Friday, October 04, 2002

How often does an article actually turn your stomach? For me, it’s Holocoaust-denial stuff. Just can’t read it. Perhaps you remember all those missives that told us that the Russian people were comfortable under communist oppression, often couched in terms like “it’s all they’ve ever known”. As a bonus, there is always the fall back position of the old faithful, improved literacy. How many times do we have to put up with missives offering literacy as a reasonable trade off for virtually all political and economic freedoms. It’s a bit like the Catholic God: “here’s your sex drive, here’s your free will. No don’t use it!”

The only surprise in this article is that it does not contain the obligatory “Saddam is awful but …” get-out clause. No mention of secret police, wars of aggression, chemical and biological weapons. Just the Bad Guy West, and the demand for the Iraqis to be allowed to remain happy in their police state.

Today there is a truly sick-making apology for the murderous Ba’thist regime of Saddam Hussein, brought to us by the Sydney Morning Herald and one Kalpana Sharma, Mumbai-based journalist.
We start with a hoary old peace slogan
If you believe in peace, can you seriously talk about war? The United States talks constantly about war. Yet it claims it wants peace in the world. Is that possible? In a world so interconnected, can we avoid the fallout of war, even if it is not nuclear?

By this logic, we can look forward to Sharma coming out against chemotherapy, armed police and recordable CD sales. We can assume she responds to the threat of theft by leaving her doors unlocked.
If he [Bush] is concerned about human rights violations, he should know that the threat of war will not change any country's mindset.

Here she may be on the money. But the promise of war, subject to good behaviour, can have a salutary effect on behaviour. But if you want to change a “country’s mindset”, it’s hard to beat massive, humiliating defeat. Compare the mindset of Japan with North Korea.
So why Iraq? We are told it is because Saddam Hussein possesses, or has the potential to manufacture, weapons of mass destruction that he will use against the US and other Western nations. But does he have nuclear weapons? The evidence is inconclusive. In any case, so do India and Pakistan, and they came pretty close to throwing them on each other earlier this year.

I wonder how her neighbours feel about her willingness to throw India on the pyre?
The US justified bombing Afghanistan because it suspected that Osama bin Laden was holed up in its mountains. It also argued that this was the only way to dislodge the Taliban which treated women abominably.

Yes, only “suspected”, and “argued”. Nothing conclusive, just opinions by the stupid, blundering Westerners. And no hint that the situation of Afghan women might just have edged up a wee bit after those useful idiots the Americans got rid of the Taliban. Can’t say anything about that; it would undermine the whole “war is bad bad bad bad” theory.

Here’s a good one. Don’t bomb Iraq because they have a better human rights record.
But Iraq is probably one of the most liberal governments in the Arab world when it comes to women's rights. Unlike Afghanistan under the Taliban, Iraq remains a secular state as established by the ruling Baath party. Saddam has not changed this.
Under its secular constitution, Iraqi women have the benefit of many progressive laws. They played an active role in politics in the past.

Liberal compared to what? Secular only if you ignore all those snazzy pictures of The Chief plastered on every available surface. An active role in politics is a good idea, but not if it consists of agreeing frantically with the Head Loon on whatever the Conspiracy O’ The Week is.
Under the Ba'thist Party, Iraq reformed its laws so that sex discrimination in the workplace and sexual harassment were prohibited. It had laws that worked towards creating gender parity in voting, divorce, taxes and land ownership.

Voting for one party (and not too often thank you), gender parity in the torture chambers (tell us what we want or we’ll kill your children), taxes (everyone wants the Rais to have another palace!) and land ownership (somewhere to hide when the press gangs show up).

Annnnd Noowww: The Children ™!
But women have suffered because of the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after 1991. The worsening economic conditions have forced many to abandon their education and to take up whatever jobs are available to feed their families. And that is not easy.

Feeding what was left of their families who had not been used as human mine detectors against Iran, or gassed by Saddam, or rounded up in a security sweep, or locked in the special Children’s Jail, or drafted to fight in Kuwait.
An estimated 5000 children die every month because they are hungry. They die of ordinary illnesses because there are no medicines.

There that number again. It can’t be easy to maintain this level of ignorance. The Children ™ don’t die from sanctions. The Kurds are not dying from sanctions in the North. Like all people under Saddam, they are dying because the regime refuses to submit to UN Resolutions, and because the humanitarian aid that gets through is stolen by the enlightened Ba’thist system to build resort cities for the Party elite, Presidential palaces by the score, and prefers new weapons systems to normal trade relations.

Go for the scare grab:
Will removing Saddam "save" the Iraqi people? Or will it push them into greater insecurity as even what little remains of the country, or has been rebuilt in the last decade, is reduced to rubble

Dunno. Let’s ask the Iraqis.
Bush and company need to be reminded that war is about people, about killing people.

And comfortably secure journalists need to be reminded that dictators are about saving their own hides, and articles that draw equivalence between wars of liberation or self defence, and brutal police states, belong in the same videostore shelf with the complete works of Leni Riefenstahl.

Just in case you weren’t already retching from this parade of Vichy apologies, let’s check Sharma’s record on human rights. Perhaps she has a consistent attitude of promoting Stalinist human rights as the way to go forward.

Sometimes she is worried about
a disturbing pattern of state intervention that disallows legitimate and democratic discourse on important developments in the country.

The midnight knock on the door? Political parties banned? Well, not quite. Sharma is upset about the people of Mumbai having to suffer a film ban.

Although she has doubts that liberating the Iraqis from that nice man will “save” them, Sharma has no such doubts about her own countrywomen. She writes about the effect of reserving local Government seats in India for women:
What they illustrate is that once you let the genie out of the bottle, you cannot force it to go back. Once women have understood their rights and entitlements, they will not be held back. Whether the law to give one third representation to women at the national level goes through or not, it is clear that women have begun clamouring for their place in the sun.

So one rule for Indian women, one rule for Iraqis. With a nod to Lileks, can anyone distinguish this rubbish from the “happy darkies” literature of centuries past?

UPDATE: James Morrow proves the existence of Parallel Evolution in the Blogosphere.

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