The writer and commentator Douglas Murray (who was Director of the Centre for Social Cohesion and is now a fellow of the Henry Jackson Society), is an amazingly forthright and courageous defender of Israel who frequently writes columns and opinion articles in the press which put all Israel’s Hasbara people into the shade. A wonderful video of Murray, speaking last March at the Cambridge Union, has suddenly been making the rounds and “gone viral” on the internet. Even though his speech is almost a year old it is as relevant today as it was then – possibly even more so. Watch it and be inspired. (h/t Melanie Phillips via Elchanan).
The sentiments expressed in this video tie in very clearly with an interesting article on Jewish Ideas Daily entitled Listening to Saddam.
A new book, The Saddam Tapes: The Inner Workings of a Tyrant’s Regime 1978-2001, based on transcripts of conversations between Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and his inner circle, provides a disconcerting look at the “rationality” of another regime with nuclear ambitions. Culled from thousands of hours of tape recordings captured by American forces, augmented by analysis from the Institute for Defense Analyses, the book addresses several issues relevant to Iran, including Saddam’s views of the United States, Israel, and weapons of mass destruction, as well as Iran-Iraq relations and first Gulf War. The book also allows us a view of the Saddam regime’s grasp of reality—and, by extension, that of Iran’s theocrats.
In some ways Saddam, secularist and Arab nationalist, contrasted profoundly with Iran’s current theocratic leaders; but there are ominous similarities. For Saddam as for the mullahs, Israel was the “one who raped our land,” the “despised entity,” the entity “rejected by humanity and by the nation.” Zionists, Israelis, and Jews were undifferentiated. Saddam thought the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were to be carefully studied as an invaluable historical record of the global Jewish Zionist conspiracy. He believed Israel was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Zionists were responsible for reviving Pharaonic civilization in Egypt and Phoenician civilization in Lebanon in order to “break up the fabric of Arab nations.” For Saddam, anti-Semitism was not simply an expedient or cover but a central organizing principle of life and thought.
Saddam saw himself as a world historical figure, a revolutionary leader with a unique destiny—yet he was also conspiratorial, egotistical, ill-informed, fundamentally Muslim, and irretrievably anti-Semitic. In different ratios, these features also describe the Iranian leadership. Their self-concept is no less revolutionary than Saddam’s, and their goals are no less grandiose: resisting America’s “global arrogance,” driving it from the Gulf and Middle East, restoring Iranian and Muslim honor, and creating a “world without Zionism.”
Which brings us to the weapons of mass destruction, which Saddam appears to have considered at two levels. Against Kurds and Iranians, chemical and biological weapons were practical tools of warfare and mass murder. Against Israel and the United States, the issue was at one time primarily deterrence: “Without such deterrence,” he said, Iraq and the “Arab nation will continue to be threatened by the Zionist entity.” But with Israel and America deterred, Saddam could wage bloody attritional warfare to “liberate” Arab lands.
The 1991 Gulf War changed his thinking. In January of that year, as the war raged, Saddam ordered chemical and biological warheads prepared for use against Saudi targets. “Also, all the Israeli cities,” he added, “all of them. Of course you should concentrate on Tel Aviv, since it is their center.” Thankfully, the order to fire never came.
His visceral anti-Semitism—not merely suspicion regarding Israel as a regional hegemon or concern for the Palestinians—was profound. The same is indisputably the case with Iran. Whether this is defined as rational or irrational is irrelevant. The important thing is to take it seriously.
International protests against the Iraq war were fueled by indignation that the war was based on a lie, that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. But as we have seen, Saddam indeed possessed them in the past and there was no reason to think, after all his bombast, that he didn’t still possess them. It is still reasonable to assume that he shipped the WMD out of Iraq while the allied forces were still grouping.
For the anti-war protestors to claim that war on Iran would be based on similar “lies” would be absurd and morally wrong. They should listen to Douglas Murray again.