The Null Device

Human shields in Baghdad

A number of young idealists are on their way to Baghdad to act as "human shields", lending their moral authority to defend the peaceful Iraqi state against US imperialist aggression. As one guitar-wielding peacenik says, "Baghdad is probably the most peaceful, mellow place I've ever been in my life. Everybody is so laid-back it's unbelievable." Though this neglects the fact that Saddam Hussein's regime is monstrously brutal, with a shocking record of torture and murder.
According to Amnesty International the regime was busily torturing and executing various enemies, real and imagined. Eyes were being gouged, tongues ripped out and heads cut off. The torture of political detainees, said Amnesty, "generally takes place in the headquarters of the General Security Directorate in Baghdad or in its branches in Baghdad".

Now it could well be that Amnesty International has been infiltrated by Dubya's disinformation operatives (perhaps via Phony Blair's "Nu Labour" government) and turned into a pro-US propaganda engine, with their strident denunciations of US capital punishment and racism merely acting to lull bleeding-hearted Guardian readers into a false sense of trust and get them to swallow the bigger lie; it could be, but I doubt it.

This Iraq war is a sordid affair. On one hand, Saddam Hussein is a monster. (Not even the most delusional Marxist could argue that he's the leader of a liberation movement... well, maybe the Spartacists could, but everybody knows they're barking mad.) I doubt that there's much support given to him by the Iraqi people that's not the result of blind fear of what happens if they don't. On the other hand, the Saudis are just as bad, by all accounts, but they're Our Allies so it's OK. And pretending that the US invasion of Iraq will be all about giving a helping hand to the poor downtrodden Iraqi people (who happen to be sitting on one of the biggest, and most strategically important, oil fields in the world) stinks of hypocrisy. Given that the US is reportedly considering pocketing Iraqi oil to pay for its occupation (how fortunate that those poor Iraqis have this means of repaying their benefactors!) adds to suspicions that it's all about oil.

OTOH, the "peace activists" who plan to go to Baghdad to act as human shields for a murderous regime just because it opposes the US don't seem to be the sharpest knives in the drawer. In fact, they make student-newspaper pro-Cuban apologists (whose ability to excuse away the apparatus of totalitarianism as a higher form of freedom never fails to amaze) look like mature and well-reasoned political commentators.

There are 13 comments on "Human shields in Baghdad":

Posted by: mark Thu Jan 16 17:01:42 2003

$deity, that's scary.

Andrew, you've found someone stupider than Emperor Misha...

Posted by: acb Thu Jan 16 17:10:50 2003

Emperor Misha?

Posted by: Fake Ben Fri Jan 17 03:00:38 2003

Saddam Hussein being a nasty piece of work is not new news; he was just as bad when he was the USA's nasty piece of work, back in the 80s.

There's no need to support Saddam to oppose war against him, despite the 'objectively-pro-Iraq' tosh peddled by some hawks.

And if you wanna go to war against any country with a rotten, human rights-abusing leader, you're going to be fighting 'til the heat death of the universe. There's that many.

Posted by: acb Fri Jan 17 03:07:34 2003

It seems to be news to the dippy hippy type interviewed in the Guardian piece quoted.

I suspect that if I was an Iraqi, I'd prefer (secretly of course) a US hegemony over what's there now; at least if the news cameras stay long enough to prevent them from setting up Saddam Mk.2. Having them take your oil and put you to work in sweatshops making consumer goods would be better than having your tongue ripped out and your head cut off.

Posted by: Ben the REAL Ben Fri Jan 17 03:49:03 2003

Unfortunately modern Iraq is a text-book example (just like Yugoslavia) of how under international pressure and the collapse of the rule of law, gangsterism rises to control a country's politics and economy.

Posted by: Fake Ben Fri Jan 17 06:07:47 2003

If you were an Iraqi you might prefer US hegemony... but you might not get it for long. The Yanks will probably want to set up a friendly regime ASAP. (They don't wanna get bogged down 'nation building', remember?)

Some dictator they can control, until he becomes too big for his boots and they have to get rid of him.

For some reason, this scenario sounds awfully familiar...

Posted by: mark Fri Jan 17 11:35:21 2003

Emperor Misha:

The bloke mentioned in the story (Matt Barr) does have some mitigating qualities -- he's only planning to shield innocent civillians (brave, that: do Americans consider non-American allies' civillians more valuable than Iraqi civillians? He should hope so!) -- but he displays a naivete so extreme it's almost unbelievable. How could he possibly have avoided hearing the truth about Hussein's regime?

Posted by: acb Fri Jan 17 12:34:51 2003

Fake Ben: I fear that you're right that the US would just install Saddam Mk.2, with new improved compliance. The Iraqi people's best hope would be the media keeping an eye on how things are progressing, though that hasn't done the Afghans much good, has it?

Though not wanting to do "nation building" conflicts with the rumoured plans for a prolonged occupation (until Iraq, like Japan, develops democracy, or some say, which sounds laughable, but would be a good excuse to keep the oil flowing).

Posted by: acb Fri Jan 17 12:41:46 2003

re: this Misha chap: he's a classic. A meticulously content-free point-by-point refutation of Le Carre is something else altogether.

Though the way he writes "G-d" suggests that he's a religious Jew of some stripe; and I thought they were all of above-average intelligence.

Posted by: Ritchie http:// Fri Jan 17 12:56:51 2003

If history serves as any guide, the new Iraqi regime will need to buy arms to replace those destroyed in the upcoming war. They will naturally buy arms from their good friends who ousted Saddam, Britain and the US. Of course, because their economy has been shattered by conquest, they won't be able to pay, but they can increase oil production slightly, and foreign aid and IMF loans will pay for the rest. On paper, it looks like a win for the West, but the end result is an Iraq with better weapons than they currently possess, largely funded by the West. The US will also need to re-arm (those bombs aren't cheap). The Iraqi people will suffer, of course, but the long-term effect will be to destabilise other oil-producing nations in the Mid-East.

Posted by: Ritchie http:// Fri Jan 17 12:59:14 2003

I read somewhere once (I think it was de Gaulle): "Americans approach important matters with simple emotions that disguise complicated policies." Boy, he said a mouthful.

Posted by: acb Fri Jan 17 13:09:18 2003

Would there be any chance of making the New Iraq(tm) adopt a Japanese-style pacifist constitution, and keeping them from getting eaten alive by non-pacifist neighbours?

Posted by: Ritchie http:// Fri Jan 17 13:20:16 2003

Japan is an interesting example. It was prevented from acquiring arms beyond those needed for the JDF and enjoyed a long period of economic prosperity. The two things might be unrelated. Kuwait had an army inferior even to Iraq's, and were invaded, but were strategically important enough to be subsequently saved by the West.

I think it was Lao Tzu who first suggested that the best way of defeating your enemies was by attacking their strategy. I think every country has the responsibility of defending itself, which means having a credible army, air force, and sometimes a navy. Maybe New Iraq will start building their own tanks and planes and selling them (I don't know to whom. Sub-Saharan Africa?).

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