May 4, 2003 | Washington Times

Demise of a Dictator

By Amb. Richard Carlson

Those who have followed the war of liberation in Iraq know how slanted and unfair the news coverage has been in parts of the Arab world. Quotes like this from Palestinian Authority Deputy Minister Adly Sadeq, about Saddam Hussein, seize one's attention: “The man was a thorn in the eyes of the imperialists. We will never change our mind [about him], no matter what [the attempts at] humiliation and deception. [We know] that the man made mistakes, which are an inevitable part of the experience of great leaders who rule complex societies in dangerous geographical regions during difficult times.”— (Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, April 10, 2003).

Just “mistakes,” made by a great leader, during a difficult time, in a complex society? Is there any evil that can't be cravenly dismissed? Saddam Hussein held the 24 million people of Iraq in a pincer of corruption and cruelty for 30 years. He was personally responsible for the torture and deaths of hundreds of thousands of his own countrymen — men, women and even babies; he was an absolute dictator who raped and plundered at will freely admitted that Hitler and Stalin were his idols. Yet, Mr. Sadeq, the man in charge of planning “international cooperation” for the Palestinian Authority, refers to three decades of butchery as “mistakes.” Mr. Sadeq is far from alone in his bizarre exculpation.

“There are many who are unhappy. I mean, nobody loved Saddam. But you saw the pictures in the paper of the kids dead. Is that the price to pay for getting rid of one man?” — Khalid Maeena, Editor of the Arab News in Saudi Arabia, as reported in the LA Times.

But, Messrs. Sadeq and Maeena's views are not representative of the larger Muslim world, where millions of decent, peace loving people lead their lives according to the Koran and are separated by the greatest moral distance from the hypocrisy of their leaders.

“What fell is more significant than Saddam. What collapsed are the big lies that accompanied him, praised him, and glorified him. Also collapsed are the minds that insisted on falsifying the facts of both present and history that prevaricated in the name of the Iraqi people.”

“…yesterday's scenes of the Baghdadis demonstrating and tearing down and urinating on the portraits of their dictator, pulled down the biggest lie in contemporary Arab history.”

“It is an historical event for the regime, for which there is no precedent.

All the past wars were wars with Israel or wars of regimes. But this one is the first of its kind. It is a war against the evil Arab situation.” -London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al Awsat, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashid (April 11th)

“I hear people asking angrily why Saddam's forces 'crumbled like a biscuit under U.S. troops.' That outcome is logical. Saddam's artificial support was a result of a culture of hypocrisy, not conviction.” -Semari Ahmed, a Tunisian history teacher, as reported by Reuters (April 12th)

“Now no one believes al-Jazeera anymore” — Ali Hassan, a government employee in Cairo, as reported by the AP.

“The reactions of the Iraqi people show how oppressed they were and what misery the regime inflicted upon them,” — Gibran Tueni, editor of Lebanon's al-Nahar newspaper.

“What happened in Baghdad must be taken into consideration by Arab rulers because the people are the ones who defend a country, and if they are tortured and their honour is violated, then they will be the first to abandon it,” — Hussein Taher, a 37-year-old private sector employee in Saudi Arabia, as reported by Reuters.

“This is a message for the Arab regimes, and could be the beginning of transformation in the Arab region. Without the honest help of the Western nations, the reforms will not take place in these countries.” — Tarek al Absi, a university professor in Yemen, as reported in the LA Times.

As the authoritarian regimes of Middle East fiefdoms are further shaken by seismic tremors from the liberation of Iraq, more of these voices will be freed to speak.
Richard W. Carlson is the former Director General of the Voice of America and former President and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.