02. December 2006 · Comments Off on Bush and Hussein: Pretty Much the Same? · Categories: Politics · Tags: , ,

I recently told someone that as far as I was concerned, George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein aren’t really that different from one another. I realize that’s a pretty heavy statement to make but it was really designed to provoke an interesting after-dinner discussion. The response I got back, with rolling eyes, was that Saddam Hussein killed millions of people. My friend was implying that this made the two leaders entirely different.

Well, first of all let’s get something straight: Not many people in history can claim that they’ve killed millions of people and looking at the reports available to the public, it’s clear that Hussein can’t either. The Worst Genocides
The highest estimate I was able to find, based on actual studies, is 800,000 deaths caused by the Baath Regime over the course of 20 years, 500,000 of which was a result of a ten-year war between Iran and Iraq, which by the way was perpetuated by the Reagan Administration by providing weapons to both sides. Not that this makes a huge difference with regard to Hussein’s morals, but let’s at least base our arguments on actual estimates rather than baseless generalizations.

I can’t find any reason why we shouldn’t compare this high estimate of 800,000 over 20 years to the high estimate of 650,000 deaths caused by Bush’s war in Iraq in the last three years and doing so certainly puts Bush in the same genocidal neighborhood as Hussein. Of course these are high estimates and not everyone agrees with them. The 650,000 figure comes from studies conducted by the John Hopkins University and published by the Lancet medical journal. In contrast, Bush admits to a much smaller estimate of 30,000, which is ironic considering that this figure comes from a government that refuses to do body counts. (Even the recent Iraq Study Group has found that the Pentagon has drastically under reported the level of violence in Iraq.) Another estimate comes from a UK-based research group that puts the number at about 50,000. Obviously, there are significant differences in these estimates. There usually is when dealing with war-related death tolls and that goes for the estimates for Hussein too. For instance, the official death toll reported by Iran on the Iraq-Iran war is 300,000 not 500,000; and the 300,000 deaths resulting from causes outside the Iran-Iraq war also has alternate counts, the lowest being 17,000 reported by Amnesty International. So the low estimated total for Hussein is actually 317,000 over 20 years.

Taking the timeframes into consideration also reveals some interesting insights. The low estimates yeild an average of 15,850 deaths per year from actions initiated by Hussein while the number is 7,500 deaths per year from actions initiated by Bush. Taking the high estimates we have 40,000 deaths per year for Hussein and 216,666 deaths per year for Bush.

This isn’t an exact science but my point is that both leaders have caused an enormous number of deaths so to say that one killed millions while implying that the other hasn’t killed any at all is perposterous.

But converting human deaths into numbers for playing comparison games isn’t really my intention here. I’ll leave that up to research studies and advocates such as the World Tribunal on Iraq that holds that the illegal US invasion has killed more people than Saddam Hussein ever did.

The point I was trying to make with my after-dinner statement has more to do with the disregard for human life that characterize the personalities, the ethics and the intentions of both leaders.

Hussein has been a human rights violator right from the beginning. Over his 20 years as President, he has facilitated the torture and illegal killing of thousands of people. I tend to think that this is the result of two things. First is Hussein’s disregard for human life and second is the lack of limitation on what Hussein was allowed to do. Americans are lucky to have a constitution that limits what our President can do. However, it’s become clear that the Bush administration is making strong efforts to remove some of these limitations so that just like Hussein, Bush can imprison people indefinatley without charge or representation and torture them at will.

Whatever “reasons” one may have for treating people this way has no bearing on the simple fact that you can’t do it without a disregard for human life. Even if you do your best to dehumanize the prisoner by thinking of him as a monster or a terrorist or whatever illusion you might conjure you can’t escape the simple fact that they are human beings after all.

So what’s the difference between one president who violates human rights because he has no limits and another president who is working hard to reduce his limits so he can do the same thing? It seems to me that if there is any difference between George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein, it’s in the legal limitations around them, not the disregard for humanity that apparently comes from within both of them.

additional sources:

Is Bush Next? by Paul Craig Roberts
How Many People Has Saddam Hussein Killed? by John F. Burns
Iraq Body Count

05. October 2005 · Comments Off on Bush Tells Congress to Shut Up About Detainees · Categories: Politics · Tags: , , , ,

It’s one thing to say we need more money to continue operations in Iraq, quite another to insist that everyone just shut up about the detainees that have been held under the jurisdiction of the president himself.

How can the White House proclaim a mission for freedom and democracy while persisting a policy of human rights violations? Why even persist a policy of human rights violations anyway? Well, for whatever reason the administration seems intent on doing just that. Bush’s chief counsel, Alberto Gonzales, issued a Justice Department memo arguing that  that laws prohibiting torture do “not apply to the President’s detention and interrogation of enemy combatants  and that the pain caused by an interrogation must include “injury such as death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions—in order to constitute torture.”  – as if it makes a difference, the administration has been shipping detainees off to outside countries to be tortured anyway. Probably using the same torture devices that were exported from the US under Bush’s authority. And now we have Bush telling Congress to mind it’s own business.


Bush threatens defense bill veto, warning on prisoners WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House on Friday threatened to veto a $440.2 billion defense spending bill in the Senate because it wasn’t enough money for the Pentagon and also warned lawmakers not to add any amendments to regulate the treatment of detainees or set up a commission to probe abuse.

 

 

 

19. February 2004 · Comments Off on The Pain Merchants · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture · Tags: ,

Amnesty International reports: US exports $20 million of shackles. The Bush administration approved the sale of torture devices to Yemen, Jordan, Morocco and Thailand. The total value of US exports of electro-shock weapons was $14.7 million in 2002 and exports of restraints totaled $4.4 million in the same period.

I understand the advantages to allowing the sale, companies like Smith and Wesson stand to make a lot of money in this business, but shouldn’t we excercise some kind of moral responsibility?

The Pain Merchants

28. January 2004 · Comments Off on Guantanamo Bay · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture · Tags: , ,

I’m trying to understand this one. The detainees in Guantanamo Bay. Rumsfeld called them “the most dangerous, best-trained vicious killers on the face of the earth.”

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Dick Cheney said these detainees are “devoted to killing millions of Americans.” I agree that people like that should be contained… (or executed actually, which is where I differ from AI). But I don’t understand the advantage of moving the entire process from the judicial branch to the executive branch.
Anyway, despite all this, several detainees have been released without charge. Apparently, Rumsfeld and Cheney were wrong about some of them. (whoops.)

Well this is where I start asking questions. Think about the man who has the misfortune to be mistaken. Seems more likely to happen inside the tension of war and excluded from the cost of judicial process. How long was he detained? – Two years? – What were the conditions? – Brutal?
That just doesn’t seem right to me.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, some of them have been brutalized in these cages for two years without charge, trial or legal council.
Now the president, since he owns Camp Delta, is telling the Red Cross to fuck themselves. (I bet those exact words were heared in the halls of the west wing, commming from someone.) So anyway, I assume the value of whatever is being achieved is greater than the value of the lives of perhaps several innocent people. Maybe it’s a message to all the “terrorists” of the world and of course if the real message is addressed to the “enemies of the executive office”, then the executive owned military commission makes all the sense in the world.

I just can’t get myself to believe that any such message could ever affect the most dangerous, best-trained vicious killers on the face of the earth. I don’t know why Camp Delta exists. Maybe it’s a stress crack from the strains of a distorted government.

Regardless of politics and motives, the obvious thing is that the US government is a human rights violator. Bush himself said these guys are killers “that don’t share the same value system we share”. I guess that means that they aren’t human enough to be eligible for things like human rights. I gotta believe he is serious about this because many of the human rights laws are based on legal status, such as POW, and the whitehouse is refusing to establish legal status.

I really think that these detainees should get legal status, even if it means inventing a new status for terrorists. At least shake out the POWs and let the world know they can treat American POWs humanely. I mean isn’t that an important message to send out too?

If the detainee is really a terrorist, then I personally do not sympathize with him, but I am still concerned about the violations based on principal. I think humans are capable of containing and/or executing terrorists, we don’t need to become monsters to do the job.

As I got more cynical about the world, I always found it a comfort to note in the human rights reports, that the list of human rights violations in the US, was always limited to capital punishment for criminals, which under some circumstances, I support. It’s a drag to see my country in there now for the violation of so many conventions, including Geneva and the even our own U.S. Constitution.

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