Seeking for Righteousness

The Personal Blog of Kaimi Wenger

Significance of Iraqi Human Rights Violations

By all reports, Iraq has not been the best of places to live for the past decade. The government, and especially Saddam Hussein and his sons, has participated in widespread murder, torture, rape, and violence. Iraq’s ugly recent history of human rights abuse has been discussed often in the press. People seem conflicted as to what weight to give this.

There are two simple positions which seem to be repeated quite a bit, a simple pro-war position and a simple somewhat-anti-war position. The simple pro-war position, often employed by conservative hawks, goes along these lines: “Saddam Hussein is a grave human rights abuser. Therefore, our war is justified as a war of liberation.” The simple somewhat-anti-war position, often employed by doves, is: “But, the United States doesn’t invade other human rights abusing countries. So war is not justified on that ground.” (I call it a somewhat-anti-war position because it does not rule out war on other grounds).

Neither position seems entirely correct to me.

The simple pro-war position is based on one certain truth, that Iraq has been a terrible place to live. However, it has not been the worst place to live in the world — it may not even be in the top ten. For example, if offered a choice of moving to North Korea or Iraq (prior to war), you choose Iraq, hands down. The definitely-worse-to-live-in-than-Iraq group has to include North Korea, Liberia, Democratic Rep. of Congo, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and (probably) Burma. This group of countries is followed by another group that could reasonably be considered worse than Iraq (but not hands-down): Somalia, Uganda, Angola, Togo, Malaysia, Sudan, Eritrea, and maybe China, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Kashmir (to the extent that can be considered a country). I’m certain I’m missing a few offenders, too — I put this list together on the fly in the past 2 minutes.

If Iraq’s human rights abuses justify war there, then war is also justified in North Korea, DRC, Liberia, etc. Since we aren’t at war with those countries, the simple pro-war position seems refuted. But are Iraqi human rights abuses irrelevant, or even (as cynical doves might suggest) a smokescreen to distract the public? The reality seems a little more complicated.

The stated reason for the war is that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Yet there are a number of countries that have weapons of mass destruction which we aren’t at war with. We haven’t invaded India, for example. In fact, there are a number of countries which could probably acquire weapons of mass destruction without risking invasion. If Spain or Canada or Lichenstein acquired nukes, we wouldn’t be too happy about it, but we probably wouldn’t invade — the reason being that we trust those regimes, like we trust India, Pakistan, Israel, Britain, etc, not to use their weapons in a irrational manner.

This is where the evidence of Saddam Hussein’s human rights abuses enters the picture. Bush feels invasion is required because (1) Saddam may have WMD, and (2) we don’t trust him to act rationally with them. And a major reason we don’t trust him to act rationally is his history of abusing his own people. Sure we haven’t invaded either Liberia (human rights abuser) or India (WMD armed). But if Bush thought there was any chance that Charles Taylor (Liberia’s human-rights-abusing, irrational dictator) had WMD, we would probably invade there too.

March 27, 2003 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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