Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Secular Saddam

Is it too much to ask some people to drop their enthusiasm for Saddam's "secular" Iraq? Probably not, since it's useful in bashing the U.S. war to oust him, which has resulted in a resurgence of religion in Iraq, including a great many very ugly scenes.

Saddam ruled for the sake of Saddam. His party had policies; their principal goal was to keep power in the hands of the party. Like the Nazis and the communists, from whom the Ba'athists learned a great deal, they understood that religious authorities threatened their aggrandizement of national control. So they banned and banished them when they couldn't kill them outright. They worked to break the bond between the people and the faith.

Saddam enforced a secular culture on Iraq. Until he began to writhe for survival under U.S. pressure. Then he wrote "“Allahu Akbar” right in the middle of the national flag, built mosques, and celebrated his devotion to Islam. Because it would help him keep power. Iraqis were slaves. They were whatever Saddam said they were. That is not an enlightened secularism. Anyone alert to the horrors and perversions of religious authoritarianism ought to be able to see that.