I am writing to address your claim that the primary motivation for the Iraq war was to end human-rights violations.
I don’t have any problem with someone’s sincere desire to rid an oppressed people of tyranny. It’s so rare that people–especially most conservatives, including one who in 2000 disparaged “nation-building”–are even concerned with such things as fairness and justice for the oppressed that it is refreshing even to see the topic get their interest.
The problem I have is that I suspect you are insincere in your desire to rid oppressed people of tyranny, and I think it is rather simple to confirm this suspicion.
Here is the test: Name all of the other countries you also want to rescue from tyranny via the U.S. military.
I would guess your answer is, “Every situation is different.”
But that’s not an answer. What are the situations? Why are they different? What are your standards?
If you were sincere in your desire to reduce the maximum amount of suffering possible, the standard would be this: Where can the U.S. do the most with the least? That is, given X amount of financing and military power, where could these resources be best applied to reduce the most suffering for the most people?
I would submit that if you don’t approve of this standard, reduction of human suffering clearly is not your primary concern. Something else is, and reduction of human suffering is merely a useful side effect while you achieve that primary concern.
But the primary concern matters. The primary motivation is what we should be talking about. What is that thing that, were it absent, we would not be doing this? Clearly, the daily torture of Iraqis is not that thing. “Disarmament” was the stated motivation for the war, not “ending torture.” And “national security,” while a legitimate concern for any nation, is still not the same as “ending torture.” One is selfish–not necessarily in a bad way, but selfish nonetheless. The other is not selfish–it is altruistic.
“But,” I imagine you are responding, “is it not still noble to want to reduce suffering even if that was not the primary motivation for the invasion?”
The answer is “no.” It would be noble if you wanted to rescue the Iraqi people absent another motivation. But when that result is merely a side effect–or, more accurately in this case, a useful public-relations cover–it is not noble. In fact, it is rather disgusting to pretend to be championing human rights when the real motivation is something else. It is like running into a burning building to rescue a baby–but doing it because that baby happens to be wearing a diamond necklace. Would you rescue the baby even if it were not wearing that diamond necklace?
In the case of Iraq, clearly the answer is “no.”
And that is why it is disgusting when you talk about human-rights abuses in Iraq as if they are a primary motivating factor for the military campaign. You are like that “rescuer” pumping up your chest and talking to the gathered reporters about how important it was to save that poor screaming baby, while you quietly slip the diamond necklace into your back pocket.
Perhaps it is unfair of me to lump you in with the Bush Administration. Clearly, human-rights abuses are not their primary concern. But perhaps human-rights abuses are your primary concern. I admit this may be possible.
Here’s the test: If you can name, right now, without research, the countries that contain populations in the most desperate need of relief from violent tyranny, and you know what strategies you think are best to achieve this goal, I’m probably wrong.
However, if it is closer to the truth to say that you support the action in Iraq because the BUSH ADMINISTRATION chose it, and you don’t really have a clear idea of the human-rights situation on the rest of the globe, I would say you lack credibility in asserting that you are primarily concerned with human rights.
Because your position would essentially work ANYWHERE that there are human-rights violations that can be described in gruesome, emotional detail. Anywhere. And you would apparently support any of these hypothetical military actions just because the Bush Administration pointed in that direction, not because their plan reduces the most suffering with the available resources.
If you can claim that you have thought out the Iraq military action and determined that, of all the places on the globe that the U.S. could spend $100B+ and deploy hundreds of thousands of troops, Iraq represents the place where those resources will reduce the most suffering for the greatest number of people, then I apologize for suggesting human rights were not your first concern.
However, the fact remains that clearly this was NOT the process that the White House used to arrive at the Iraq war, and it is time for you to stop pretending that it is. If you see the “brave rescuer” slipping that diamond necklace into his back pocket, how can you praise his virtue? It is true and worth celebrating that the baby is alive, but it is also true that one should have different expectations of the “brave rescuer’s” future actions than one would if the diamond necklace had not been attached to the baby’s neck.
A parody that expresses this well, from the Onion:
- Tortured Ugandan Political Prisoner
Wishes Uganda Had Oil
KAMPALA, UGANDA — A day after having his hands amputated by soldiers backing President Yoweri Museveni’s brutal regime, Ugandan political prisoner Otobo Ankole expressed regret Monday over Uganda’s lack of oil reserves. “I dream of the U.S. one day fighting for the liberation of the oppressed Ugandan people,” said Ankole as he nursed his bloody stumps. “But, alas, our number-one natural resource is sugar cane.” Ankole, whose wife, parents, and five children were among the 4,000 slaughtered in Uganda’s ethnic killings of 2002, then bowed his head and said a prayer for petroleum.