Liberty & Power: Group Blog
HUSSEIN, BIN LADEN, AND GRAMSCI
While the debate over the yet-to-be-found Iraqi WMDs continues, let's not forget that one of the other prime reasons for the US invasion was alleged evidence of"ties" between Al Qaeda and the Hussein regime. Because there were networks of Al Qaeda and Iraqi interests, some Bush administration officials suggested a full-fledged alliance was afoot.
I've no doubt that there were informal networks and, perhaps, even a few formal meetings between various Iraqi and Al Qaeda representatives. I didn't realize, however, that the existence of such networks would be a pretext for an invasion. Back in December, a Yemeni cleric was arraigned on charges that he had funneled $20 million in terror aid to Al Qaeda from a Brooklyn mosque. The cleric, Al-Moayad, allegedly bragged of two meetings with Bin Laden, to whom he"personally delivered" money and resources. Since the money came from a Brooklyn network, I fear it's only a matter of time before my hometown faces a US ground assault.
In the meanwhile, there is lots of evidence piling up to show that the hatred between Bin Laden and Hussein—which many of us noted in our debates with pro-war advocates—remained a real obstacle to any genuine alliance between them. Earlier this month, another one of those Bin Laden tapes surfaced, wherein the voice of Al Qaeda referred to the secular Saddam as the United States'"previous comrade in treachery, a hireling of America."
Now comes this news about Hussein's profound opposition to the jihad-loving Islamicists, an opposition that has not waned, even though Hussein is out of power. James Resin of the NY Times writes:
Saddam Hussein warned his Iraqi supporters to be wary of joining forces with foreign Arab fighters entering Iraq to battle American troops, according to a document found with the former Iraqi leader when he was captured ... The document appears to be a directive, written after he lost power, from Mr. Hussein to leaders of the Iraqi resistance, counseling caution against getting too close to Islamic jihadists and other foreign Arabs coming into occupied Iraq, according to American officials. It provides a second piece of evidence challenging the Bush administration contention of close cooperation between Mr. Hussein's government and terrorists from Al Qaeda. C.I.A. interrogators have already elicited from the top Qaeda officials in custody that, before the American-led invasion, Osama bin Laden had rejected entreaties from some of his lieutenants to work jointly with Mr. Hussein. Officials said Mr. Hussein apparently believed that the foreign Arabs, eager for a holy war against the West, had a different agenda from the Baathists, who were eager for their own return to power in Baghdad. As a result, he wanted his supporters to be careful about becoming close allies with the jihadists ...
All of this brings to mind, once again, that the Arab-Islamic world is not a monolith. In Iraq alone, the political, ethnic and ideological rivalries remain a great obstacle to democratic"nation-building." And when each of the rivals lacks the philosophical or cultural predisposition toward political freedom, I shudder to think of the kind of"nation" that is being built.
This speaks, at least tangentially, to issues raised by Will Wilkinson here, when he asks:"Does libertarianism, understood as an ideal for society, require, in order to be feasibly realized, that all or most members of society accept and endorse a certain set of moral and political premises?" I've long believed that libertarians can learn a lot from Antonio Gramsci, who, Marxist though he was, understood the importance of creating"a bloc of historical forces," a cultural hegemony that makes the need for a political revolution superfluous. We don't have to accept Gramsci's ideas for a socialist culture to appreciate the fact that a free society of whatever degree depends upon a certain constellation of philosophical and cultural premises; even if we never achieve full-fledged libertarianism, political freedom is only as good and sustainable as the cultural base upon which it is built.
And that is why I have been relentless in my emphasis on the cultural prerequisites for freedom in Iraq. Bad enough that the US itself is attempting to construct its way to Iraqi freedom with the tools of crony capitalism. Worse still: Constructivist impositions on a culture, which has no conception of Western democracy or freedom, cannot create or sustain either.