It's Bush The Obscurer, Not Saddam The Feuhrer

By Ray Cassin


You know that a lot of people don't want you to notice what's new in the world when they keep talking about what's old in the world. The people who keep raising the topic of Hitler, the 1930s and the danger of appeasing dictators, for example, in order to justify an invasion of Iraq.

Political life is lived in history, and understanding politics requires a historical sense. But this obvious truth means that when the past is conjured up to illumine the present, the comparison must be accurate. If it is not, the result will be obfuscation, not illumination. And now that George Bush has decreed that the countdown to war must be measured in weeks rather than months, the obfuscators are working overtime.

Yes, Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator, just as Hitler was. And yes, he has in the past threatened his neighbours, just as Hitler did. Unlike Hitler in the 1930s, he has not got away with it. In 1980, he invaded Iran and the result was a lot of dead Iranians and Iraqis, but no territorial gain. In 1990, he invaded Kuwait, and seven months later a UN-sanctioned coalition evicted him. Since that second Gulf War, Iraq has been subject to a policy of military containment, including regular bombing sorties, trade embargoes and the recently revived UN weapons inspectorate.

As a dictator with plans for territorial expansion Saddam Hussein has caused a lot of misery, but he has been spectacularly unsuccessful. Iraq has not invaded anywhere since the 1991 Gulf War, and is not threatening to do so. The policy of containment has ensured that it cannot do so. There is no parallel with Europe in 1938, because the US-led coalition has done what Chamberlain and Daladier failed to do when Hitler annexed Czechoslovakia. It has resisted the dictator, not appeased him.

So why does the US now insist that containment is not enough? That the dictator must be deposed as well? And, that if the UN will not endorse this course of action, the US and its more compliant allies such as Britain and Australia will go ahead and do it anyway, treating international law with contempt?

These remain the crucial questions, and we are not getting answers to them. We are getting only the obfuscatory attempts to portray a defeated tinpot dictator as another Hitler in the making, and a promise that, on Wednesday, when Colin Powell visits the UN to unveil what US intelligence knows about the tinpot dictator, the danger will be understood. Perhaps, but one wonders why, if the danger is so great, we haven't been told before now. Another question with no answer. George Bush has told us what he wants and what he will do, and does not care what the rest of the world thinks of it.

Bush's rush to get rid of Saddam cannot be because the latter is a bad man. There are other dictators as brutal and unstable as he (Kim Jong-il is only the most notable among them), and Bush is in no rush to depose them. Nor can it be because of what the UN weapons inspectors had to say last week, pleased though the President would have been to hear it. I rather think the State of the Union address was drafted before the Blix report was released.

And, in any case, what did the inspectors tell us? That the attitude of Iraqi officials has been one of sullen non-compliance; that there is no evidence that Iraq has a nuclear-weapons program; that Iraq may have missiles of greater range than is legally permitted; and that significant amounts of chemical and biological agents are unaccounted for. In other words, Iraq has illegally continued research into chemical and biological weapons and, perhaps, to produce them on a limited scale, but large stockpiles have not been found. There is no evidence of a clear and imminent threat to Iraq's neighbours, let alone to the wider world.

The US Administration, of course, maintains that Iraq is in contact withal-Qaeda and other terrorist movements, and is capable of providing them with whatever chemical and biological weapons it may have secreted somewhere. Again, we await Colin Powell's speech to hear proof. And, again, it won't matter how persuasive his "evidence" is anyway. The US Administration has already decided what it will do.

On the President's own testimony, a lot of things have already been decided. Such as that the administration will no longer be constrained by the need to identify a clear and imminent threat before launching a military attack. Since when have dictators given notice of their intentions, the President asked, blithely ignoring the fact that resort to pre-emptive attacks of the kind he advocates has in the past been a characteristic of the rogue states he claims to be protecting us from. If he feels free to violate international law just because he can, on what basis does he condemn them? Contempt for international law and the order it sustains is what defines a rogue state.

And not only will the US make war on whomever it wishes, whenever it wishes, it is prepared to use "the full force and might" of its military. This is apparently a declaration that the US no longer regards its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent only. Is it to be used against those who possess weapons of mass destruction? The contradictions multiply.

This is what is new in the world: a superpower so enraged at the September 11 attack upon it, and so convinced of its divine mandate, that it is prepared to trample on the international order it purports to be defending. George Bush's America has come a long way from that of Franklin Roosevelt and his four freedoms. The obfuscators are not only wrong to compare Hitler and Saddam; they also do violence to history when they ignore the ideals of those who defeated Hitler.

Source: http://www.theage.com.au

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