A Victim: Tariq Aziz faces judicial murder in Iraq

“Tariq Aziz was drawn into nationalist politics in his 20s, working for the overthrow of the British-backed monarchy. Like many of the radicalized young people of the Arab world of his generation, he believed that nationalist revolution could liberate the region from the legacy of colonialism, including the ethno-religious divisions exacerbated by the divide-and-rule methods of European imperialism…”

 

The sentencing of former Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz to hang is a barbaric act of political vengeance by the US puppet government in Baghdad and yet another in the litany of war crimes committed by Washington since the 2003 invasion.

 

Aziz, for decades Iraq’s chief diplomatic representative on the world stage, voluntarily turned himself in to the US military in 2003. He apparently trusted that his long-standing international reputation—including his diplomatic relations with successive US administrations—would protect him.

 

Instead, the ailing 74-year-old has been subjected to more than seven years of solitary confinement, first by American military jailers at Camp Cropper, near Baghdad’s international airport, and, more recently, by Iraqi security forces. When US occupation forces turned Aziz over to the Iraqi government last July he confided to his lawyer, “I am sure they are going to kill me.”

 

Aziz went through his multiple trials largely without any legal representation, as lawyers who dared to defend him were threatened with death by Shi’ite militias linked to the US-backed regime.

 

Essentially, he was found guilty of the crimes of Saddam Hussein’s secret police by virtue of his representation of the Iraqi government as the country’s chief diplomat. Those familiar with the workings of the Ba’athist regime dispute this logic, pointing out that Aziz was never part of the inner circle that controlled the security forces, drawn largely from Hussein’s Tikrit-based clan.

 

There is no small irony in Aziz being sentenced to death for religious-based persecution. Born in 1936 to an impoverished Christian family in northern Iraq, Aziz was drawn into nationalist politics in his 20s, working for the overthrow of the British-backed monarchy. Like many of the radicalized young people of the Arab world of his generation, he believed that nationalist revolution could liberate the region from the legacy of colonialism, including the ethno-religious divisions exacerbated by the divide-and-rule methods of European imperialism.

 

The Iraqi political forces overseeing his trial are linked to militias implicated in the massive sectarian-based bloodletting provoked by the US occupation. Iraq’s Christian population has been decimated, and the possibility that someone born a Christian like Aziz could assume a prominent post in the current regime is absolutely nil.

 

More fundamentally, however, the court and the regime itself are creations of a criminal war and occupation carried out by US imperialism. The death sentence was dictated from Washington.

 

The obvious question raised by the judicial lynching of Tariq Aziz is: Who are Washington and its local compradors to try anyone for crimes against the Iraqi people?

 

As Tariq Aziz himself told the British Guardian last August, in his only interview since his imprisonment, “We are all victims of America and Britain. They killed our country.”

 

The last seven-and-a-half years of US-led occupation have destroyed Iraqi society, claiming the lives of well over a million people, turning more than four million into refugees, and leaving millions more hungry, unemployed and lacking the most essential services.

 

To sentence Tariq Aziz to death while the authors of these crimes—in both the Bush and the Obama administrations—enjoy impunity is not only a crime, but an obscenity.

 

Washington has its own reasons for wanting the former Iraqi foreign minister dead. There are those within the ruling establishment who still bitterly resent his highly articulate refutation of the manufactured pretexts—“weapons of mass destruction” and Al Qaeda connections—for the US invasion.

 

More fundamentally, Aziz’s long diplomatic career places him in a unique position to expose the criminal record of US imperialism in relation to Iraq. It was he who first received Donald Rumsfeld (Bush’s defense secretary at the time of the 2003 invasion) when he was sent in 1983 as a special envoy of the Reagan administration to offer US support to Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war.

 

He was at the center of the diplomatic maneuvers between Washington and Baghdad that preceded the first Gulf War, when the US ambassador in Baghdad, April Glaspie, gave what amounted to a green light for Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which in turn provided the casus belli for a massive intervention by the US military in the Persian Gulf.

 

He could further expose the way in which Washington systematically rejected evidence that Iraq had no “weapons of mass destruction” and sabotaged every attempt to prevent the war it launched in 2003.

 

The US ruling elite has a vested interest in seeing that the secrets held by Tariq Aziz about the last 30 years of US-Iraqi relations go with him to the grave. Why keep alive a man who could be called as a star witness in their own war crimes trials?

 

It is for this reason that the international working class should oppose the execution of Tariq Aziz and demand his immediate release. Justice for the suffering people of Iraq can come only with the prosecution of those responsible for waging an illegal war of aggression and the innumerable crimes that it has engendered.

 

Bill Van Auken

28 October 2010

World Socialist Website



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