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Saddam’s Racism
Where's the American Left?


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Paul Kengor

The slogans of the antiwar movement are by now quite familiar: No blood for oil. Wage peace, not war. Drop Bush not bombs. It is no secret that most of the protesters are on the left politically. Therein lies an interesting irony: In the case of Saddam Hussein and Iraq, those calling for an end to American imperialism or Bush “war crimes” are ignoring one of their longtime favorite sins — racism. As protesters angrily march in cities throughout America and the world, statements denouncing the rabid racism of Saddam have been noticeably missing in action.

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Liberals have always been good at rooting out racism. There is seemingly nothing they detest more. We commend them for that. Offensive racial comments scarcely go unpunished — just ask Jim Moran or Trent Lott. The Left is the undisputed watchdog of American bigotry. Liberals are so vigilant that they frequently decipher racism where it doesn’t exist. A conservative who opposes affirmative action or hate-crime legislation will often quickly get tagged with the scarlet “R.”

This is why the Left’s neglect of Saddam’s lengthy track record of hate and intolerance is all the more baffling. Indeed, Saddam is a racist by the truest definition of the word: He hates certain groups, and even tries to murder people in those groups, precisely because of their mere race. Saddam is not a bigot because, say, he opposes racial profiling at airports. He is a bigot because he tries to exterminate entire groups of people based solely on their race. Some of his frightening actions constitute genocidal racism.

Nowhere has Saddam’s racism been more apparent than in his actions against Iraq’s Kurdish minority, where his personal hatred of Kurds achieved horrific dimensions. Saddam’s Anfal Campaign in the 1980s involved human-rights violations of the most heinous variety. According to Human Rights Watch, the campaign resulted in the death of at least 50,000 to 100,000 Iraqi Kurds. The U.S. State Department describes the campaign as including the “worst ever chemical weapons attack against a civilian population.” Mass executions, arbitrary jailings, and unsolved disappearances were the norm. 2,000 Kurdish villages were destroyed, causing massive displacement. 1.2 to 1.4 million refugees fled to Iran, and another 500,000 became refugees in the northern no-fly zone.

Rather than even mention these atrocities, let alone focus on them, the antiwar movement hurls invectives at President Bush. The Left seems more vocal about minority preferences for admission at the University of Michigan than the 40 separate gas attacks against Kurds in 1987-88.

Saddam has also waged war against the thousands of marsh dwellers in Southern Iraq. These predominantly Shia Muslims — identified as “monkey-faced” and “subhuman” by the Iraqi press — have had a culture thousands of years old decimated by a concerted campaign to destroy the Al Amarah and Hawr al Hammar marshes. Since the Shia uprising following the first Gulf War, Saddam’s regime has attempted to dry the whole region, largely succeeding. The United Nations Environmental Program believes that by May 2001 more than 90 percent of the aforementioned marshes were almost completely dry. The marshes that once were home to nearly a quarter of a million men, women, and children now supports less than 10,000.

This was routine ethnic cleansing by Saddam — another day at the office.

Saddam’s mistreatment of the Shia goes beyond the destruction of their home. Following the previously mentioned insurrection after the Gulf War, at least 30,000 to 60,000 Shia were executed, according to the U.S. State Department. Even more recently, the Iraqi regime destroyed the southern town of Albu Aysh sometime between September 1998 and December 1999. The regime was careful to destroy only houses and businesses, not government or military buildings. This stands in stark contrast to the precision air strikes of allied forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, where great care is taken to hit strictly governmental and military targets. The protesters who filled the streets of Chicago might want to consider which action ought to merit greater outrage.

In addition, Saddam’s hatred of Jews and the state of Israel is no secret. He is a well-known financier of Palestinian suicide bombers who provide the service of killing Jews. Almost a year ago, Saddam offered the families of such suicide bombers a $15,000 raise — the $10,000 payment was increased to $25,000. Leading up to the first Gulf War, Saddam threatened to “scorch half of Israel” with poison gas. In 1990, Saddam called Israel — the only country in the Middle East where Arabs can vote — an “evil entity.”

Lastly, it must be stressed that this racism pervades Saddam’s regime. Racial epithets by Iraqi emissaries are commonplace even at diplomatic venues like the United Nations and Arab League. To cite just one of many examples, during the Arab League Summit in Egypt on March 5, the Iraqi representative called the Kuwaiti representative a monkey. Try as we might, we recall no similar name-calling by the likes of Donald Rumsfeld.

Such examples of blatant prejudice, which usually drive the left wild, are conspicuously absent from the shouts of antiwar protesters. Instead, incredibly, their placards puzzlingly condemn George W. Bush as a bigot, as the president dispatches over 100,000 white-male soldiers to risk their lives liberating Iraqis.

It is remarkable that the antiwar Left, a political constituency that prides itself on battling racism from South Africa to Cal-Berkeley, can so consistently ignore the blatant bigotry of Saddam Hussein. The first casualty of the Left’s war against regime change in Iraq appears to be its own internal consistency. The hypocrisy here is extraordinary, but not surprising.

— Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His forthcoming book is Reagan, God, and the Evil Empire. Matt Sitman is a research assistant at Grove City College.



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