Hypocrisy of the Humanitarian Case for War
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American, British and Australian Governments are pressing for an invasion of
Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime "for the sake of humanity".
It is a pity the same standard is not applied to end the plight of the
No wonder the humanitarian argument is not persuasive, especially among Arabs
The leaders of "the coalition of the willing" are right to highlight
the brutal aspects of Saddam's regime. His regime is indisputably abominable.
But it is unfortunate they remained silent on this issue for so long.
Saddam has been in power for nearly 35 years. Despite his repressive measures at
home and aggression against Iraq's neighbors Iran and Kuwait, no leader in the
West had until the past few weeks firmly invoked the Iraqi dictator's inhumanity
as the reason to get rid of him.
Even after Saddam's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the successful US-led
military campaign against that invasion six months later, Washington, London and
Canberra never issued a policy statement identifying considerations of humanity,
or "liberation of the Iraqi people" as a principal basis for action.
Humanity and ethics did not enter their calculations in doing lucrative trade
with Saddam's regime. They essentially adhered to an old and crudely
"realist" dictum - "no morality in world politics".
They showed little leniency towards those victims of Saddam's repression who
ended up on their shores in search of asylum.
Their sudden emphasis on humanity tallies neither with their past behavior
towards the Iraqi dictator nor with the fact that they have close relations with
many other dictatorships. None of the members of the coalition of the willing
has had much to say about massive human rights violations in Saudi Arabia or
Pakistan or Libya.
Indeed, Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has recently been rehabilitated by
Canberra and London.
The condemnation of Saddam on humanitarian grounds is also in stark contrast
with the silence the governments of the coalition of the willing have maintained
over Israel's brutalities against the Palestinian people.
None of these governments has ever forthrightly condemned Israel's colonial
occupation of Palestinian lands and use of military power against mostly unarmed
and defenseless Palestinian people.
They have often expressed abhorrence at Palestinian suicide bombings, but have
never matched this with an _expression of disgust at Israel's widespread and
often indiscriminate brutalities, subjecting the Palestinian people to
individual and collective punishment.
The excuse often advanced is that Israel is, after all, a democracy. But it is
never admitted that democracies do not always produce good leaders. Israeli
democracy has produced Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has never deviated from
his long-held goal of suppressing the Palestinians and humiliating the Arabs.
While Sharon has come under investigation for war crimes against the
Palestinians, President George Bush has declared him to be "a man of
Arabs and Muslims in particular, and the international community in general,
have reason to remain very skeptical of the recent emphasis on humanity as a
base for acting against Saddam.
There are many peoples other than Iraqis who are also crying for freedom against
oppressive regimes. But they should not expect their cries to be answered unless
they either have economic and geostrategic importance, like Iraq, or become a
direct menace to the US and its willing allies, as Afghanistan did under the
Amin Saikal is professor of political science and director of the Center for
Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University in Canberra.
Copyright © 2003 The Age Company Ltd
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