By Jamie Glazov
|Stuck in a Quagmire?
FrontPageMagazine.com | January 6, 2005
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Edwin Black, the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of IBM and the Holocaust, The Transfer Agreement, and War Against the Weak. His latest book is Banking on
Iraq's 7,000-Year History of War, Profit, and Conflict.
FP: Welcome to Frontpage Interview Mr. Black, it is a pleasure to have you here.
Black: Thank you.
FP: What inspired you to write this book?
Iraq is the compelling story of our day, but just part of a much broader story of the west vs. the
and indeed the clash between world terrorism and western civilization.
For me, it was not enough to go back to the rise of Saddam Hussein, or
even the formation of
after WWI, as other authors have done. I went back to the
centuries-long reign of the Ottomans, and then further back to the
Islamic Conquest and further until the beginning of recorded time in
the so-called and misnamed “Cradle of Civilization.” I discovered that
history has been one of unending victimization of the people, and their
revictimization of the perceived victimizers in a ceaseless cascade of
violence, oppression and desolation.
FP: You show
long history of exploitation by Western powers and powerful competing
corporations. Tell us a bit of how this complicates the contemporary
effort to build democracy in
Black: The people of
Iraq do not want democracy. They have a 7,000-year head start on the West. If the people of
Iraq wanted democracy, they don’t need a permission slip from
New York or
London. The people of
Iraq are fundamentally an intolerant people that oppress half their community—women. Yes, since
was invented in 1920, the Western nations have attempted to create a
pluralistic and democratic nation where one has never existed to have
some ruler sign on the dotted line to legitimize their oil concessions
and to create an atmosphere of democracy to promote the unimpeded flow
of oil. I assure you, when the people of this region hear the word
“democracy” they hear a code word for “you people want to take our oil.”
FP: What can the
start doing to increase its own legitimacy and win the war of ideas in the
Black: Nothing. It is not our policy in
the people resent, it is our very presence. It does not matter how many
bridges we rebuild or schoolhouses we repaint. It is us and our
presence—the infidels—that they revile. Even the Shiites who
fervently push for elections say it is a way to rid themselves of “the
foreign occupier.” In the larger
we can never be seen as legitimate—or at least not during the years to
come. True, we may prevail in our efforts at winning peace in the
Arab-Israel conflict—maybe maybe—but not because we are seen as
legitimate, but rather because we were able to somehow force a square
peg into a round hole. The reality is: we will never succeed in the
Middle East until we get off of oil.
FP: Despite the history of war, profit and conflict, Bush’s liberation of
was still legitimate and necessary—correct? Not only did it dislodge
one of the most vicious and barbaric regimes in history and liberate 25
million people, but it made the crucial step to winning the terror war:
starting the process of democratization in the
Middle East. Do you agree?
I am so happy Saddam has been dethroned and retrieved from his rat
hole. I wish we could go down the list of the world’s oppressors and
relieve them all of their rule. That said, if Bush had gone in on
Monday to liberate
from Saddam, and then left on Thursday, things might have genuinely
turned out differently. But we have just stayed. You are correct,
Saddam was a heinous monster in the tradition of Pol Pot, Stalin and
Hitler. But he was a regional monster in a region filled with such
monsters. Moreover, his regime was only one of a long-line of
oppressive, monstrous regimes in
Iraq that long predate the Ba'athists. The UN is filled with such tyrannical regimes. But
Iraq came to the top of the list because of our strategic interest. That strategic interest is oil.
FP: So building democracy is a waste of time in
? In the end it will fail anyway? You say the Iraqi people don’t want democracy. What do they want then?
They want us gone. They want the infidels out of their midst. They want
to create their own national expressions based upon their own tribal,
religious and social values, traditions and legacies.
You may be right, there are so many depressing and impossible realities
here. But surely we can’t just sit back and not try to instill some
kind of democratization in that region. And surely there are many
Iraqis who want nothing to do with dictatorship and want freedom.
Despite the obstacles, we have to try to bring democracy to
and the rest of the region. It is a key strategy in our war with
radical Islamism. History teaches that the way to fight our
totalitarian enemies best is to try to spread liberty and democracy as
much as we can. No? If not, what alternatives are there?
Black: We will never succeed in
Iraq. No one has ever succeeded in
Not all people on earth are destined for Starbucks and the American
societal makeover. Certainly, in the past century there has always been
a forward thinking and politically enlightened segment of Iraqi
society. Right now, today, the magnificent Iraqis who are trying to
democratize the government are braver than brave. Those who work with
the coalition and the Americans are targets as much as our own marines,
but those government leaders of
wear no armor and do not live in the Green Zone. I keep finding new
depths of outrage over the violence and inhumanity there. Think of the
brazen assault in
on an election commissioner and his body guards a few days ago—they
were just dragged from their cars in open daylight on the busy main
by gunmen without masks; they made them kneel and shot them in the head
for all to see. In the face of this violent segment—call it a popular
minority—how can democratization survive? Monsters succeed in
by virtue of their monstrosity—look at the history. I think more
civilized behavior can come to the Cradle of Civilization, but not in
an overnight transformation. Only with baby steps. The people must
yearn to be free. Elections don’t make democracies. Democracies make
elections. Compare the situation in
Iraq with that in the
where the masses gathered in the squares day after day in the snow and
the rain to rally for proper elections. Compare the people of
very different people, far less urbanized and with a vastly different
tradition—and their recent epic trek to the polls. We can help. We do
help. But we cannot impose democracy from afar. There will never be a
military disengagement, only an energy disengagement. When we get off
oil, we won’t need to be in
Iraq and won’t spend billions per month to transform their society.
FP: Ok, definitely you are right that we are facing monsters that are trying to defeat democracy in
with their monstrosity. We are facing tremendous challenges and yes, it
is very difficult, to say the least, to implant democracy if the masses
are not fervently crying out for it, gathering in mass demonstrations
like in Ukraine and so forth
But here is the key now: we are already in
Iraq and we have to win in
Are you suggesting that we withdraw?
we withdraw, we lose – and the consequences will be much worse and
bloodier than those that occurred in Indo-china. After we abandoned
Southeast Asia, the Communists ended up perpetrating a bloodbath, exterminating three million people.
If we suddenly cut and run in
there will most likely be a much more horrible bloodbath. The
terrorists will slaughter not only all of our allies, but also all of
those who don’t want Sharia. The danger is that there could be a domino
effect and militant Muslims will be inspired by this sign of infidel
weakness and go on a violent spree not only in the
Middle East, but all over the world. The key here is that we are not in
Iraq now to just save
we are there because we are in a war with radical Islam. And we have no
choice but to win. Do you not agree that withdrawal in this case is the
greatest of evils?
We can’t cut and run like the Spanish. That’s the problem. We are in
it. Our boys and girls are there. If we retreat, it is a huge victory
for world terrorism and Jihad. And by the way, neither world terrorism
nor the Jihad were in
until we created the power vacuum and opened the door. Under Saddam, no
one was allowed to achieve any element of power base or rival his
authority—not the Shiites, not al Qaeda, no one. But now they have
rushed in. We are creating the world’s next Chechen-style murder
battalions. Moreover, the world will witness an unprecedented
bloodbath, one that will exceed anything you saw in
Understand, we are in an unwinnable struggle with an implacable enemy
that knows no limit to their historic barbarism. That said, we must
understand that while we cannot run, and while we can survive in
Iraq, we will never succeed in
We must declare a war on oil addiction, and launch an international
Manhattan Project to move the world to alternatives such hydrogen,
solar, wind. We could do it for $5 billion in 5 years—or a month’s war
Iraq. Then we rob the region of its arch-importance. Then we edge out of
Iraq as the Israelis are doing in
Gaza, as we did a generation earlier in
Viet Nam. That will end the war in
Iraq but the legacy of world terrorism, the new Mongol-style onslaught, shall be with us for generations.
FP: Well, there is substantial evidence of Hussein’s associations with world terrorism before we invaded
The Iraqi dictator aided, abetted, and provided sanctuary to Abu
Nidal’s terrorists, Abu Abbas, and all kinds of radical Islamic
terrorist groups – Hizbollah and Hamas among them. His $25,000 rewards
to Palestinian suicide bombers’ families speak volumes. Laurie Mylroie
and Steven Hayes have already documented all of these realities with
meticulous research and precision. In any case, the U.S. just couldn’t
take the risk that someone like Saddam, who at one time possessed – and
used – WMDs, could arm the perpetrators of 9/11 with God knows what. We
just couldn’t take that risk.
Black: Slogans are easy. Let’s get the facts in focus. I followed the career of Abu Nidal, the nom de guerre of Sabri al-Bana, an arch Palestinian terrorist. I was among the few who flew to
during the famous Abu Nidal Passover scare, when he threatened to blow
up any El Al plane in the air. It is true that after his exodus from
West Bank, Abu Nidal set up shop in
and worked extensively with Iraqi intelligence as part of a
rejectionist front; that was a generation ago in the 1970’s. I already
explained that no one with a power base—religious, tribal or
political—could co-exist with the murderous Saddam. Abu Nidal was
financed in large part by
Gulf States and was considered a Carlos-style terrorist for hire. Saddam did not like that. By 1983, during the war with
Saddam expelled Abu Nidal and his shadowy terrorist group—this very
much in a deal with the Americans in exchange for their support of
Iran. Remember the Stark?
A few years later, the money-hungry Abu Nidal conspired with the Kuwaiti authorities against his former host in
Kuwait’s conflict with Saddam. He provided intelligence against
to the Kuwaitis to be transmitted to the Americans during the first
Gulf War. By the mid-eighties, the renegade Abu Nidal, expelled from a
gallery of terrorist-leaning Middle East countries from Syria to Libya
stopped his terrorist acts against the West and focused on internecine
Arab assassination in Tunis and Beirut, which stopped by the
mid-nineties because he ran out of funding, his health deteriorated
into crisis mode, and because his once-revolutionary terrorist group
was supplanted by a new generation of suicide bombers and killers
spanning the Middle East. I do not know of any Abu Nidal attacks
against the West in the last fifteen years. In August 2002, Abu Nidal
was admitted into
and either immediately murdered by Saddam’s intelligence operatives, or
somehow convinced to commit suicide by shooting his brains out. The
Middle East is comprised of nations that have practiced, nurtured and supported international terrorism—from
Saudi Arabia and
As for financing
West Bank suicide bombers, yes, Saddam paid insurance benefits of $25,000 to the families. But let’s put this in perspective.
Kuwait held a national telethon. The Saudi Royal family was involved in such “charity.” The
is filled with Arab countries that consider this type of
payment—governmental or private—a holy exercise. Now then, as for the
falsity that Saddam was involved with 9-11, this is a recent shibboleth
that Rumsfeld disowned once again on television just a few days ago, as
was done by Bush and the 9-11 commission last year. The WMDs we feared
did not exist, and we grasped at straws in the intelligence to believe
they existed because we wanted to believe. You say, “We could not take
that risk.” I say Saddam should have been removed not because he posed
a threat to us, which at that moment he did not, but because he was an
inhuman monster and tyrant. I go back to the clarion calls of Stephen
Wise who declared at
March 27, 1933 that there comes a time when persecution is not local, but becomes an international concern.
you getting it? I want all the dastardly oppressors and murdering
regimes gone. Preemptively. I support the original concept: regime
change. With so noble a cause why did we need to fake it with WMD?
we agree on some things. This WMD debate can go on in circles. Suffice
it to say that Al-Zarqawi and the terrorists are in
Iraq and they are our enemies and they are the ones we need to fight and to kill.
So let’s say President Bush called you tomorrow and asked you for your advice on what to do in the terror war in general and in
Iraq in particular. What would you say?
Black: Find a Polish person.
FP: Why do you say this?
Black: Every Polish person in
America knows that the Russians liberated
Poland from the greatest monsters of all time. But then they just stayed and became the most hated people in
Eastern Europe. As I say, had we gone into
on a Monday and dethroned Saddam and left by Thursday, it might have
worked out differently. But we just stayed. We stayed too long. Now we
can’t get out.
Black, with all due respect, you are making analogies between one of
the most evil and vicious regimes in world history and the
United States. The Soviets did not “liberate”
A sadistic tyranny does not liberate people; it enslaves them. The
Soviets simply replaced the Nazis with the same totalitarian evil. Any
Polish person would tell you that they would have loved the Americans
Poland temporarily rather than the Soviets. Because then the fate of
Poland would have been the fate of
Western Europe: political freedom and economic prosperity.
Black: I have been studying WWII and the Holocaust for more than 20 years, since my first book in 1984, The Transfer Agreement. In the subsequent two books, IBM and the Holocaust and War Against the Weak,
I had the chance to study the day-by-day process of Allied liberation
and occupation in 1945—juridical and militarized. First, the question
of Polish “liberation by the Soviets.” There is no survivor of
no book, no web site, no memoir, no documentary on the subject that
does not declare that the death camp was “liberated” by the Soviets.
Ask any survivor. Ask my parents who escaped from a Treblinka boxcar
and shooting place and who lived as forest fighters for two years
whether they think the Russians liberated
Just a few days ago, the Polish Foreign Ministry commemorated “the 60th
Anniversary of the Liberation of the KL Auschwitz-Birkenau.” Even
today, Polish people even refer to “the liberation” of
from the Nazis that systematically plundered and raped the entire
nation as a slave race. When you are cracking under a life of brutal
slave labor or face the barbed wire of a concentration camp, the one
who defeats your oppressor and sets you free is the liberator, whoever
he is, whatever his politics are, whatever his later conduct is. The
difference between liberation and invasion is defined not by the pages
of a dictionary but by the pages of the calendar.
I think the real confusion has arisen in the Administration, confusing our justified occupation of
of a world war that murdered 35 million people and destroyed large
parts of the world—cannot be compared with dethroning regional monsters
such as Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein. We liberated
Kuwait. We did not remain in
Kuwait. We liberated
Iraq. We stayed in
Iraq and used the German occupation as legal and historical precedent.
FP: We stayed in
Iraq because we couldn’t simply just abandon Iraqis to be re-enslaved by some other monstrous tyranny.
In any case, you say now we can’t get out of
Well, no, we can’t immediately get out of a place where World War IV is
being fought, between the forces of democratic freedom and Islamist
despotism. We cannot just leave. And if we have to, we’ll have to fight
till we kill very last terrorist, no matter how many of them there are.
The alternative is the equivalent of Khmer Rouge’s killing fields being
perpetrated not only in
Iraq, but eventually on our own territory and throughout the entire world.
Black: Correct—in principal. I wish it were that easy. The Khmer Rouge were only interested in dominating
Cambodia. Can we say the same for Islamic terrorism?
FP: No we cannot, and that is the problem.
Black, we really appreciate the time and energy you have devoted to
visiting Frontpage Magazine. It was a pleasure to discuss all these
matters with you and we hope to see you again in the near future.
Black: Thank you for helping me answers questions for myself as well.
William F. Buckley Jr.
Richard Perle and David Frum
John J. Miller
Ion Mihai Pacepa
Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in
History with a specialty in Soviet Studies. He edited and wrote the
introduction to David Horowitz’s new book Left Illusions. He is also the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of the new book The Hate America Left and the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002) and 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.