Monday, August 04, 2003

Clear thinking from a Lefty in the Wall Street Journal:

At best you might get some lip service paid to the events of September 11 having been, well, you know, unfortunate--the preliminary "yes" before the soon-to-follow "but" (or, as Christopher Hitchens has called it, "throat clearing"). And then you'd get all the stuff about root causes, deep grievances, the role of U.S. foreign policy in creating these; and a subtext, or indeed text, whose meaning was America's comeuppance. This was not a discourse worthy of a democratically committed or principled left, and the would-be defense of it by its proponents, that they were merely trying to explain and not to excuse what happened, was itself a pathetic excuse. If any of the root-cause and grievance themes truly had been able to account for what happened on September 11, you'd have a hard time understanding why, say, the Chileans after that earlier September 11 (I mean of 1973), or other movements fighting against oppression and injustice, have not resorted to the random mass murder of civilians.

Why this miserable response? In a nutshell, it was a displacement of the left's most fundamental values by a misguided strategic choice, namely, opposition to the U.S., come what may. This dictated the apologetic mumbling about the mass murder of U.S. citizens, and it dictated that the U.S. must be opposed in what it was about to do in hitting back at al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts in Afghanistan.

Something similar has now been repeated over the war in Iraq. I could just about have "got inside" the view--though it wasn't my view--that the war to remove Saddam Hussein's regime should not be supported. Neither Washington nor Baghdad--maybe. But opposition to the war--the marching, the petition-signing, the oh-so-knowing derision of George W. Bush, and so forth--meant one thing very clearly. Had this campaign succeeded in its goal and actually prevented the war it was opposed to, the life of the Baathist regime would have been prolonged, with all that that entailed: years more (how many years more?) of the rape rooms, the torture chambers, the children's jails and the mass graves recently uncovered.

This was the result that hundreds of thousands of people marched to secure. Well, speaking for myself, comrades, there I draw the line. Not one step.


Here is one approximate measure of the barbarities of the Baathist regime I have just referred to. It comes not from the Pentagon, or anyone in the Bush administration, or from Tony Blair or those around him. It comes from Human Rights Watch. According to Human Rights Watch, during 23 years of Saddam's rule some 290,000 Iraqis disappeared into the regime's deadly maw, the majority of these reckoned to be now dead. Rounding this number down by as much as 60,000 to compensate for the "reckoned to be," that is 230,000. It is 10,000 a year. It is 200 people every week. And I'll refrain from embellishing with details, which you should all know, as to exactly how a lot of these people died.

Had the opposition to the war succeeded, this is what it would have postponed--and postponed indefinitely--bringing to an end. This is how almost the whole international left expressed its moral solidarity with the Iraqi people. Worse still, some sections of the left seemed none too bothered about making common cause with, marching alongside, fundamentalist religious bigots and known racists; and there were also those who dismissed Iraqi voices in support of the war as coming from American stooges--a disgraceful lie.

There may be a difference in political opinions but when it comes to basic human rights I think most can agree, atleast I used to think so.

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