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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Wyatt Earp and the Monster in Our Midst

Saddam Hussein is a monster.

If you need convincing of that fact two reports available on the web should do the job. The first is “Genocide in Iraq: The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds” (www.hrw.org/reports/1993/iraqanfal/ANFAL.htm) which was published in 1993 by Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Watch. The second is “The Great Terror,” an article by Jeffrey Goldberg, published in The New Yorker magazine on March 25, 2002 (http://home.cogeco.ca/~kurdistanobserver/golberg-great-terror.html).

Andrew Whitley, in his preface to “Genocide in Iraq,” writes: “The phenomenon of the Anfal, the official military codename used by the government in its public pronouncements and internal memoranda, was well known inside Iraq, especially in the Kurdish region. As all the horrific details have emerged, this name has seared itself into popular consciousness-much as the Nazi German Holocaust did with its survivors. The parallels are apt, and often chillingly close…

“Middle East Watch believes it can now demonstrate convincingly a deliberate intent on the part of the government of President Saddam Hussein to destroy, through mass murder, part of Iraq’s Kurdish minority. The Kurds are indisputably a distinct ethnic group, separate from the majority Arab population of Iraq, and they were targeted during the Anfal as Kurds…

“All told, Middle East Watch has recorded forty separate attacks on Kurdish targets, some of them involving multiple sorties over several days, between April 1987 and August 1988. Each of these attacks was a war crime, involving the use of a banned weapon; the fact that noncombatants were often the victims added to the offence.

“By our estimate, in the Anfal at least 50,000 and possibly as many as 100,000 persons, many of them women and children, were killed out of hand between February and September 1988. Their deaths did not come in the heat of battle-‘collateral damage’ in the military euphemism. Nor were they acts of aberration by individual commanders whose excesses passed unnoticed, or unpunished, by their superiors. Rather, these Kurds were systematically put to death in large numbers on the orders of the central government in Baghdad-days, sometimes weeks, after being rounded-up in villages marked for destruction or else while fleeing from army assaults in ‘prohibited areas’ …

“The vast majority of the dead were noncombatants whose death resulted from the fact that they inhabited districts declared off-limits by the Iraqi government. Underlining the deliberate, preplanned nature of the Anfal, those responsible for their murder by firing squad were usually members of élite security units unconnected to the forces responsible for the Kurds’ capture; in other words, while one hand would sweep, the other would dispose of what the regime considered to be the ‘garbage’.”

Given these findings and the observation that that the Iraqi regime was the first to employ chemical weapons against its own citizens, you might suppose that Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United Nations and other international organizations would support President Bush’s call for military intervention to overthrow Saddam Hussein. But that is not the case. Rather, in its policy statement on Iraq, Human Rights Watch notes: “the threatened war in Iraq is not one of humanitarian intervention, but one designed, according to the public statements of the U.S. government, to deprive the Iraqi government of its alleged chemical and biological weapons, to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons, and to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

“Although in making a case for war George Bush has referred to the Iraqi government’s severe repression, this is clearly a subsidiary argument to his call to address Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction and to force ‘regime change.’ There can be little doubt that if Saddam Hussein was overthrown and any weapons of mass destruction reliably surrendered, there would be no war, even if the successor government was just as repressive.”

In other words, the important question of how the world should deal with rogue rulers responsible for human rights violations is not central to the current debate on Iraq. If it was, it might be pointed out that The United Nations and the International Criminal Court were designed to address it just as the United Nations was designed to address the issue of how to deal with rogue nations which threaten the peace of the world.

But the Bush administration, by campaigning against the International Criminal Court and showing disdain for the United Nations, has adopted the posture that the US, when it chooses, should be the lone arbiter of disputes between or within nations. That is a position many in this country and a majority in the rest of the world do not share.

Rather, most believe that when one individual or nation becomes the world’s policeman the rights of all are threatened. George Bush may fancy himself a modern day Wyatt Earp in the global arena. What he needs to realize is that even that legendary lawman wasn’t always on the right side of the law.