Politics & Policy

Antiwar Shame

Facing liberation.

“No Saddam Hussein!” called one young man. “Bush!”

Another young man named Abdullah cheered the arriving Americans. “Saddam Hussein is no good. Saddam Hussein a butcher.”

An old woman, dressed all in black, hugged an American woman. And knelt at the feet of the Americans. A man pulled her away, sliding his finger across his throat in a signal not to make friends with the enemy.

“Americans very good,” a man named Ali Khemy said. “Iraq wants to be free.”

Some of the townspeople chanted, “Ameriki! Ameriki!” Others put makeshift white flags on their cars and trucks. And many simply patted their bellies in a sign of hunger.

These are all scenes from the liberation of Safwan, Iraq — a “poor, dirty, wrecked” town near the border with Kuwait. Before crowds of Iraqis, American Marines used their jeeps to pull down portraits of Saddam. Maj. David “Bull” Gurfein told the people of Safwan: “Saddam is done” and launched them in a cheer: “Iraqis! Iraqis! Iraqis!”

This is all from a single Associated Press report from one town, 375 miles from Baghdad. There’s every reason to assume that such stories will be multiplied a hundred, if not a thousand times over as U.S. forces approach the capital of the Republic of Fear. Even though the residents of southern Iraq have every reason to be suspicious of American altruism. Last time, we refused to topple Saddam ourselves — as Major Gurfein himself noted. “We stopped in Kuwait that time,” he said. “We were all ready to come up there then, and we never did.” Afterwards we told the Shiites of the south to rebel against Saddam, and they did. Then we did nothing as Saddam slaughtered the Shia, forcing some to lie down in the road and be paved over, alive, with asphalt.

There are two immediate lessons to be drawn from this. First, the slaughter, torture, and terror hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of Iraqis faced was the consequence of not war, but the lack of it. If we had toppled Saddam in 1991, we would have improved both the lives of Iraqis and the security of the United States. It was the premature peace that prolonged the suffering. “Peace” was the moral horror these last twelve years. Giving peace a chance for the last twelve years cost more lives and caused more suffering — by a wide margin — than this war is likely to. Giving peace a chance by playing games in the U.N. and by dickering around with “proportionate responses,” emboldened and enraged Osama bin Laden and his cadres. Giving peace a chance made it necessary for the United States to shlep its way back to Iraq one more time. Giving peace a chance is what made the people of Safwan hungry and grateful and suspicious of American charity all at once.

The second lesson is even more painful. The alleviation of Iraqi suffering, the liberation of the people of Safwan and of all of Iraq, makes many puke. Some, quite literally. Antiwar protesters in San Francisco organized a “vomit-in” yesterday to show how the war “made them sick.” They regurgitated on cue, their bellies full of milk dyed red, on the steps of federal buildings in downtown San Francisco. Meanwhile other, merely metaphorically nauseous protesters snarled traffic and generally made asses of themselves in the name of ensuring that the people of Iraq were never liberated. Similar protests were held all over America and the world by people who can most charitably be described as Saddam’s useful idiots.

These people say they want Iraq to be free, that it’s just the war that makes them sick. Well, at best, this is childishness of the first order. It is a refusal to condone the only means that will ensure the desired ends. It is akin to demanding that a doctor excise a tumor but demanding with even greater righteousness that he not use a scalpel. Imagine reasoning with a child:

“Do you want to be able to leave the hospital and be able to play baseball with your friends?”


“Well, then you have to have this surgery.”


“No buts. That’s it. Period.”

I view those who talk about “indicting Saddam” or “shaming Saddam” as alternative routes to fixing Iraq like children now. They might as well say, “We can just click our heels together three times.” (This radio exchange sums up my attitude perfectly).

But however much contempt I have for the radical chic here at home, I have even more for the protesters abroad. At least those in America and Britain who take to the streets to stop the war are protesting actions by their own democratic governments. They can at least claim that America is acting against its own interests.

But these people in France, in Mexico, in Cairo, and elsewhere around the globe — these people have made an outrageous moral choice. Their protests are not couched in terms of national interest, even though their own governments are behaving exactly as they would have them behave. No, these foreign critics have made a moral judgment about the United States and the regime of Saddam Hussein and, when forced to choose, they picked Saddam.

Of all the wars and conflicts all around the globe, this is the one that has caused them to spill out onto the boulevards in rage. This is the one they’ve decided warrants human shields and boycotts. There were no human shields boarding buses to defend the Kurds or the Kuwaitis from Saddam Hussein — but they’re falling over themselves for the opportunity to get in our way when we try to defend or liberate them. The useful idiots didn’t rend their clothes and gnash their teeth when the Soviets invaded Kabul, but they were out in force when we liberated it. In short, these people don’t hate war or care for the innocent nearly so much as they hate America.

Like it or not, war forces people to choose sides. If the vomiting protesters had had their way the United States would never have bombed Saddam’s bunker. If they had their way, U.S. tanks would be turned around right now and we would apologize to Iraq, to France, and to the world for daring to shatter that glorious peace that allowed Saddam Hussein to keep the professional rapists’ guild working overtime and the people of Safwan patting their empty bellies.

If the war goes well and the people of Iraq are saved, let the useful idiots cheer the liberation if they like. Let them applaud the alleviation of famine and disease should they feel so inclined. Indeed, let them claim all they like that they wanted all of these good things too. But don’t let them forget that they never believed these things would be worth it if the price was letting America have its way.


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