Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Callous Disregard for Elementary Moral Principles

Here's something that bothers me a lot. There are a lot of atrocities that go on in the world, but this one strikes me for some reason. Part of it I think is just the realization that I was so oblivious to it while it was occurring and supported the aggressive U.S. foreign policies at the time, genuinely believing they were for the betterment of the world.

I was an ignorant fool though, not really engaged in the issues. Had I been I would think that the obvious truth of Article 50 of the Hague Convention and Regulations of 1907 (No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise shall be inflicted on the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly or severally responsible) would have mattered to me. Why didn't others see it? How can someone like Bill Clinton defend these murderous sanctions?

The sanctions in Iraq killed at least hundreds of thousands of people, if not over a million. The people were deprived of medicines, water pumps needed to grow crops, chemicals needed to make water potable. What had brought this on? Saddam had invaded Kuwait and was thus a danger. He had killed 1000 people in Kuwait according to the British Foreign Office (Saddam Hussein - Crimes and Human Rights Abuses, London, November 2000, p. 22 quoted via Hans Von Sponek "A Different Kind of War - The UN Sanctions Regime in Iraq.") That's pretty bad. But how does it justify killing a million people with sanctions and another million with a subsequent invasion in 2003 when the population had nothing to do with it and couldn't prevent it?

Contrast the 1000 dead in Kuwait with another invasion that happened 8 months earlier. In this case it was the United States invading Panama. There is dispute about the numbers killed apparently, with the U.S. government claiming a mere 200 civilians were killed verses multiple human rights organizations that claim that it was several thousand. If you watch the academy award winning documentary The Panama Deception and take a look at the blocks and blocks of flattened homes, random corpses, and evidence that media was entirely restricted, and in the case of one journalist even executed, it's hard to find the U.S. claims to be believable, but regardless it was an atrocity of at least a similar order of magnitude as that of Saddam Hussein.

So would it be right to respond to this invasion by starving the American people? Is it right to deprive the American people of water pumps needed to grow crops and medicine for fear that they have potential dual uses? Should the American population suffer until the American government disarms? These are questions that people just don't seem to ask. Yet they are fair questions for those that adhere to elementary moral principles, such as the belief that we should demand that we are held to the same standards we require of others.


Jon said...

A comment for my own record keeping. Below is a link to a list of questions from the Iraqi government posed to the UN Security Council during a later sanctions phase where they asked basically why one set of standards applies to Iraq and another to a certain permanent member of the Security Council.


Jon said...

Here are a few figures regarding the casualties in Panama via the documentary I link to above (watch parts 9 and 10 for details)

The U.S. estimates on the order of 250 civilians killed, approximately 500 persons total. The Human Rights Organization estimates are as follows:

National Human Rights Commission of Panama-4000

UN Human Rights Commission - 2500 to 3000

The two major independent human rights organizations in the region (Codehuca and Conadehupa) estimate 2500 to 3000 in the case of the former, 3500 in the case of the later.

The Panamanian group The Association of the Dead - 4000

They said 15 (or maybe 19, don't remember exactly) mass graves have been uncovered.

So I guess you have to decide who you want to believe.

HispanicPundit said...

Stuff like this never made sense to me. Are you really arguing that Saddam didn't have the money to feed, cloth, and give medical attention to his own people? Look at his mansions, his stockpiles of money.

This whole post assumes that more money given to Saddam would have meant more money given to his people - a dubious assumption, to say the least.

Jon said...

Saddam was not in charge of the money that was made available for the people of Iraq during the sanctions regime. The funds that came available by oil for food sales went directly into a Bank in Paris and were directly managed by the U.N. with heavy U.S. and British influence. Everyone always knew exactly what was available, what was spent, and how it was spent, and they also knew that the consequences were catastrophic for the Iraqi people.

Saddam did manage to acquire funds through illegal sales that were over and above what was permissible under the oil for food program, but he did this with the full knowledge of all and nobody really cared. It wasn't huge money and the sales were to U.S. allies (Turkey, Syria, Jordan I believe). The vast majority of that money was spent on running his government. A small part was spent on luxury items for himself. This could have alleviated Iraqi suffering to a minor degree and Saddam was a scumbag, so what do you expect? None of that changes the fact that starvation was imposed on the Iraqi people, punishing them for sins of Saddam that they had no ability to control.

Any thoughts on the Panama part of the post?