George Bush Sr and his propaganda machine exhorted the Iraqis – the Shia, the Kurds, the dissident Sunnis, north and south – to rise against Saddam. They did so, at different stages seizing 13 of Iraq’s 18 provinces. Then, as Iraq’s destiny seemed on the verge of transformation, the Americans not only denied the rebels support but actively allowed Saddam and his security forces to reassert their primacy. The United States betrayed these Iraqis because it was afraid of the revolution’s consequences and shy of being seen to be responsible for it.
Since that miscalculation, the Iraqis have suffered the dictator’s continued rule overlaid with a harsh and pointless regimen of economic sanctions. These enhanced his and his State’s dominance at the centre and enfeebled and demoralised a population that had, with spirit and bravery, almost unseated him. The Iraqis I have talked to inside and outside Iraq agree that the trade sanctions were vindictive and counterproductive. From the very first, the Americans, and later the British, made clear that however comprehensively Saddam Hussein disarmed – and he did disarm, quite extensively – and however diligently he might try to obey UN Security Council resolutions, there would be no end to the embargo on oil sales, as spelled out in Resolution 687, and no end to Iraq’s misery, until he was gone.
Thus the West – the Americans and British – undermined the validity of their own case, destroyed any incentive for Saddam Hussein to co-operate and beggared the Iraqi people. The Iraqis’ hatred of Saddam is therefore overlaid with blame for us, for their lost years and the destruction of their hopes and future.