The nation of Iraq used to be one of the most admired nations in the Middle East. The beautiful nation had developed great infrastructure and there was high standard of education and social welfare for much of its citizens. With huge oil revenue, Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, lived large in palaces and mansions lined with precious stones and metals. Humility disappeared and power got into his head. The gun totting Saddam who was born after the death of his father, began to flex his muscles against anyone and everyone and waged war against the Kurds and Iran.
In August 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded the nation of Kuwait, Iraq’s smaller southeastern neighbor. Saddam wanted to gain control of Kuwait’s significant oil wealth to add to Iraq’s. Led by the United States, several nations asked Saddam to withdraw his troops from Kuwait. He refused. America amassed troops in the region in what was nicknamed “Operation Desert Storm” and Saddam boasted that he would show the Americans a “mother of all wars”.
But when push came to shove, it took the Americans just a few weeks to drive Saddam’s soldiers out of Kuwait. However, as the American soldiers approached Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, they stopped, leaving Saddam still in power.
Anyone would think that the loquacious Saddam Hussein would learn his lessons and humble himself. He did not. He continued to boast. In 2003, the Americans came back after the 9/11 attack of 2001. In Desert Storm 2. Saddam who used to reside in the most luxurious abodes on earth, was on December 13, 2003, found by U.S. soldiers hiding in a six-to-eight-foot hole in the ground, nine miles outside his hometown of Tikrit. He was. picked up, tried on television, and executed by hanging, like a common criminal. For several years, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and their nation paid a huge price for the oil induced madness of Saddam Hussein.
Has anyone forgotten Muammar Gaddafi, the incredibly glamourous and daring leader of Libya, who was captured in a gutter and killed on October 20, 2011? Gaddafi also tasted oil wealth and became oil drunk and believed he was invincible. At the end of the day, he died in a most humiliating way. Libya was one of the most developed nations in Africa, with significant oil revenue. It has remained unstable since.
There must be something about oil money that drives people crazy. Just look at Nigeria and how people who have fleeced the country of its oil money seem to have gone mad and practically destroyed the country. Everywhere you look, the pain and suffering of the Nigerian people brought about by the unending battle to control Nigeria’s oil wealth, stares you in the face.
Please, how does one explain the horror that has gone on in Ukraine? For months, the world begged Russian President, Vladmir Putin, not to invade his smaller neighbour, Ukraine and not to kill innocent Ukrainians who have done nothing to him. Several times, U.S. President, Joe Biden at virtual meetings, pleaded with Putin. French President, Emmanuel Macron had to go to Moscow to beg Putin. German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, also went to Moscow to beg Putin. Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orban was also in Moscow and repeatedly, Vladmir Putin, who became an international movie star, showed off his expensively paneled office at the Kremlin on TV as world leaders begged him to show mercy on the poor citizens of Ukraine. He did not just show off his expensive offices, he showed off his heart of stone.
Everything Joe Biden said Putin would do, has come to pass. Putin’s lies and subterfuge have played out for the whole world to see. The innocent men, women and children who have been bombed and slaughtered recklessly in Ukraine are just pawns in Putin’s game as he seeks to expand his territory and fiefdom.
On February 24, 2022, ignoring all the pleadings from leaders around the world, Putin drunk on Russia’s oil wealth, invaded Ukraine with his vast military might: an estimated army of close to 200,000 soldiers and well over 1,000 tanks in what he termed “Special Military Operation”.
It is widely believed that with his overwhelming force, Vladmir Putin was sure that his “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine would be over in a matter of days. The multiple pronged attack indicated that Putin’s objective was to quickly capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, depose Zelensky, Ukraine’s democratically elected President and take over the country.
Drunk on oil, Putin did not bargain for the fierce resistance of the Ukrainian people who have fought the Russians like wounded lions. He also did not bargain for what looks like the iron clad unity of the West led by Biden who has made sure that Ukraine received sophisticated weapons and financial support to take on the Russians.
Despite their unprecedented shelling and carpet bombing of Kyiv, the Russians failed to take the Ukrainian capital. Their forces reached the outskirts of Kyiv but at the end of March 2022, had to run away in all directions with enormous losses of men and tanks.
When the Russians were scattered from Kyiv, they shifted to a slimmer objective in eastern Ukraine, where they achieved some success with ruthless and indiscriminate artillery attack that flattened several Ukrainian towns and villages which they captured.
With the acquisition of new and more sophisticated weapons, the Ukrainians, at lightning speed, have captured much of the territory taken by the Russians in Eastern Ukraine and even more. It appears that the Russian military has lost its mettle. All is not well with the troops who appear to be on the run, abandoning their tanks and other equipment. Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner group, Russia’s powerful private militia, fighting in Ukraine, is angry. He is openly complaining about the crisis in the Russian military and the thousands of Russian soldiers dying in Ukraine.
Fifteen months down the road, Putin’s “Special Military Operation”, which he expected to last one week, is nowhere near over and no one can say for certain how the war will end. It is however not arguable that things have not gone the way Putin expected and that he has become frustrated and terribly desperate. It is reported that Putin has resorted to directly giving instructions to his generals in the field as many thousands of Russian soldiers are slaughtered in the war. The desperation became obvious a few months ago when Putin announced the mobilization of 300,000 military reservists to join the war in Ukraine and threatened to deploy nuclear weapons in the war, a move that will destroy the world as we know it.
The result? Thousands of Russian men of fighting age rushed out of Russia. They don’t want to fight in a war they don’t understand.
I thought Vladmir Putin was a strategic thinker, with a good understanding of history. Once again, oil money has got a world leader terribly drunk. The once admired Vladmir Putin can no longer go where he chooses as he has been declared a war criminal, subject to arrest anywhere he is picked up.
At the end of the day, just like Saddam Hussein, just like Muammar Gaddafi, just like Osama Bin Ladin, just like ISIS leader, Abu Bakir al-Baghdadi, Putin’s dream will not become reality. Vladmir Putin will never be King of the world. He has cooked for the world and the food has got burnt in the oven. Unfortunately, the ordinary people of Russia will pay a huge price for the misadventure of their oil drunk leader.
As the “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine unravels, the question must be asked: Will Vladmir Putin go down like Saddam Hussein?