Sunday, February 20, 2005

Genocide in the Garden

I must have been dozing in the early 1990's when Saddam Hussein drained the 8,000 square miles of Iraqi wetlands considered by many to be the cradle of Western civilization. Thought by Biblical scholars to be the site of the Garden of Eden, the legendary marshland was twice the size of the Everglades and teeming with thousands of bird, fish and plant species.

Genocide in the Garden

Not anymore. The butcher of Bagdad spent 8 years building dams and rerouting rivers to punish 500,000 Marsh Arabs for opposing him during the 1991 Gulf War. The area was turned into an "ecological and human disaster" said Curtis Richardson of Duke University who is heading up an international team helping to restore the marsh.

saddam hussein


This tragic, sickening scenario stops me in my tracks. What do left wing heroes Ward Churchill and Michael Moore think about this? If asked, how long do you think it would take them to blame the United States government for Saddam's policy of environmental genocide? And what sort of punishment does Saddam deserve for this indescribably vulgar and premeditated crime against the history of civilization? I really want to know.

The Story from MSNBC.


At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Yllona Richardson said...

Yes, you were definitely napping on this one. In addition to the the destruction of the "Garden of Eden", Iraq's many archeological sites have been utterly decimated by Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Iraq's archeological signifigance as the "cradle of civilization", the looting of museums, destruction of of important of archeological sites was heavily discussed in the various Arts journals. Several US soldiers were busted for bringing home historically important "souvenirs"... literally torn off the walls of thousand year old temples.

There was very little mention in the mainstream media. Here are several articles on the eradication of Iraq's cultural heritage:

Iraq: US base has caused “shocking” damage to Babylon Feb. 2005 of the VultureWhy the looting of Iraq's ancient sites shouldn't have surprised anyone -- least of all the Pentagon - Fall 2003 lesson in protecting art and antiquities Ancient History in IraqArchaeologists Worry Antiquities, Artifacts Will be Lost in War - Feb. 2003

Inside Iraq’s National MuseumA reporter on the scene in Baghdad describes how and why the looting happened
By Roger Atwood - Summer 2003 Berkeley professors deliver eulogy for lost treasures of Iraq - April, 2003

At 5:49 PM, Blogger The Green Man said...

It distresses me to see Liberals misunderstood so completely (one might almost think deliberately). I don't think anyone says Saddam Hussein was a good guy, and I don't think anyone says that anyone is responsible for what Saddam Hussein did, except Saddam Hussein.

The big question, though, is "what is the Right thing to do about it?" I don't see how we can uphold the Rule of Law by violating the Rule of Law. I don't see how we can protect Human Rights by violating Human Rights. I don't see how we can save the lives of Iraqi citizens by killing 100,000 Iraqi citizens. These contradictions are central to my continuing concerns about the conduct of the Bush administration in Iraq.

If Saddam Hussein were a criminal inside the United States (say a Gang Kingpin or a super-corrupt Governor), we would deal with this by documenting his abuses, filing charges with a competent Court that has jurisdiction to deal with him, obtaining a warrant for his arrest, sending in a SWAT team to take him while ensuring the safety of his neighbors, and placing him on trial for an open review of the evidence against him before determining whether he was responsible or not. That's how the "Rule of Law" works.

As far as I can tell, the United States has only managed to complete Step One of this process, and we were particularly clumsy about ensuring the safety of the people and structures of Iraq when we skipped ahead to Step Four.

We were unable to complete Step Two and Step Three because the United States refuses to participate in any Court that has jurisdiction to hold the rulers of nations accountable for their misdeeds. U.S. Presidents are afraid they would be called to account for their Human Rights abuses. So what gives us the Moral Authority to act as Judge and Jury for rulers of the rest of the world, if we are not willing to submit our own conduct to similar scrutiny?

The Ends do not justify the Means. Two Wrongs do not make a Right. We must bring Justice and Liberty to the World by Embodying them. Instead, the Bush Administration says "do what I say and not what I do." The United States is answerable for its own crimes, not for the crimes of Saddam Hussein.

At 10:21 PM, Blogger Patrick Anderson said...

Thank you, Yllona, for the links to articles depicting damage to portions of Iraq's archeological and historic treasures. I read the articles and was saddened by the reports. I make no excuses for the damage. The looted items may never be recovered, and only time will tell how much damage was sustained at the sites in Babylon. Our soldiers could have been ordered to prioritize the protection of museums, libraries, and archaelogical sites, over their own safety. And that leads to some very profound decisions. How do you prioritize the protection of any physical object or artifact over even one human life? Who makes that decision? That's a dilemma I can't quite come to grips with. Can you?

You might argue that we shouldn't be there in the first place. And that's really another debate. But look at the consequences of us not being there during the 1990's. 500,000 Marsh Arabs are displaced from their ancestral homeland. 8,000 square miles of the planet's most fertile and diverse land is turned into dust in less than a decade. Thousands of Kurdish men, women and children are indiscriminately gassed and chemically burned to death. Enemies are tortured beyond comprehension. Women are regularly raped to serve the sick fetishes of Sadaam's disgusting offspring. All opposition is bludgeoned without mercy. Where is the redeeming outcome in Sadaam's unfathomable viciousness? Can anyone find it for me?

I hate the war in Iraq--I HATE IT. But at least there will be one redeeming outcome: individual freedom for millions of Iraqis. That IS something worth fighting for. It's the only thing worth dying for. And, unfortunately, there's just no other way to get it.

At 10:33 PM, Blogger Patrick Anderson said...

I hear you, Green Man. I really have very little argument with you, except maybe this one. With regard to the atrocities of Sadaam Hussein, what IS the right thing to do? You asked yourself the big question, but you didn't answer it.

At 4:05 AM, Blogger Darkness said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4:36 AM, Blogger Darkness said...

Have we been tricked about this war? Here is some interesting stuff. Can someone else check the details of this stuff with me?

Wow, what have we done?

Another one. Amazing.

At 9:14 AM, Blogger The Green Man said...

I meant to suggest the Right thing to do is to handle Saddam Hussein, and any other dictator, the way one handles any other criminal -- by arresting him personally, while protecting the safety of people around him who are not implicated in his crimes. If he has a gang of supporters who will help him resist arrest, we must plan accordingly and send a team of sufficient size to overwhelm his guards. Shooting at an officer of the Law is also an actionable offense, and I think we pretty much agree, even in the most Freedom-loving nations, that our Law Enforcement are permitted to shoot back when attacked. But there has to be a way to approach it that doesn't immolate the whole country. When I begin thinking about how to do that, the plans form fairly easily in my head, and I think they are likely to be successful. If the Bush Administration can only come up with Total War as an approach, I consider that a failure of imagination.

However, in terms of what is really Right, it is a terrible mistake to think the United States has some special position to undertake such Law Enforcement actions. Our soldiers are not "Officers of the Law" in any sense that is agreed by other nations, or more generally by a majority of the people of the world. So you would err if you thought I was suggesting that U.S. soldiers should be considered the "arresting officers" in this kind of situation. Our raw power does not give us the authority to act as judge to the world. At this point, we are no better than Vigilantes, and I think we all understand that Vigilante enforcement is arbitrary, erratic, often abused, and leads to more chaos than Justice.

We would do better to work towards creating a general Rule of Law that could apply equally to all people. We were committed to that in the first half of the Twentieth Century, but we seem to have lost our taste for it once we realized that we are the largest and most powerful nation. So now we refuse to participate in any institution that might limit our own arbitrary whims, instead of remembering that the World would be stronger and safer if we all work together.

At 2:58 PM, Blogger DocRichard said...

At 10:33 PM, Patrick Anderson said...
With regard to the atrocities of Sadaam Hussein, what IS the right thing to do?

The UN is inching towards a position of "Responsibility to Protect" - of legally taking military action against governments that commit severe human rights violations. Before it does that, though, it needs a means of measuring and non-violently inhibiting human rights violations by governments. There is a proposition on this here:

At 4:04 PM, Blogger The Green Man said...

That's an interesting proposal, but I think it suffers from some fundamental errors in its approach. If you don't mind a little critique, I would suggest that it's not really possible to impose "automatic" sanctions, or rewards. When we deal with individuals, we have decided it is most fair to first propose they have violated standards, then permit them to respond, before we settle on the appropriate sanctions. I think any complaint about the government of nations would also have to allow discussion of the allegations and an opportunity for the accused to respond.

I also think an "index" is not a very good measure of law. If you imagine it at a personal level, this would be like assigning points to various social infractions, and a person who accumulated too many points would be sent to jail. It seems like this point system would require endless tinkering, and would never be "right". What we've done instead is declare specific acts that are outside the acceptable range (murder, rape, theft, and so forth), and punish each person for transgressing those specific boundaries. I think we would find that much easier to manage with nations as well. The point system sort of codifies the idea that jailing the occasional journalist, or murdering only one or two political opponents, would be OK.

Finally, as noted in the article, the United Nations needs a lot of work before it can become a legitimate Legislature for Governments. It's not only that it needs to be a representative body, so the People of the World have some chance to influence its policy. It would also need to get rid of the automatic veto power for a few powerful states, that would currently allow dictators of those nations to prevent any sanctions from being imposed on themselves.

I appreciate the impulse of this program, but I think it would be better to work towards establishing genuine International Law.

At 11:17 AM, Blogger DocRichard said...

Green Man, I am grateful for your helpful critique.

Let us start at the beginning: The Index of Governance is a simple and straightforward official measurement of human rights abuses (torture etc) of every state on the planet; Just as Amnesty International used to do in the 90s, only this time it's official - up on the UN noticeboard.

No law, no sanctions, nothing but a name-and-shame exercise. If states disagree with their placement, they can appeal. It is likely that they will chuck a load of prisoners out of jail before the UN inspectors come, so that will be nice for the prisoners already.

Amnesty letter writing campaigns have shown that states do care about world opinion. Phase 1 of the Index of Governance is just a systemic application of Amnesty's work.

So that is Phase 1. Are you OK with that?

Now for Phase 2 - sanctions. I see where you are coming from vis a vis International Law. However, like it or not, the UN is actually moving towards a position of being ready to make war on states who do genocide, on the basis of "Responsibility to Protect". They recipients of these "Humanitarian" wars are going to be the states in, say, the loswet decile of the Index of Governance. Therefore, before the UN goes to war, it should pay intensive attention to those states, along the lines laid out in the link.

The details are negotiable as far as I am concerned, but it seems to me that if the community of nations is going to go to war, it should have a pretty good non-violent set of instruments in place to put maximum pressure on the so-called "rogue" states before it does so.

Finally, the effect of all this will be to set a level playing field, as opposed to the arbitrary and capricious way in which states find themselves as a trading partner one month, and the "Hitler de nos jours" next month.

I appreciate your concerns, and will look more closely at integrating the IoG with the legal framework that you advocate. Thanks.

At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a side note...

Something must be done about the unacceptable state of the abhorrent lack of patriotism for the country that gives us more than any other in the world possibly could. Those who refuse to salute the American flag and pledge their allegiance to our great country, in this time of uncertainty in regard to terrorism, can never be trusted not to have pro-terrorist sympathies and should not be allowed to remain in America. Millions refuse, however. Something must be done.

At 12:09 PM, Blogger DocRichard said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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