April 17, 2003 Halifax Herald

Iraq war: protesters, culprits and aftermath

ALL WHO RESIDE in a democracy, except those who advocate the violent overthrow of law and order and other forms of anarchy, have the right to speak and protest and to have their opinions respected without undue interference. In theory, this is a correct assumption; but in reality, it rarely happens. The protests related to the Iraq war bring home the correctness of this conclusion with a bang.

On one side, the zealous war supporters label all who disagree with them as appeasers or traitors, and threaten them with harm if they don't see the light as prescribed by them. On the other side are the zealous "peace" proponents, who hypocritically proclaim to be peace-loving people while burning flags, destroying property, and at times causing bodily harm to law enforcement officers and others by throwing rocks and other missives at them. Both sides seem to forget that the ballot box was invented to settle such things.

Such misbehaviour does not only apply to war protests. Politicians and others have a well-developed knack for it. In Canada, we have a classic example of political revenge unravelling now. It involves political heavyweights Jean Chrétien versus Paul Martin.

Chrétien, regardless of the damage it does to the country or the Liberal party, intends to hang on to power to the bitter end, hoping desperately that a star performer will miraculously burst upon the scene to block his rival - which isn't going to happen. He does this in spite of the fact that Paul Martin helped him immeasurably to win three elections. Nothing like biting the hand that helped feed you. However, in the end, barring some absolutely idiotic blunder on his part, Martin will be prime minister.

Back to the war and its fallout. Who are the culprits? Without question, Saddam Hussein certainly is. In fact, he has been for several decades, almost from the time the West helped him gain power in Iraq. He is responsible for the deaths of several hundred thousand, perhaps more than a million, including the 50,000 or so Iraqi citizens he killed after the first Gulf War in 1991. These were the Shiites and Kurds who, encouraged by the coalition, rose up against him. Then the allies, after abandoning them, watched unconcerned as Saddam took revenge.

Is George W. Bush the culprit? Not really. He's just diplomatically inept and surrounded by people who harbour the colonial mentality that terror will get your enemy to love you. I believe, given the intransigence of Saddam, that eventually the West would have had to disarm him anyway by force. But the inspectors should have been given more time, with a hard deadline set for him to demonstrate that he had disarmed. Perhaps the end of September 2003 would have been sufficient time; the invasion date, if there was no compliance, could have been set for Oct. 1.

But there was a big factor that encouraged Bush not to wait: Great Britain's Tony Blair. He, by supporting immediate action instead of insisting on a well-thought-out diplomatic plan to bring the vast majority of world leaders on board to contain Saddam, encouraged Bush to thumb his nose at them. If not for Blair, Bush would have had to consider the fact that he would be mounting an attack alone, which might have deterred him. But with Blair enthusiastically promoting immediate action, the die was cast.

However, now that the iron's in the fire, for our own long-term security, we have to unite with the U.S. and find a solution that will in the long run mollify Arab public opinion and set the stage for the emergence of a free and united Iraq. This, in spite of what Bush's hawks might think, cannot be accomplished by the U.S. alone.

This reality also includes making war. During the debate leading up to the Iraq war, I often heard individuals state the United States can do whatever it wants and no country can stop it. This is nonsense. Both China and Russia, if they should choose to use it, have enough nuclear power to stop the U.S. cold. However, in the process, they would stop all mankind.

I also heard, during the war debate, a rash of anti-American words spewed forth by several Canadian politicians.

Carolyn Parrish stated she hated Americans. Why? More Americans opposed the war than the entire population of Canada. In any event, the president made a case for war that the American majority bought - in the U.S., the majority rules. Compare this with Canada, where a prime minister has ruled with minority backing for more than 10 years (41 per cent the last election), and does whatever he pleases - no majority rule here. Perhaps instead of shooting off uninformed, she should mount a campaign for something useful - i.e., reform of the Canadian political system.

Cabinet minister Herb Dhaliwal said Bush was unstatesmanlike. I think by publicly uttering such a thing, Dhaliwal demonstrated just how unstatesmanlike he himself is.

I like Americans, especially my hundreds of relatives and friends. Do I dislike some American leaders, some individuals, and some of the things the U.S. does? Indeed I do. But I also dislike some Canadian politicians and some fellow citizens, especially those who feather their own nests at the expense of the poor and downtrodden.

I'll close with a hard, cold fact: The United States, like it or not, is the reason that we're free and able to write things like I wrote in this column.

Daniel N. Paul


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