Saturday, April 05, 2003

War and Human Rights

I

Nat Hentoff, "Why I Didn't March This Time," Village Voice (March 28, 2003)(online):

I participated in many demonstrations against the Vietnam War, including some civil disobedience.... As I told The New York Sun in its March 14-16 roundup of New Yorkers for and against the war:

"There was the disclosure . . . when the prisons were briefly opened of the gouging of eyes of prisoners and the raping of women in front of their husbands, from whom the torturers wanted to extract information. . . . So if people want to talk about containing [Saddam Hussein] and don't want to go in forcefully and remove him, how do they propose doing something about the horrors he is inflicting on his people who live in such fear of him?"

I did not cite "weapons of mass destruction." Nor do I believe Saddam Hussein is a direct threat to this country, any more than the creators of the mass graves in the Balkans were, or the Taliban. And as has been evident for a long time, I am no admirer of George W. Bush.

The United Nations? Did the inspectors go into the prisons and the torture chambers? Would they have, if given more time? Did they interview the Mukhabarat, Saddam's dreaded secret police?

II

Edward Rothstein, "Looking for Roots of War and Terror" (review of Paul Berman, Terror and Liberalism(W.W. Norton), New York Times (Saturday, April 5, 2003)(online):

[Berman] traces the literary cults of "murder and suicide" and "acts of Satanic transgression" in 19th-century European Romanticism and nihilism. After World War I came death-haunted utopianism: Lenin's Bolsheviks, Stalinists and Spanish, Italian and German Fascists; later there came Maoists, the Khmer Rouge and sundry other ensembles. A totalitarian pattern developed: a lost past or a utopian future is sought, internal enemies are hunted (in many cases, Jews), an absolutist body of law is established and external enemies are fiercely attacked.

Similar patterns developed in the Middle East. The founder of Saddam Hussein's fascist Baath Party studied German Romanticism, including, Mr. Berman notes, "the philosophers of national destiny, of race and of the integrity of national cultures." ...

...

These Arab and Islamic movements have had nightmarish results, "fully as horrible," in Mr. Berman's words, "as the Fascism and Stalinism of Europe." In the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980's, more than a million people were killed, gassed and tortured. ...

...

The war now being faced, Mr. Berman argues, will take years on many fronts using many styles of confrontation and education — just like the cold war. What is needed, he proposes, is a "war of ideas" like the one that eventually toppled Communism, and one that will be accompanied by reform of Arab societies. He supports the war in Iraq but he believes that after a strong beginning, President Bush has failed to make the best case one could for the larger war on terror.

But old political lines are also breaking down and new ones are forming. ... [I]t is unclear how sympathetic many segments of the left would be with Mr. Berman's analysis. Liberalism and the left may now be even more split over the nature of the war on terror than they once were over the nature of Communism. At times, in fact, it seems as if politics is about to become a continuation of war by other means.

III

"British find 200 bodies, grisly photos near Basra," Reuters (April 5, 2003), in Boston Globe (online):

SOUTHERN IRAQ, April 5 -- The desiccated remains of as many as 200 people were found by British soldiers on Saturday in an abandoned warehouse in southern Iraq along with catalogues of grisly photographs of what could be torture victims.

Dozens of wooden coffins and plastic bags full of bones filled one building in the rundown military complex near Iraq's second city of Basra, said correspondents with British forces.

In an adjoining cargo container, soldiers found scrapbooks stuffed with faded photographs of corpses, most of which appeared to have gunshot wounds to the head.

Vanessa Allen, a correspondent with Britain's Press Association, reported that some of the faces had been burned, mutilated or scarred by horrific wounds.

...

Bundles of bones and scraps of military uniforms were visible inside the plastic bags....

... The teeth in some of the skulls were missing.

Outside the warehouse was a wall dotted with a spray of bullet holes, most at head height. Tiny concrete cells were discovered nearby.

... In several, rusting metal hooks dangled from iron poles embedded in the ceiling.

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