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Shock, awe and ICC warrants

It must be a coincidence that ICC (International Criminal Court) issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin, for war crimes in Ukraine, just two days before the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the US-led 2023 “shock and awe” invasion of Iraq. No warrants were issued against the protagonists of that war, of course, even though it did not have UN backing and it’s been proved repeatedly over two decades that the US and UK governments as well as their intelligence agencies lied about Iraq’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks and also its fabled nuclear/chemical /biological weapons arsenal.

It’s no longer a secret that neocon imperial hubris, which finally got access to the world’s most sophisticated military and espionage weaponry in the Bush junior White House, had marked Baghdad for regime change as soon as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld got their portfolios; long before 9/11. They quickly dislodged Saddam Hussein and got their claws on Iraq’s oil alright, but the war also killed hundreds of thousands of people – estimates range between 300,000 and over a million – and triggered a series of cataclysms that plunged the entire region into a sectarian bloodbath, let al Qaeda (AQ) and friends run riot in countries that jealously protected their ancient secular values, threatened borders that went back to the Sykes-Picot agreement and finally embittered the Arabs into turning away from Washington.

Popular western corporate media houses educated the world about America’s “noble mission” to liberate oppressed people with its freedom and democracy. But they didn’t let anybody know that the Arab world’s Ba’athist dictatorships were also the region’s last bastion against rapidly spreading AQ-type armed extremism. Ba’ath parties in power in Baghdad and Damascus could not stand each other and wrote the book on violently crushing political dissent, no doubt, but their notorious mukhabarat regimes also weeded out religious extremism and ensured that streets and souks from Najaf to Aleppo retained their historic, harmonious religious/sectarian diversity.

Ordinary Iraqis waiting for Uncle Sam’s democracy and apple pie instead got sectarian death squads that mutated into heavily armed and highly trained militias and spread into Syria and Libya. If George Bush hadn’t decided to punish Saddam Hussein for 9/11 and “liberate” his country “from tyranny”, Iraq’s Shi’a and Sunni populations, who had lived together and inter-married for centuries, would not have had to endure target killings, public beheadings, unspeakable torture and mass graves.

And they would also have been spared the shock of seeing the US back these guerillas when they later hijacked the Arab Spring in Libya and Syria. Obama smartly called it “leading from behind” as the Pentagon’s arms and CIA’s training facilitated a ferocious AQ attack on Colonel Gaddafi’s government in Tripoli, which sat on the world’s richest and rarest stockpiles of light sweet crude. Washington cheered as Gaddafi was dragged on the streets, sodomised with a bayonet, tortured, killed and thrown into an unmarked grave in the desert. The usual corporate behemoths got Libya’s light sweet crude as well, but the country descended into civil war-hell and still longs for the slightest hint of stability.

Nuances of diplomacy and international law took the back seat again when the “revolution” rolled into Syria. This time the US-EU combine openly backed the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) that partnered with extremist outfits like Jabhat al-Nusra and even IS (Islamic State) as they shook the foundations of states carved out of the broken Ottoman empire a century earlier and terrorised countries up and down the Levant; even forming a temporary caliphate in Mosul. The Americans went so far as to formally recognise a puppet Syrian government that lived outside the country.

The self-righteous arrogance and threat of force that typifies Putin’s Russia has more than a passing resemblance to the hyper-power vanity that so suffuses Washington and enabled the catastrophic unravelling of much of the Middle East over the last 20 years. Yet there were never any warrants against Bush and Blair, even though millions of people who voted for them openly rallied against their illegal wars.

The Kremlin will laugh away ICC’s warrant, of course, and the poor people of Ukraine will just take their place in history as the latest victims of superpower wars. Nothing else will change. That is the most important lesson of “shock and awe”.

Shahab Jafry, "Shock, awe and ICC warrants," Business recorder. 2023-03-23.
Keywords: Social sciences , Criminal court , Biological weapons , Al-Qaeda , Vladimir Putin , Obama , Ukraine , Syria , Libya , US , FSA , 9/11

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