A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, June 5, 2015

Tariq ‘Aziz, 1936-2015

Tariq ‘Aziz, who has died at the age of 79, was Saddam Hussein's longtime Foreign Minster and Deputy Prime Minister, and thus was the public face the Saddam regime showed other countries. If many found him more acceptable and less blood-soaked than his colleagues, that was certainly why he was the public face; he was still the regime's key apologist. ("He wasn't quite as monstrous as all the others" is not really an epitaph anyone wants, though.) Though sentenced to death after the fall of the regime, he was not executed. He suffered a heart attack in prison and died after being taken to a hospital.

Born Mikhail Yuhanna, he was the highest-ranking Christian in the regime, a Chaldean Catholic (though I rather suspect not a regular churchgoer). I note his passing, but will not say RIP.


David Mack said...

Tariq 'Aziz was a world class foreign minister. To his misfortune, he was working for a world class brutal, authoritarian, and often blindly arrogant thug. Diplomats, unlike scholars and pundits, seldom have any choice about the sovereign they serve. I grew to respect Tareq Aziz for his diplomatic skill and fear him as an adversary. Iraq could have benefited from Aziz' clever and resourceful diplomacy by becoming a formidable power in the international system. Instead, he merely postponed the inevitable collapse of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship after the deaths of countless Iraqis, way too many Iranians and others who got in Saddam's way. So far as I am aware, Tareq Aziz left little beyond hearsay of his own thoughts about what his master was doing. Occupation authorities and later the Iraqi government doubtless interrogated him, but the results are still unavailable. That he did not get interviewed for the public record by a good historian is a loss for scholarship.

O. Matzerath said...

What sort of morality does an individual have who works for a regime that imprisons others in often undisclosed "black holes" where prisoners are humiliated, degraded, and tortured? Often in the most sadistic ways? A regime that wages aggressive wars against other countries? That routinely uses lies to cover its evil actions?

What sort of morality, indeed?