Let’s be clear about something. An invasion of Iraq is one of the great debates in recent history, and its effects will ripple into the next decade. It is a legitimate position to either support or oppose the war, and one’s opinion of the Iraqi regime is only one of the factors that influence each individual’s decision. But what is not legitimate is how self-righteous “peace” advocates turn what should be complex moral calculus into third grade arithmetic. The irony of the anti-war position based on gut-level morality alone is that, in reality, moral impulses are one of the strongest arguments for war.
Morality in this case refers to humanitarian concerns, particularly for the impact of war on Iraqis. But how many more times do we have to hear apologies like, “Yes, we realize Saddam Hussein is an unsavory character, but…?” If you really care about the fate of the Iraqis, you have to admit that he’s not just a “bad guy.” He’s a monster responsible for some of the most significant crimes against humanity since World War II.
The record of totalitarian dictators is so damning they should be opposed instinctively. There are many tyrants in the world today, but there is a strong case that Hussein is the most flagrant and dangerous one. His behavior has made him more than deserving of our uncompromising repulsion.
Hussein is an admiring student of Stalin, on whose police state he has modeled his own. Sure, there are many dictators in the world – but not all of them have prisons for the children of political dissidents. Yes, many governments employ torture, but Iraq has made it the basis of its rule. Iraq dips victims into vats of acid, employs professional rapists and beheads mothers in front of their children. Unconstrained one-man dictatorships help explain why Hussein has started two wars. Only a few dictators still alive today have the distinction of having committed genocide. Even fewer are still in power, and Hussein is one of them.
Given his record you’d think there’d be a little more outrage or at least a little less self-assuredness in opposing the war because of humanitarianism. Whether you like it or not, opposing the war is defending the status quo. Being against the war is being against the only hope of liberation for Iraqis.
How bad does he have to be? Maybe we need to wait to see what acts of peace Hussein will commit once he gets his long-sought-after nuke, allowing him to execute with impunity any plans he might have? Wishful thinking and real dictators often collide with horrible results.
A student in Santa Barbara can feel perfectly at peace right now with Hussein in power. But perhaps we should consider the perspective of those with greater proximity to the dictator himself. Indulging in a little moral vanity is easy when you’re not living in a republic of fear.
How do Iraqis feel about us getting rid of Hussein? You won’t see any Iraqis marching in anti-war protests. Instead, virtually every Iraqi who has escaped (almost one-sixth the population already) has expressed their hope for its downfall. Many say they fear speaking out because of what Hussein would do to their families back home.
Our government’s relationship to the Iraqi people is troubling. After the Gulf War, we pledged to help them overthrow their tyrant, then 15 out of 18 provinces revolted and we didn’t. Symbolically, it’s just like the Iraqi who last month jumped into a U.N. vehicle, crying “Save me! Save me!” before being dragged off by security officials while U.N. personnel looked on.
As for those who are still skeptical of the nature of Hussein’s rule, just wait until he’s gone and people begin digging up the mass graves, recording testimonies of genocide victims, unlocking the prisons and sorting through the Ba’ath party documents. Then the reason why Hussein deserves our unrelenting loathing will be put into starker contrast. You can have your reasons for opposing an invasion. But humanitarianism should be the last of them.
Joey Tartakovsky is a junior global studies and Slavic studies major.