Sunday, June 24, 2007

Roger Cohen: Of Sarajevo and Baghdad

"This approach, involving acquiescence to dictatorships in the name of stable repression and a stable oil supply, found its vilest expression in U.S. support of Saddam through his 1980s war with Iran (about 1 million dead) and the Kurdish genocide of 1988.

Backing turned to indifference when, in 1991, Saddam slaughtered Iraqi Shiites and Kurds whom the United States had encouraged to rise up. As malignity goes, that takes some beating.

The price of "stability" safeguarded by cynicism is worth recalling at a time when the Middle East's name is instability. Whatever else the bungled Iraq operation has been, it marked the end of American buttressing of a poisonous Middle Eastern stasis and a murderous Stalinist regime.

It is also worth recalling that it was in the time of quiet malevolence, back in 1998, that Osama bin Laden declared: "To kill Americans and their allies - civilians and military - is an individual duty for every Muslim."

Malign stability did not work, not in Iraq or Saudi Arabia. It produced a backlash that ended America's self-image as sanctuary protected by two wide oceans.

The global jihadists were not created by the Iraq invasion. They were thriving on American policy prior to it.

The manifold blunders of America in Iraq have made it unfashionable to recall such truths.

Fashion is a poor compass. The next time a car bomb goes off, remember Saddon al-Saiedi, a 36-year-old Shiite army colonel, father of two, abducted by Saddam's goons on May 2, 1993, and never seen again.

As he went, so went numberless others, without a bang. Totalitarian hell - malign stability - holds no hope. Violent instability is unacceptable but not hopeless. Baghdad is closer to Sarajevo than we have allowed."


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