What the opposition can learn from the fall of Saddam by Commander (Rtd) S THAYAPARAN Royal Malaysian Navy
Thursday, July 14, 2016
“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is
the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.” - Aldous Huxley, ‘Collected Essays’
Malaysiakini : Only Umno propagandists could liken the plight of their chosen
potentate to the toppling of a genocidal dictator by foreign
intervention. MyKMU.net's attempt to contextualise
Umno’s current political turmoil because of foreign intervention, and
that ultimately regret would be what is waiting for those who partake in
displacing Umno, should appeal to a certain section of their
demographic and I am not talking about the stereotypical “rural Malay”
that oppositional types like to bandy about.
I am talking about middle-class, educated Umno/BN supporters who
would ignore greater Islamic malfeasances - although to be fair to
Saddam Hussein, he was a contradiction of secularism and virulent
sectarianism unlike your average Islamic dictator - in favour of
advancing the populist neo-colonialism American narrative which most of
these regimes use to sustain political hegemony. This is not new. In fact, the New Straits Times attempted the same a couple of years back. Here is a recap for those who may have forgotten this sordid episode from an article of mine in response to this manufactured outrage:
“Under the vomit-inducing headline of 'Plot to destabilise the government', the New Straits Times
(who I believe are propagators of a plot to destabilise rational
thinking) outlined a chilling scenario of a motley group of new media
types (which includes Malaysiakini) and social activist
organisations who are apparently being funded by a nebulous American
entity to destabilise the government and the implication being, to
create chaos ... CHAOS, I tell you, in Malaysia.
“You know they are scraping the bottom of the credibility barrel when
they quote Just World president Chandra Muzaffar who gravely intones
that NED (National Endowment for Democracy, the nebulous American entity
in question) is responsible for funding NGOs in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya
and Syria 'in the name of democratic freedom with the objective of
making people rise up against leaders who were allegedly deemed to be
However, here is the thing. I am not interested in debunking this
latest round of horse manure from the cauldrons of Putrajaya. Anyway,
anyone who thinks that the regret of the man whose family was butchered
by Saddam, looking back in fondness of the despot’s tenure is anything
but some sort of post-traumatic stress, should have their heads
While I have never claimed even in my most polemical articles that
Umno is some sort of genocidal Islamic regime and I do think it is
odious to attempt to find any kind of commonality between the possible
toppling of the Najib regime and the Saddam regime, but since the Umno
propagandist have opened that door, why not run with it?
I am not interested in pointing out how the regime is going the way
of every other Islamic regime - I have been ranting about that for years
- but I do think that the opposition could learn a few lessons about
“regime change” from the American experience.
In 2012, Stephen M Walt’s contentious article ‘Top 10 Lessons of the Iraq war’ was published in the Foreign Policy magazine.
As with these types of articles, some folks agreed while others did
not. Although I had some issues with it, even then I thought there was
some applicability to how the opposition operates or should operate.
What constitutes a meaningful win?
While the author of the article lists 10 reasons, I have only
included eight that I thought applicable to the Malaysian oppositional
Lesson #1: The United States lost. “The first and
most important lesson of Iraq war is that we didn’t win in any
meaningful sense of that term.” What constitutes a meaningful win if the opposition ever gets control
of the federal government? Will the opposition amend laws that create
economic, social, racial and religious disparity amongst Malaysians?
Will the opposition slay sacred cows or nurture them for their own
purposes? Is changing the system the reason for regime change or merely
replacing the current BN line-up with a more acceptable less corrupt
These are not questions that can or should be dismissed with an ABU
(Anything but Umno) slogan. These are difficult questions because
political expediency, Umno malfeasance and a fractured opposition
comprised of divergent interests ensure that only the most easily
digestible political bromides are used in lieu of concrete, complex and
perhaps politically disadvantageous policy ideas that ultimately would
move the country into progressive waters.
Lesson #2: It’s not that hard to hijack the United
States into a war. “The Iraq war reminds us that if the executive branch
is united around the idea of war, normal checks and balances -
including media scrutiny - tend to break down.”
This relates to personality politics and the reality that small but
influential power brokers or mongers operate with impunity and lead the
opposition and its supporters down ruinous paths. We have to look no
further that the disastrous Selangor menteri besar power struggle - the
ill-fated ‘Kajang Move’. The internal politics of the opposition is rarely scrutinised.
Instead, the opposition relies on personalities to maintain stability
instead of adherence to common principles and policies. The passing of
Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat fractured the opposition and PAS. The jailing
of PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim nearly destroyed Pakatan.
Moreover, today, we have the possibility of a snap election in an
effort to demonstrate that DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng still has
support as if this was ever in doubt.
Lesson #3: The United States gets in big trouble
when the "marketplace of ideas" breaks down and when the public and our
leadership do not have an open debate about what to do. “Given the
stakes involved, it is remarkable how little serious debate there
actually was about the decision to invade.” I have written
about this before. The partisan nature of the alternative media and the
disastrous consequences it has when it comes to debating issues and
“This does not mean I don't subscribe to the concept of a
‘marketplace of ideas’ which is dependent on freedom of expression,
which has always been constrained here in Malaysia, the press being the
prime example. Of course, the ‘alternative media' is slowly becoming one
big echo chamber (if it's not already) and any real objective analysis
gets in the way of the business of reinforcing bias.
“However, what this has created is the perception that the
alternative media has the monopoly on the truth and everything from the
mainstream media is a pack of state sanctioned lies. This perception is
passed off as an axiom by proponents of the alternative media in any
discussion on the state of the fourth estate in this country, which has
led to the inevitable ‘us vs them' mentality in which name calling, with
choice epithets like ‘pariah’ and ‘prostitute’ is substitute for