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Old 03-19-2003, 10:52 AM   #1
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Why the hypocrites are right this time

Why the hypocrites are right this time
March 20 2003

This war is about saving American lives. Is that such a bad thing? By Pamela Bone.


Some people have asked me how, coming from the left (I've never made any secret of that), I can take a stance condoning war.

Almost everything I write and think on this issue is coloured by having been in Rwanda in the aftermath of the genocide - a genocide that happened because the United Nations allowed it to - seeing children with machete scars on their hands where they had put them up to shield their heads, hearing the people's stories, watching bodies being exhumed from mass graves.

It is coloured by having been in southern Africa last year, where a silent holocaust of AIDS and famine is wiping out populations. A baby dies of AIDS every 15 minutes in Botswana. No protest marches for them.

And it is coloured by, years before September 11, before most people had even heard of the Taliban, having listened to exiled Afghan women asking in anguish, why does the West not help us? It is the same question many Iraqi women and men are asking today.

I have argued that the regime change in Iraq that is about to happen one way or another is a legitimate goal. But though I hope Saddam Hussein does decide to get out before today's deadline so war may be avoided, I don't want to see him joining Idi Amin in luxury exile in Saudi Arabia. I want him in The Hague, to answer for his crimes before the International Criminal Court.


You have all heard of these crimes - the gassing of the Kurds, the torture of children before their parents, the pack rapes of women in front of their husbands and children. It is true Saddam is not the only cruel dictator in the world. But were he left in control in Iraq, every other dictator would be led to believe he could commit such crimes with impunity.

I know the liberation of the people of Iraq is not the reason America and its allies are going to war. But nor is the war "all about oil", or about George Bush's "daddy". It is not even a crusade to impose American values and culture on the rest of the world - they don't need to have a war to do that. It is overwhelmingly about saving Americans. It's about trying to ensure the next September 11 does not involve millions, rather than thousands, of deaths. It seems to me this is a legitimate goal too.

Because we are in a new stage in history, facing dangers we have never faced before. One is the fact that the ability to make weapons of mass destruction is no longer limited to big, powerful states. Weak states, failed states, states ruled by madmen, can all make them, if they are not prevented.

The other is the rise of terrorism, and in particular, the suicide bomber. The world has no deterrent against people who want to die. There may be no link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. But on the one hand, there are al-Qaeda terrorists who have said their ambition is to get weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand, there is Saddam, who has such weapons. There is demand and there is supply, and the rules of capitalism say they usually meet.

Some might say it is no worse for Iraq or North Korea to have nuclear weapons than it is for Britain, France, the United States and several others to have them. It is. It may go against egalitarian principles to say so, but not all countries are as nice as each other. Sweden is nicer than Saudi Arabia, for example. And while I am certainly no fan of the Bush Administration, it is plain silly to say the US is just as bad as the regime in Iraq.

John Howard's politics are not my politics. The last time I voted Liberal was when I was 21, and that was only to defy my father. But a truth does not cease to be true just because John Howard says it. I can feel no confidence in George Bush. However, I do see reason to trust Tony Blair - because ever since coming to power he's been pushing at international conferences for more foreign aid, debt forgiveness and other ways of lifting poor countries out of poverty.

He's also been putting pressure on Bush to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and is now trying to get an agreement to have Iraq's oil wealth put into a UN trust fund to be used for the people of Iraq. Hardly a right-wing warmonger.

Indeed, Blair's voice has been the most ethical in this debate.

Yes, America is guilty of hypocrisy. But there's a lot of it about.

In Congo an estimated three million people have been killed in the past five years of war. More are killed there every month than in the past two-and-a-half years in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But though you'll see plenty of "Free Palestine" posters among the peace marchers, you won't see any "Free Congo" ones.

The five permanent members of the Security Council are the five biggest weapons sellers in the world.

Let me tell you about that gently spoken peacemaker, Kofi Annan. At the time of the Rwandan genocide he was head of UN peacekeeping operations. When the killings started, urgent diplomatic cables were sent from Rwanda to his office, telling of bodies littering the streets and begging for more UN forces. He ignored them. Did not even pass them on to the Security Council. He has never explained why.

About 62 per cent of Australians do not oppose this war as long as it is sanctioned by the UN Security Council. This is not a no-war position. Labor does not have a no-war position. It has supported a UN-backed war.

Of course it would be safer and sounder legally if the action had UN backing. But let us not pretend having UN backing would mean one fewer Iraqi civilian would be killed.

The most wicked thing is not the action the US and its allies have to take now. More wicked is the neglect and hypocrisy of the past - in which we have all colluded. But should the people of Iraq not be freed now because those who would free them are hypocrites?

Pamela Bone is an associate editor of The Age. This article is based on her address to The Age/Melbourne Press Club forum on Iraq, at the Melbourne Town Hall on Tuesday night.
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Old 03-19-2003, 01:01 PM   #2
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I really could'nt agree more with this editorial....
and I'm also coming from the left
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Old 03-19-2003, 01:33 PM   #3
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Originally posted by browneyedgirl
I really could'nt agree more with this editorial....
and I'm also coming from the left
I agree, it's an excellent article, and I come from the left also. I am against dictators, against atrocities, against starvation, against evil and all I can do now is not put down my rosary. I'm even taking the thing to work.
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Old 03-19-2003, 01:35 PM   #4
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excellent article.
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Old 03-19-2003, 01:44 PM   #5
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I know what you mean Verte.......everything seems cloudy.
I really have very little trust in the Bush administration , yet I can't help but feeling this is fastly becoming the only thing left to do......
There are people out there who hate the west....who will always hate the west ,frankly no matter what our policies ,and I'm no pacifist , so I believe we have the right to protect ourselves, by force if necessary .
Saddam is a monster......he does deserve what is coming to him....
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Old 03-19-2003, 05:10 PM   #6
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Originally posted by browneyedgirl

Saddam is a monster......he does deserve what is coming to him....
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Old 03-19-2003, 06:53 PM   #7
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Originally posted by browneyedgirl
I know what you mean Verte.......everything seems cloudy.
I really have very little trust in the Bush administration , yet I can't help but feeling this is fastly becoming the only thing left to do......
There are people out there who hate the west....who will always hate the west ,frankly no matter what our policies ,and I'm no pacifist , so I believe we have the right to protect ourselves, by force if necessary .
Saddam is a monster......he does deserve what is coming to him....
This doesn't make me like the Bush Administration in general. But I agree that Saddam is a and I'll be damned if I have any sympathy for him. I forgot to mention that I also detest 's who screw aid workers, something these Iraqi "leaders" have done plenty of. Hell, I work for two charities. Gosh, I have the Headache From Hell.
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Old 03-19-2003, 09:42 PM   #8
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I hope your headache goes away!!!!! I can relate:O)
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