Jewish World Review March 12, 2003 / 8 Adar II, 5763

Jonathan Gurwitz

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Will all of those, ahem, "sincere" peace activists remember the Iraqis tomorrow? | The farther you get from Baghdad, and the less you hear from Iraqis who have suffered under Saddam Hussein's barbaric 23-year rule, the easier it is to make excuses for keeping Saddam in power.

Saddam has the blood of more than 1 million people on his hands: Iranians, Kuwaitis and Israelis; but mostly his own people - Kurds, Shiite Muslims and Iraqis of all ethnic backgrounds seeking political reform and basic human rights. Yet Sean Penn, the poster boy of Hollywood's intellectual and moral bankruptcy with regard to Iraq, says that whether there is war or even the continuation of U.N. sanctions against Saddam, "the blood of Americans and Iraqis alike will be on our hands." Saddam's hands are, self-evidently, clean.

Look closely at the "Not in Our Name" petition appearing across this country, and you'll see the same formula. The "Not in Our Name Statement of Conscience" contains a litany of evils committed by the United States across the globe. You'll even read about Israeli tanks and bulldozers leaving "a terrible trail of death and destruction." But you won't read a word - not one - about Saddam Hussein. Not the thousands stashed away and tortured in his gulag; not the tens of thousands killed or maimed in chemical weapons attacks; not the hundreds of thousands more killed by his other acts of aggression.

It's the same story at so-called peace rallies across the United States and Europe. Look at the signs in the crowd. "Bush and Sharon - War Criminals" - would it hurt to add a third name to the list? "Freedom for Palestine" - if it's such a good idea for Palestinians, why not for Iraqis too?

But you'll never see a sign at a "peace rally" labeling Saddam a war criminal, or calling for freedom for Iraq, or even asking that Saddam simply comply with U.N. resolutions to disarm, because it detracts from the fundamental goal of the movement's leaders - to demonize the United States, Israel, George W. Bush and Tony Blair, and whitewash the horrendous record of Saddam Hussein.

There are many who have legitimate concerns about a conflict with Iraq and its consequences for both Iraqis and Americans. But allowing those concerns to commingle with knee-jerk anti-Americanism and, often, latent anti-Semitism delegitimizes those concerns and the people who voice them.

Comedian Dennis Miller, one of the few voices of balance in the entertainment industry when it comes to Iraq, recently offered some advice to peace activists: "If you're in a peace march and the guy next to you has a sign saying that 'Bush is Hitler,' forget the peace thing for a second and beat his ass, because he is not Hitler."

At the London protest last month, a group of Iraqis bearing signs reading "Freedom for Iraq" and "American rule, a thousand times better than Takriti tyranny" attempted to join the ranks of the marchers. They were turned away by march supervisors. Photographs showing the Kurdish victims of Saddam's 1988 chemical attack on Halabja were confiscated.

Salima Kazim, an Iraqi grandmother whose three sons - political dissidents - were murdered by Saddam, approached the rostrum and asked, "Could I have the microphone for one minute to tell the people about my life?" The speaker, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, replied to the old woman, "Today is not about Saddam Hussein." And there you have the moral conundrum of the peace movement - nothing is about Saddam Hussein.

The Christian Science Monitor last week ran a letter from another Iraqi dissident asking what the antiwar protesters will do if they are successful:

"Will you also demonstrate and demand 'peaceful' actions to cure the abysmal human rights violations of the Iraqi people under the rule of Saddam Hussein? Or will you simply forget about us Iraqis once you discredit George W. Bush?

"Will you question why Hussein builds lavish palaces while his people are suffering? Or will you simply blame it all on U.N. sanctions and U.S. 'hegemony?'

"Will you decry the hypocritical oil and arms commerce of France, Germany, Russia and China with the butcher of Baghdad? Or are you only against U.S. interests in Iraqi oil?

"Will you hear the cries of Iraqis executed in acid tanks in Baghdad, the Iraqi women raped in front of their husbands and fathers to extract confessions, or of children tortured in front of their parents?

"No. I suspect that most of you will simply retire to your cappuccino cafes to brainstorm the next hot topic to protest, and that you will simply forget about us Iraqis."

JWR contributor Jonathan Gurwitz is a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News. Comment by clicking here.


02/27/03: Blood already on UN inspectors' hands

© 2003, Jonathan Gurwitz