My old pal Gil had a link recently to an interesting interview in Dissent Magazine with the famed Polish trade union activist/essayist/journalist, Adam Michnik.
Michnik offers a series of arguments grounded in “moral imperative” of sorts to defend the Bush regime’s Iraqi expedition, and the continued Polish involvement in the occupation of Iraq. Since his is not a modern variety of the old Athenian argument at Melos, i.e. “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must,” frequently advanced, albeit mildly disguised in a language of humanitarianism, by the interventionists, his voice can not be easily dismissed.
Michnik’s arguments, especially given his nobility of character, experiences and principled activism are compelling enough to warrant scrutiny. Do read the interview if the spirit moves you, and I’ll have some thoughts on it later. Here is an exchange of note that interests me today:
TC: In my discussions with some other Polish intellectuals, who are critical of the war, they claim that Iraq is not the same kind of situation.
AM: It's never the same.
TC: They say that the intellectuals who support the war in Iraq don't understand that Saddam Hussein is not Adolf Hitler, and so on. I interviewed Jacek Kuron the other day and, as you know, he was against the war. He was critical of the idea that the fight against Saddam Hussein is the same thing as the fight against Hitler.
AM: Well, it's obvious that Saddam is not Hitler. Pol Pot was not Hitler either. My fundamental question is, What would Saddam Hussein have to do for my dear friend Jacek to agree that he's as bad as Hitler? What more would he have had to do? Invade Poland and build gas chambers in Auschwitz one more time?
Michnik is the first to admit we live in an “imperfect world” whose “overriding color is grey.” But how many shades?
The reason I ask, of course, is the transcript of the opening day of Saddam’s trial. Here are the charges he faces as reported in the Independent:
THE CHARGES THE DICTATOR FACES
Invading Kuwait, 1990
On 2 August 1990, 100,000 Iraqis invaded Kuwait. A government was set up and Saddam threatened to turn Kuwait City into a "graveyard" if any country dared challenge the takeover by force.
Suppressing Kurdish and Shia uprisings, 1991
After the Gulf war, Saddam's government seemed on the verge of collapse. Shias and Kurds in the north revolted, killing many Sunni Arabs. Saddam's regime responded with a bloody crackdown.
Anfal ethnic cleansing campaign against Kurds, 1987-88
The Anfal (spoils of war) campaign was the Iraqi government's genocidal campaignto reassert control over Kurdish areas. It involved mass summary executions.
Gassing Kurdish villagers in Halabja, 1988
Halabja was a town of 50,000 people, near the Iranian border. It was target of chemical attacks ordered by Saddam's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid - Chemical Ali.
Killing political activists
A UN report in 1998 stated that Iraq had executed at least 1,500 people during the previous year.
Killing thousands of the Kurdish Barzani clan, 1983
Iraqi security forces killed 8,000 Barzani men and boys in revenge for Kurdish collusion with Iranian forces in July 1983.
So: the invasion of Kuwait bad! The other invasion good! Massacre of the Kurds (now) bad! The other massacre and mass poisoning (still) good! 11 of his advisors bad! His powerful enablers good! No shame, really!
The message Mr. Bush’s Occupation Force and their Iraqi collaborators have chosen to send us is being heard loud and clear. The latest chapter of the saga which began on 9/11 is finding (temporary) closure in this Kangaroo court. Nothing has changed after all. It is the same business as usual it has always been.
Just so we know how things stand in our planet: one tie wearing goon is back in (a different) town hoping to organize more death squads! The missing billions from Iraq will probably turn up in the Latin or South America once again—probably somewhere in Venezuela! Assorted petty tyrants, women haters, suicide bombers, home demolishers, head choppers, low and high tech killers, tormentors, wall builders, abusers, torturers, bigots, Jihadists, cru-sadists, and potential mass murderers have the run of the place and probably feel more secure and self confident than ever before.
And here we have also mobile gulags, secret prisons, suspended civil liberties, murder and mayhem. Not to be forgotten of course: more hate, venom and hot air planet wide than all the gasses supposedly responsible for the global warming.
So back to Mr. Michnik: at what point does Saddam become a Hitler? Saddam of 1960’s on the CIA payroll? Saddam of the late 70’s of the infamous videotaped party purges? The Saddam who attacks Iran? The Saddam who shakes hand with a Rumsfeld? The Saddam who gasses upward of 100,000 Iranians? Saddam, the good ally of the Reagan administration? The Saddam who incurs odious debts--between 1-3 billions alone from the US Department of Agriculture , one among so many other lenders world wide? The Saddam of Anfal ethnic cleansing--still an ally of the Reagan administration? The Saddam of 1991 butchery as foreign soldiers watch from some distance? Or the toothless, defeated Saddam of the murderous sanctions’ regime, projected backward in time to justify the present status quo?
And the whereabouts of the missing principles in this trail?!
The Bush administration has just signaled its position (again) loudly and unequivocally! Where does Mr. Michnik stand now?