Man Without Qualities

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Picky, Picky, Picky

Along with other media, the Wall Street Journal has noted credible reports that Saddam has outfitted some Iraqi soldiers with American and British uniforms, and is planning atrocities against his own people that he hopes to blame on coalition forces.

However, my suspicion is that, as far as most of the hard core anti-war crowd is concerned, Mr. Hussein need not have bothered being to tricky or trying to blame coalition forces for actually killing Iraqis. He could have saved himself the tailor's bill for those fake uniforms if he had only recalled the millions of murders perpetrated by the Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge after they came to power in Cambodia in the 1970's. There was no war at that time, nor anything that any sane person could consider an excuse or justification for such atrocities - or for assigning responsibility for those atrocities to anyone other than the Cambodian government and its agents. But I can recall vividly even now a Harvard professor advising me in all seriousness that those deaths, too, were for America's account because but for the American involvement in South East Asia the victims of the Khmer Rouge would not have died.

When I asked him if that reasoning made the engineers of the Golden Gate Bridge the murderers of all the people who had jumped to their deaths from that beautiful and attractive suicide center, he snarled that building the Golden Gate Bridge was not a crime. And he did not take well to my follow-up musing that his reasoning seemed a tad circular since it is strange that building a structure that kills so many people is not a crime. In any event, that conversation went on for quite a while, although I didn't have a lot of dinner conversations with him thereafter.

But the current crop of anti-war protestors seem, if anything, much worse than their Vietnam-era counterparts because the current crop seem actually nostalgic for the excesses of their "predecessors" - the two crops even have many participants in common.

So Mr. Hussein should not feel the need to be so picky, picky, picky. If he just shoots, immolates, explodes, gasses, irradiates or infects his own people outright and in front of the Western media (especially the BBC) - but makes it clear that he is only doing those things because the Americans and British are trespassing - the higher minded protestors, surely including most of the better dressed types at the UN and certain frumpier types in the Ivy League, will be willing to attribute enough of the blame for his actions to the coalition to justify in the minds of such anti-war advocates crediting those deaths to American perfidy. Indeed, from the tone of today's New York Times editorial, it would not seem hard to get that paper to adopt such a position. ("Secretary Rumsfeld, in hubristic remarks that could come back to haunt him, stressed that today's weapons had "a precision no one ever dreamt of" in the past. ... But technical glitches can thwart the best-made plans, and even a few errant bombs or missiles could cause substantial civilian damage and a backlash in world opinion, given the administration's insistence that it can pick its targets precisely.") And, as a bonus, using WMD only against his own people would allow Mr. Hussein's strongest supporter, Mr. Chirac, not to make good on his pledge to offer French help to the coalition if Iraq used WMD against coalition forces.

Wasn't Mr. Chirac clever to leave himself that loophole?

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