August 01, 2003

Second Thoughts on Iraq

In the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq, I had a couple of email exchanges with family and friends who were sympathetic to those people who referred to themselves as "human shields", "peace workers", etc., who were traveling to Iraq to protest U.S. policy and "wage peace".

My correspondents bristled at my suggestion that these people were effectively functioning as propaganda agents for Saddam, that they were being exploited in the service of his regime, and were in far more danger from Saddam and his henchman than they were from coalition bombs. This "second thoughts" story by Charles M. Brown is not the first such account by "shields" types who went to Iraq and came back having had their eyes opened by what they encountered. But because it is written by one of the founders of this particular organization, it possesses some unique insights into the thinking behind the "Before" picture, and how that picture changed, for him at least, as he came to understand how blinkered was the view of his colleagues. Brown's group pre-dated the Iraqi invasion, protesting U.N. sanctions for years, but what they shared with their successors, the human shields, was their seeming indifference to the nature of Saddam's regime, as long as they were opposing U.S. policies. For example:

To be perfectly frank, we were less concerned with the suffering of the Iraqi people than we were in maintaining our moral challenge to U.S. foreign policy. We did not agitate for an end to sanctions for purely humanitarian reasons; it was more important to us to maintain our moral challenge to "violent" U.S. foreign policy, regardless of what happened in Iraq. For example, had we been truly interested in alleviating the suffering in Iraq, we might have considered pushing for an expanded Oil-for-Food program. Nothing could have interested us less. Indeed, we even regarded the paltry amounts of aid that we did bring to Iraq as a logistical hassle. When it suited us, we portrayed ourselves as a humanitarian nongovernmental organization and at other times as a political group lobbying for a policy change. In our attempt to have it both ways, we failed in both of these missions.

We were so preoccupied with our own agenda that we didn't notice or care that the regime made use of us. When critics asked us whether the group was being exploited by the Iraqi regime, we obfuscated, and in so doing put Saddam and his minions on the same level as the U.S. government...

Posted by dan at August 1, 2003 12:55 AM
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