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Date Posted: 17:19:36 06/13/05 Mon
Author: Chuck in ND
Subject: For your reading pleasure
Here is dh's latest column. Also, he's now in the archives--you can click the archive button and read all his articles.
Blind to our own hypocrisy
Ross Nelson, The Forum
Published Sunday, June 12, 2005
Ross Nelson sorts mail at the post office. To delay total brain atrophy he writes an occasional column for the Forum. He also reads on his breaks when he's not arguing politics or epistemological first principles with his co-workers.
When it slowly dawns on the typical American that we were led into war against a country that never threatened us, he doesn't turn his wrath toward those who tricked him. Instead, he compounds the error by swallowing whole the line the Bush administration feeds us - that Saddam Hussein was a new Hitler and we were justified in overthrowing him and leveling his country.
But when we take a dispassionate look at the facts of Saddam's tyranny and our interventions in Iraq, a startling possibility emerges: America may be responsible for more Iraqi deaths and suffering than Saddam was.
We must look past our self-idolizing pabulum about our moral intentions. Had Saddam remained our steadfast ally he would still be torturing and murdering his subjects today while we subsidized him. Maybe Donald Rumsfeld would visit him a third time for more glad-handing.
As it is Saddam will soon be tried on 14 charges, all of which are picayune compared to what he's been accused of before. Iyad Allawi, former Iraqi interim prime minister, says Saddam killed a million Iraqis. Human Rights Watch claims the count is around 300,000, with the Blair administration piping up with 400,000. Yet with a fifth of 290 known burial sites in Iraq examined, about 5,000 bodies have been found, many of which are those of rebels. (As the saying goes, if you strike a king you must kill him.) Since the mass graves might vary hugely in size, extrapolation is tricky, but we may contingently assume that perhaps Saddam buried 30,000 Iraqis. Evil enough, but no Hitler or even Idi Amin.
On the other hand the British medical journal Lancet, using internationally approved survey methods, states that the "excess" number of deaths in postwar Iraq is most likely at least 100,000 higher than in a similar prewar period. This figure excludes Iraqi military deaths.
Let's not forget the ten years of United Nation's sanctions, levied at our behest, which stripped Iraq of needed water treatment, hygiene, and medical supplies - supplies and capacities that we deliberately destroyed in the first Gulf war. In 1996 then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on 60 Minutes did not disagree with an estimate that the sanctions killed a half million Iraqi children. Adult deaths haven't been as closely studied.
Academic Richard Garfield however puts the number of sanctions-related dead Iraqi children lower, to about 227,000 as of 1999 to 350,000 through 2002. I feel better already. Don't you?
The Oil for Food scandal doesn't figure in here, as the amount of graft on both sides is relatively small compared to the program's total and the program didn't start until 1995, when mass Iraqi death was already well on its way.
Nor can we justify the sanctions by putting the burden on Saddam. It's a funny thing: we blamed the cops for pummeling Rodney King even though he was resisting the entire time. Yet we reversed our notions when we blamed Saddam for the beating we gave his country (and supposedly him). It doesn't bother us that our sanctions didn't touch Saddam but were devastating to the people of Iraq.
Thus it's plausible that American intervention over the years has killed more Iraqi civilians than Saddam did. The sanctions also backfired: they are one of three major reasons for which al-Qaida attacked us on 9/11.
For all its flaws America was once "the city on the hill," a beacon of liberty to the world. Since then we have degraded to empire not only with the American public's acquiescence but often its positive enthusiasm. The world sees the hypocrisy to which we are blind and judges accordingly.
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