November 2005



I’ve been mulling over how to respond to JP’s post “Might is Right?” His post was an outgrowth of a debate we had in the office kitchen about the war in Iraq. My biggest flaw in arguing with JP is admitting that I am actually ambivalent about the current war. Admittedly I have advocated the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in the past, but that doesn’t change my ambivalence.

The fact remains that Saddam Hussein was not a good man. Human Rights Watch wants him prosecuted for genocide with documented mass graves, and, according to Genocide Watch, 190,000 Kurdish, Shiite, and Kuwaiti deaths at the hands of Iraq’s “government.”

Now I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that perhaps other cultures and people will have different values—and that the differences in cultural values is what makes this world interesting. I am willing to respect cultural values that are different than mine, even to the point where I will just ignore the fact that in Saudia Arabia women are not allowed to drive for reasons that seem incredibly trivial and silly to me.

However, I am less willing to stand by and allow differences in “cultural values” kill people.

The fact remains that Saddam Hussein was a cold blooded murderer who killed 190,000, or more, people in order to preserve his power in Iraq. Although relatively few of those deaths have occurred since 1991, that doesn’t mitigate his past crimes. In most western cultures there is no statue of limitations for murder, and this is one value I am wholeheartedly willing to impose on Saddam Hussein because if we ignore his past transgressions it will only encourage other dictators who have genocidal tendencies.

Now, I am ambivalent about the war for a number of reasons.

First of all, it is clear that the Bush/Blair/Cheney administration lied to us about the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. The Clinton Administration had done an excellent job of preventing Saddam Hussein from gaining the abilities to carry out mass murders of his own citizens or citizens of other nations. Second of all, Saddam Hussein was never linked with al Qaeda—he was purely a secular leader who wouldn’t tolerate significant religious fundamentalism that might undermine his power. Therefore the justifications that the Bush/Blare/Cheney administration used to propel the United States and its (relatively few) allies to war were flawed.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that Saddam Hussein was getting away with cold-blooded genocide.

This leaves the United States in a pretty tricky position. Under international law, as an occupying nation, there is an obligation on the part of the United States to see Iraq through to some kind of stable government/political situation—which appears to be in the far distant future. In other words, we probably have another Vietnam War, but this is not one that that the States inherited from France.

This is one France tried to prevent.

5 comments to Ambivelence…

  • JP

    Adam.. I wonder how you could be blind to the genocide in the other countries in the genocide site. Its taking place in Africa even now and the number is more than 3 million and if you see further down the list you will find ‘China’ with a cumulative toll of 35 millions.

    I wonder again as to how you are able to justify teaching Saddam a lesson, especially when you agree that Genocide has not been taking place in Iraq since 1991. As a superpower US should meddle in Africa or China where genocide is taking place and not in Iraq which was militarily made defunct by decade long sanctions!

  • JP

    and the statistics are stunning too…

    If saddam killed 190000 people till 1991, the US invasion has achievements are no less laudable: In a span of two years it massacred 26000 (official ‘under’estimate, the unofficial numbers go as high as 100000) iraqis calling them “insurgents”. Where were these insurgents who had to be eliminated before the war began??

  • JP, Did I ever say that genocide in other countries was ok?


    I didn’t address the issue–and silence on the issue doesn’t mean that I condone what is going on in Africa and China–or India for that matter (note, they’re on Genocide Watch as well).

    However, it is obvious that although the United States has the most powerful army it is unable to fight every battle that ought to be (or is worth being) fought. It has limited resources and is not familiar enough with everywhere to win every battle–plus there are internal political issues that make many wars–even just wars–unpopular.

    That said, I’m still ambivilent about Iraq–the US ought to have taken out Saddam Hussein years ago. The US ought to be involved in a lot of places that we aren’t fully engaged. What I am pretty sure of is that there wasn’t an exit strategy for this war, and that’s a shame.

  • JP

    Adam.. no one has a right to attack an enemy who was categorically crippled for a decade. I am not a great admirer of Saddam but I am believer in justice.

    Am I asking that the US to teach every country or individual on the wrong path a lesson? I know that no power in the world is capable of doing that on its own. It should act with the world and not unilaterally when it comes to bringing a wrong doer to justice.

    Otherwise thw world will say Americans can only stab from behind, that the US is strategic and attacks only those countries that are weak or those that have been crippled by decade long sanctions!

  • JP- I think that if anybody is going to take issue with the behavior of the United States toward Iraq, the “weak opponent” arguement will not be one of the points they raise.

    Understand that it is Saddam’s general behavior toward ethnic minorities in his own country that cause my ambivelence toward the war. The reasons the United States used were not justified–but on the other hand, the US was not alone in its attack: it was joined by several major nations including the United Kingdom, Spain, and Poland. To name a few.