Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Qassim's rebirth
Fascinating story in today's Al-Hayat, suggesting that there is a resurgence of sympathy for the former Iraqi leader Abdel Karim Qassim, best known today for being Saddam Hussein's target when he was still a young Ba'ath militant. Reportedly, Iraqis took down a statue of Abdelwahab al-Ghariri (who was killed in Qassim's assassination attempt) and scrawled this on the cement stand: "Forgive us our leader ... it's time to again give you consideration." This resurgence of Qassim's popularity is a source of anxiety for the U.S. and the U.K., who know he is remembered as a far-left ardent nationalist who overthrew the Hashemite monarchy and had little sympathy for the West.

Qassim's post-mortem rehabilitation is interesting, since it serves two simultaneous purposes: it allows Iraqis to discredit Saddam's regime, but also the Americans. It is also interesting because Qassim was a hardcore secular nationalist, with no sympathy for Islamist movements, so support for him could be one way people have of showing their rejection of an Islamic Iraq. The phenomenon should probably not be confused with the rehabilitation of someone like Stalin in Russia, since it seems to be motivated less by nostalgia than by an effort to shape ongoing developments in Iraq.

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