23 March 2003

Removing Saddam

I must be missing something. A brutal dictator is being removed from power, yet there are people who are upset about this. How strange.

Saddam Hussein became president of Iraq in 1979 and since then his specialty has been in torturing and massacring his own people.

“Iraq under Saddam’s regime has become a land of hopelessness, sadness, and fear. A country where people are ethnically cleansed; prisoners are tortured in more than 300 prisons in Iraq. Rape is systematic...congenital malformation, birth defects, infertility, cancer, and various disorders are the results of Saddam’s gassing of his own people...the killing and torturing of husbands in front of their wives and children...Iraq under Saddam has become a hell and a museum of crimes.” - Safia Al Souhail, Iraqi citizen, Advocacy Director, International Alliance for Justice.

Tens of thousands have disappeared under Saddam’s rule. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International put the number of disappeared between 70 and 150 thousand persons. According to the United Nations, the second largest targeted group are the Shi’a Muslims. “Ahmed” an anonymous current Iraqi citizen told The Christian Science Monitor (10/31/02) that “If you are arrested, your life is over.”

Saddam has poison gassed his own people. Between 1983 and 1988, he murdered more than 60,000 Iraqi citizens with mustard gas and nerve agents, including women and children. Against the Kurdish population, he used these chemical weapons against more than 40 villages. These weapons not only murder the population, but disfigures, causes cancer and other medical nightmares.

Women and children have no chance in having a normal life under Saddam’s rule. Women are raped and tortured if someone in their family is thought to be disloyal. In another instance, an obstetrician was arrested for criticizing the corruption in the health services. She was then beheaded under the guise of being a prostitute.

Since the last Gulf War Saddam has built himself 48 beautiful palaces, using the money in the oil-for-food program which was supposed to go toward the betterment of the people of Iraq. Pharmaceutical supplies have been exported for resale. Medicine for children is unable to get into the country due to the fact that the government officials expect bribes from medical suppliers. He obviously doesn’t care about the children.

Let’s not forget those non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction. Saddam has not only already sent those non-existent missiles against the American forces, but on Sunday afternoon, the U.S. 3rd Infantry captured a non-existent chemical weapons plant. How about that?

While it seems that all this information is well known, why is it that France, Russia, Germany and China are against the United States action? Self-interest is the key.

The Heritage Foundation has documented the billions of dollars that has been made off of Saddam Hussein. France is Iraq’s largest European trading partner handling more than 22.5% of Iraq’s imports. They are interested in Iraqi oil. France’s largest oil company Total Fina Elf, negotiated a deal to develop the Majnoon field in western Iraq which contains up to 30 billion barrels of oil. If Saddam is removed, this contract may go to another company, possibly non-French.

Russia is also a good friend of Saddam with Russia controlling 5.8% of Iraq’s annual imports. Their total trade with Iraq was between $530 million and $1 billion for the 6 months ending in December 2001. Iraqi oil seems to be the main issue here too. Russia’s LUKoil currently holds a $4 billion, 23 year contract to rehabilitate the 15 billion barrel West Qurna field in southern Iraq. In 2002, Russia and Iraq signed an agreement worth $40 billion, allowing oil exploration throughout western Iraq. Iraq is also owes Russia $8 billion due to arm sales during the Iran-Iraq war. They too are worried if a new leadership is installed in Iraq.

Germany is next on the list doing 350 million dollars annually in direct trade with Iraq, with another $1 billion through third parties. Next is China. China controls about 5.8% of Iraqi annual imports. They also have a contract to negotiate a 22 year long deal for future oil exploration in the Al Ahdad field in southern Iraq worth billions.

We have seen the terror that has controlled the lives of everyday Iraqis. They live in constant fear of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person and ending up being tortured and murdered. If they are Kurdish or Shi’a they may be removed from their homes or gassed. Those non-existent WMD are now in the open to see. The United States has taken the moral high ground in eliminating the monster of Iraq and creating a democratic system. It’s too bad that France, Russia, Germany and China can’t see past their financial interests in order to do the right thing.

01 March 2003

American Idealism and the World

The United States was founded on certain principles 226 years ago. These principles form the basis of our country’s identity, and to a certain extent our own individual outlook on life. While we continue to live our lives without thinking about these principles, it is important from time to time to consider how they impact us today.

This country was founded on the ideals found in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As we know, these ideals were not able to be realized by some portions of the American population, and over time we have been able to correct our failings by using these ideals as a framework for these corrections. An example of this was the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Using the rhetoric of “all men are created equal” and that all people have “inalienable rights”, Dr. Martin Luther King was able to attach the Civil Rights Movement to the Greater Good to which America’s ideals are a foundation. Today we see other corrections being made to on our path by using these same ideals as a foundation to the cause at hand.

America began as a haven for those who wanted religious freedoms, and has continued until today as a haven for those fleeing from political and religious persecution, as well as a place to build a financial future. We have yet to see a group of American citizens on a raft to Haiti seeking a better life.

While all this is true, we now see Americans looking to the rest of the World to determine our path. Recently this has taken the form of looking to the United Nations to be our guide.

Why is this? Is the United States unable to decide what our own best interests are that we are required to ask the rest of the World to check? We live in a new World that has never been seen before. The United States is the only superpower in the World today. We are unrivaled by any other country. According to Charles Krauthammer, a journalist for the Washington Post, “Today the American military exceeds in spending the next twenty countries combined...Its dominance extends as well to every other aspect of international life - not only military, but economic, technological, diplomatic, cultural, even linguistic...”

So here we are. The only Superpower of the World, and asking for directions. The United States has been told that in order to carry on the war on terrorism, we need World public opinion behind us. This is a thought based on a moral vision of how the world works. A nice thought but irrelevant. Krauthammer explains that “...it is impossible to understand the moral logic by which the approval of the Security Council confers moral legitimacy on this or any other enterprise. How does the blessing of the butchers of Tiananmen Square, who hold the Chinese seat on the Council, lend moral authority to anything...? On what basis is moral legitimacy lent by the support of the Kremlin, whose central interest in Iraq...is oil and the $8 billion that Iraq owes Russia in debt? Or to the French, who did everything they could to weaken the resolution, then came on board at the last minute because they saw that an Anglo-American train was leaving for Baghdad, and they didn’t want to left at the station?”

Since the end of World War II, the United States has taken the lead in World Affairs, in showing what a government should be. A government limited by the laws that formed it. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people. This is a government and country where citizen efforts can and do make a difference.

We will not be dictated to by governments looking after their own self interests at the expense of our own. We will not be dictated to by those countries that trade in human bondage and treat their women worse than animals. We will not be dictated to by those countries that run telethons to raise money for terrorist organizations. We will not be dictated to by those countries who have no moral compass. We will be the ones to decide what path to take by using the ideals upon which our country was created. We will not be asking for directions along the way.