Wars are prime time for hypocrisy. The bogus emotion and rhetoric displayed by pro-war factions is fully matched by that of anti-war factions, and bystanders.
The prime hypocrite, of course, is the USA. Arab TV stations have broadcast pictures of captured American prisoners of war. US Defence Secretary Rumsfeld claims it is a violation of the Geneva Convention to photograph or humiliate POWs. The same day The Washington Post carried a photo of a blindfolded Iraqi soldier held captive by US troops. Will Rumsfeld prosecute The Post for war crimes? I doubt it.
To Rumsfeld’s outrage, Iraqi soldiers have pretended to surrender and then opened fire. Some US analysts claim this is perfidy and a war crime as defined in the 1977 amendment to the Geneva Convention of 1949. Guess who refused to ratify the 1977 amendment? The USA. It merrily violates the Convention by holding Afghan prisoners in Guantanamo, yet gets moralistic about Saddam.
The US denounces Saddam as a monster and mass murderer. Very true, but this monster was created and armed to the teeth by the NATO powers, notably the US and France. Indeed, the US helped Saddam produce chemical weapons and warheads whose use finally forced Iran to accept a cease fire. As long as Saddam was a convenient tool to combat Iran, the US smilingly ignored his mass murders. Only when he turned
against it did the US suddenly discover all sorts of vices in its former buddy.France has been cheered by many in India for opposing the war, yet its hypocrisy runs as deep as America’s. Force is always the last resort, it proclaimed at the UN debate on Iraq. Why, then, is the French Army so constantly deployed in former French colonies that some observers wonder whether French colonialism ever ended? Remember French brutality in Algeria and Vietnam? If force is a last resort, why did France destroy the unarmed Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, that protested against French nuclear explosions in the Pacific? Can it really distance itself from its Hutu pals in the Rwanda regime that committed the greatest genocide of recent times, killing 800,000 people of the Tutsi tribe?
Germany has protested in the UN about regime change in Iraq. Yet Germany above all stoked the break-up of Yugoslavia, recognising different segments as independent countries. France and other Europeans followed suit. This led to a horrendous sectarian war that killed 200,000 people. Having lit the fires in Yugoslavia, the Germans and French did not have the guts or will to send in their own troops to quell the violence. Instead they twiddled their thumbs till the US, which had strongly opposed Yugoslavia’s break-up, agreed to come in and clear the mess they had created. Regime change in Yugoslavia killed far more people than will die in Iraq, and Germany and France cannot escape the blame.
Russia has bombed Chechnya into a moonscape, killing thousands and violating all civil rights. Yet it swoons at the thought of violence in Iraq. Very selective morality here.
India says the UN should sanction any war on Iraq. Did India ask the UN permission for its 1971 war with Pakistan? Not at all, it acted unilaterally. It used its buddy, the Soviet Union, to veto peace moves by the UN. Officially, India claims that Pakistan started that war through an air attack on December 3. In fact the Pakistan Air Force was simply responding to the intrusion of Indian troops into East Pakistan on November 21, an invasion reported by the international press but blanked out totally the tame Indian press.
Anti-war protesters are taking to the streets across the globe. They did not do so when wars without US involvement produced massive slaughter in Africa, Asia or Yugoslavia. Why was there was no political pressure on European and US governments to stop at the outset the horrendous killing in Rwanda or Yugoslavia? The `international peace movement’ is, by and large, anti-American. Many peaceniks protested when Bush Sr went into Iraq in 1991. But when he withdrew, and Saddam Hussein slaughtered 50,000 Shias in southern Iraq, they staged no protest. In theory, they oppose violence by anybody, but they stage mass rallies only when the US gets violent. Journalists, academics and moralists yawn with boredom if Hutus slaughter Tutsis, but explode with outrage if the US sends in its marines.
US hypocrisy in Iraq is easily explained by narrow self-interest. Can opposition to the war by others also be explained by narrow self-interest? Is there really no higher morality?