Along the Tracks

Friday, January 31, 2003

Multi-pronged attack

No, I’m not giving away the Allied war plan on Iraq. Rather, check out the New York Times opinion page today. Not one, not two, but three op-eds arguing against American policy toward Iraq.

The first, by Ethan Bronner, slips you into “contemporary Europe” at Basel airport along the Rhine, where you can end up in France, Germany or Switzerland by walking down different exits. Proof, says Bronner, that Europe has become “a near-haven of harmonious coexistence.” What he fails to mention is that it took five-plus years of blood, followed by decades of occupation, to create this “haven.” The snotty dismissal of the support shown by eight European leaders in a letter makes it clear Bronner believes Old Europe to be the only Europe.

Nicholas Kristof’s piece is disappointing, if not all that surprising. Kristof has been known to stray off the NYT’s editorial reservation now and again, admitting the Bush administration may be right, occasionally, in its foreign policy directions. It would appear Howell Raines has reined in Nick on this one. Here, Kristof ties together a defense of Franco-German anti-Americanism with a root-causes indictment of America’s inadvertent encouragement of terrorism by its mere presence in the Middle East. But if you think he’s against unilateral use of force, think again! “In retrospect we should have ignored the Europeans and unilaterally attacked Serbia to stop the genocide. Ditto in Rwanda. But in Iraq there is no such urgency.” So “yes” to unilateralism to protect others, “no” to unilateralism to protect ourselves. How convenient a position for liberals to take.

The third in this trite trifecta is perhaps the most morally bankrupt piece the Times has run in its entire campaign defending Saddam. Today, Stephen C. Pelletiere, a former CIA analyst and Army War College professor, makes the stunning claim that, because Saddam’s chemical weapons attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja took place during the tail-end of the Iran-Iraq War, and Iranian troops or Kurdish insurgents may have been the target, this was merely an act of war and not an example of civilian slaughter or genocide. He even suggests it may have been Iran which gassed the Kurds.

Think about the incongruity of these statements. On the one hand, the gassing was aimed at Iranians and Kurd rebels - Kurds, at the least, we know died in the attack. So Pelletiere is arguing Saddam was justified in using indiscriminate chemical weapons inside a village, where civilians would be concentrated and extremely vulnerable, because he was aiming at his enemies. Saddam was just defending himself, albeit in a sloppy fashion, so he can’t be held accountable if this scenario is true (at least in Pelletiere’s logic).

But wait: Some reports indicated it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, anyway, in which case Saddam is scot-free. Yet, wasn’t the defense a moment ago that the gas was aimed at Iranians and Kurdish rebels? Why would Iran target its own troops and allies?!

It’s a sad state of affairs when the New York Times uses its editorial might in an attempt wash blood off the hands of an aggressive, brutal, chemical-weapons-using murderer.

However, the NYT had little choice but to create this defense. After all, if America is justified acting unilaterally for humanitarian causes, Saddam’s record against civilians would be a casus bellum according to Kristof’s own argument!

Wow, the contortions necessary when your only principle is to oppose Bush!

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