that the facilities are clean, the food is good and there is a small garden nearby where he can exercise. Aziz refuses to pass judgment on Saddam Hussein at this point, and while he acknowledges making mistakes, says he's proud of his life because his best intention was to serve Iraq.

It's good to see that Tariq Aziz remains patriotic to his country after all that's transpired. He confirms my suspicions that the war in Iraq was a mistake. This is no reflection upon our troops who deployed to Iraq and, with few exceptions, did an outstanding job. It is a reflection on the misguided leaders who sent them. Baby Bush may have inherited Papa Bush's name, but he didn't inherit Papa Bush's brains. And Baby Bush led to Obama. By invading Iraq, we:

-- Destabilized a working society, even if it was authoritarian.
-- Destroyed a bulwark against Iran.
-- Squandered revenue which could have been applied to more productive causes.
-- Strained our military capabilities with multiple deployments.

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