product is a non-UN sanctioned war on Iraq, and a year ago it must
have seemed reasonable to expect "real Australians" to back John
Howard all the way with Dubya to Baghdad.
But how wrong the spruikers were, and now, just to move the
bloody stuff, they're throwing in – don't take out your credit card
just yet! – a set of steak knives. And what a crumby, two-dollar set
The set of steak knives is the argument that we should invade
Iraq to save the Iraqis. No, seriously. From Saddam Hussein. OK, not
those we kill, maim or make homeless, or their families, obviously,
but many of the rest.
Several weeks ago, veteran Labor activist Jim Nolan wrote in
The Australian that real lefties should back this war, citing
"the liberation of East Timor from the Indonesian military rulers"
as a comparable "great humanitarian intervention in recent years"
supported by the Australian Left.
Last week, The Australian's Paul Kelly castigated peace
marchers for "their consignment of the Iraqi people to a gulag of
deprivation, decline and imprisonment".
Former ALP national secretary Bob Hogg wrote in The Australian
Financial Review that "the Iraqi question has similar
ingredients to that which led to NATO's intervention to end Slobodan
Milosevic's regime in Yugoslavia".
And The Age's Pamela Bone backs invasion because "if the
old, left ideas of internationalism mean anything, they mean we
should be trying to rid the world of Saddam Hussein, and every other
rotten dictator like him".
They're the Humanitarians for War.
First, a reality check. NATO's intervention in Kosovo had neither
the intent nor even the result of ending Milosevic's rule. And the
delusion that Australia "intervened" in East Timor is a dangerous
one to base future actions on. Our troops went there with Indonesian
consent (extracted albeit by some third-party arm-twisting) and we
"liberated" no one.
Second, what the New Humanitarians want is to trash UN Resolution
1441. They advocate invasion whether Hussein disarms or not, which
would make a lie of the claim that war is up to him.
Third, very few of us can claim any high ground on how much we
allow foreigners' suffering to impinge on our daily thoughts, let
alone actions. If the New Humanitarians have thoughts on how to
spread human rights and democracy around the globe – which doesn't
involve bombing them first – please share them with us.
Otherwise, if we bomb Iraq into "liberation", who's next? The
idea of the US and its allies roaming the world ridding it of
tyranny by force is absurd. And, given current estimates for this
one, likely to send the planet bankrupt.
We wouldn't be discussing Hussein's people's suffering if it
weren't for his weapons. He might be the world's most famous tyrant
but that doesn't necessarily make him the worst.
For that honour a couple of other contenders, who share borders
with Iraq, also spring to mind. Most countries in the former USSR
stay below the radar, but what's the electrode-to-testicle ratio
there? North Korea? How about deepest Africa? And so on.
OK, this will all soon be moot, possibly within days, but in the
meantime give "the mob" some credit. Talk to us about weapons of
mass destruction, terrorism, geopolitics, oil and how this war will
make the world a safer place. Explain why deterrence won't work.
Let's discuss human rights, too.
But, guys, lose those godawful steak knives. They cheapen your
Peter Brent is editor of mumble.com.au.