22 April 2003

Victory Propaganda

By Tapani Lausti

Many British citizens seem to have been impressed by Downing Street spin on the victory in Iraq. Tony Blair's decision to go along with American aggression seems to them to have been vindicated by the fall of a dictator. The fact of having got rid of Saddam Hussein has made an impression on them which clouds their understanding of the conflict.

OK, Saddam Hussein is gone. Good riddance. Consequently, it seems to be tempting for many people to conclude that the end justified the means. It is said that the number of civilian casualties was relatively low. This is where the intellectual slippery slope begins.

It is important to note that no internationally recognised authority gave the US and UK permission to attack Iraq. A state of complete lawlessness has been introduced into international relations. The two governments simply let the rest of the world know that they are the ultimate masters of the universe. This behoves ill for the future of the world. It opens the road to a world of terrorism and counter-terrorism. No rules will apply in this warfare.

The way some Britons coldly calculate the victory/casualty ratio is related to the frame of mind of the self-appointed rulers of the world. It is said that Saddam Hussein would have killed even more people if he had remained in power. Even if this was true, it is an assumption which belittles the suffering inflicted on innocent Iraqi people under terrifying bombardments.

Neither must it be forgotten that the major world powers carry huge responsibility for the recent awful history of Iraq. Saddam Hussein's tyrannical rule was supported by Western powers for many years. Then he turned against his masters, possibly because of a misunderstanding about what he was allowed to do. The first Gulf War was then the result of a deliberate avoidance by the US of any peaceful solution to the conflict created by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The subsequent deadly sanctions only strengthened Saddam Hussein and weakened Iraqi civil society thus making it impossible to resist tyranny.

The recent attack was then carried out using deceitful reasons in an attempt to hide motives that had to do with power politics and strategic interests. No weapons of mass destruction have been found — and even if there were some it would not give anyone a moral right to invade a country.

George W. Bush and Tony Blair also suddenly started to talk about Saddam Hussein's awful human rights record. Neither politician, however, uttered a word in protest at the time when Hussein's atrocities against his own people were at their worst. Bush and Blair have to be seen as fraudulent human rights campaigners. Besides, if one wants to help people, one does not attack them. American and British forces are already being seen as occupiers, not liberators.

Yes — the sceptical Briton might still argue — but in the real world a surgical military strike is still the quickest way of deposing a dictator. One cannot wait for an ideal way to stop the oppression. The need to save people is too urgent.

However, military interventions are more likely to make conditions worse for ordinary people. Also, Bush's promises of democracy and decent life for the Iraqis are hypocritical to the extreme. He has never showed any real interest in their welfare. The president has also declared that "America uses its might in the service of principle". It is revolting to hear statements like this from a man who has showed contempt towards democracy even in his own country. He and his fanatical cohorts tend to declare countries democratic only if they obey US orders. Might is practically the only "principle" they know.

Or, perhaps the argument is that it does not matter what US interests are as long as a dictator gets toppled. However, the evidence is that when ordinary Iraqi people were asked, most of them did not want bombs to rain on them. Yes, some journalists found Iraqis who wanted the attack but I suspect they were not among the poor and vulnerable people who — even if their houses were not destroyed by bombs — would suffer the material, social and mental consequences of the attack.

It is morally wrong for comfortably living people to encourage military actions which harm already suffering people. Outsiders have no right to decide on questions of life and death of other people. In a civilised world military action should be avoided as a matter of principle. A whole culture of peaceful solutions to conflicts should be encouraged.

For excellent anti-war articles, go to the Media Watch section and the Middle East section of the archive.

I especially recommend two recent articles:

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