Sunday, December 28, 2003

Justice for All, America

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi,

I received many angry e-mails in response to my last article “The Make and Break of Saddam”.
What hurts me most in many responses is the acceptance of the double-standard principle. My position is: we either have international law or we don’t; we all follow the rules or we don’t. Frankly, I was expecting more support for this fundamental principle of the American Constitution from my American readers. Instead, I was shocked to hear the infamous racist cry of “Lynch ‘em” that I thought was merely an echo of a regretted past.
Saddam is a mass murderer. He should face justice and pay for all his crimes; we agree. But we don’t agree on the selective application of justice. In any crime, partners in crime are equally judged and persecuted. If we are fair, we should also judge those who put Saddam in power, maintained his rule against the will of his people, supplied him with weapons of mass destruction, bankrolled his attacks on his neighbors and covered up for him in the worst of his crimes.
As for the application of the Geneva Convention, you can’t have exceptions for the rich and powerful, white and bright. Whether it was Saddam or Rumsfeld, foot soldiers or high-ranking officials, all should be equally tried by the rules that were established after World War II and applied to the Nazis who burned millions of Jews, gypsies and dissidents in gas chambers.
America, then a force for justice, freedom and international law, led the world into the establishment of this and other global conventions and organizations. It is baffling and disheartening that the same US would be the one to break the rules, reject the International Court of Justice, and sideline the very United Nations it worked so hard to build. This is not the America I admired, the leader of the free world and the candle of our hopes and dreams, and it shouldn’t be yours — not under this un-American, bomb-and-kill, “God-told-me-so” administration.
Saddam is one of history’s worst criminals, but so is Slobodan Milosevic, who is treated with fairness and dignity. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and Truman killed millions each (the latter used the first weapon of mass destruction in history and introduced the world to the nuclear age), and if they were to be tried I would have demanded the same for them.
Let’s be fair. Justice is blind to color, race and religion. Unless we stand selflessly by our principles against our strongest desires and greatest interests, the day will come when we sit on the same bench and wish the others would.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Monsters Made in America

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

Some of my American readers were surprised when I wrote in my last article “America the Ungrateful” about the monsters America created and then dumped. They knew about the Shah of Iran, Marcos of the Philippines and Noriega of Panama, but didn’t expect to see on the list some of America’s worst enemies, like the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
I do believe in the innocence and goodwill of the average American and hope they stay this way, but what is killing me is their below average knowledge of their country’s foreign policy and the world outside the mighty island of America.
Innocence and ignorance can breed citizens who elect and support the wrong governments, legislators and leaders.
A quick lesson in history: The US government brought to power Nasser, Qaddafi and Hussein. It knew them well, but since they were furthering US interests — or so it hoped — against colonial competitors like the UK, they were installed and maintained. The same thing happened with other friends-turned-enemies like the Taleban and Afghan Mujahedeen, this time at the expense of the Russians, Chinese and Indians. Great crimes were condoned in the good old days, because the evildoers were then the enemy of our enemy. Only when the perpetrators were deemed useless, embarrassing or dangerous, they were recast as the bad guys — as international thugs and outlaws.
I could give similar examples in different parts of the world — Africa, South America and Asia — but this space won’t allow it, so I will stick with my neighborhood. The problems here are many. First, the US created monsters and let them loose on their own country, people and neighbors. Then it dumped them, withdrew from the crime scene, and let us deal with the resulting mess.
Finally, it had to fight them and dragged us into costly wars. The worst part is: The US always ends up blaming and accusing us of complicity, which they say deserves punishment of all sorts — for example Congress-sponsored sanction bills.
I know most Americans are fair-minded, and therefore I pose a couple of questions to them: Do they regard this practice as a fair political game? Do they subscribe to such doctrine? Finally, do they accept that these blunders are committed in their name?
I await their answers, and here is my email: