Thursday, April 07, 2005

My back pages -- Tommy Denton on Iraq fourteen years ago

After the American-led coalition stopped short of entering Baghdad in 1991, Saddam Hussein savaged the rebelling Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south. Here are excerpts from an editorial written fourteen years ago today by Roanoke Times editor Tommy Denton, then at the Fort Worth Star Telegram:

Having invoked a moral imperative to expel Saddam Hussein's forces from their brutal and illegal occupation of Kuwait, George Bush now has slipped from the moral high ground. He has broken faith with the Kurdish and Shiite rebels who responded to his expressed desire that the Iraqi people overthrow Saddam and has betrayed them by failing to prevent their crushing defeat.

With the pictures of the suffering - and the slaughter - of men, women and innocent children in the last several days spreading throughout the world, Bush's decision to abandon the resistance to Saddam's atrocities drains much of the nation's sense of justified satisfaction from the triumph of the U.S.-led coalition in Desert Storm.
Curtailing offensive hostilities when Bush did may have been a "courageous and humane" act, as Schwarzkopf said, and was an appropriate response given the achievement of the immediate military objective.

But when Saddam's forces waged their vicious, unchecked attacks against the insurgents to preserve the defiant butcher's power, they extended his capacity to persist in committing inhumane, moral outrages and further threaten regional stability. Bush's failure to enforce the U.N. resolutions not only compromised the moral standing of the coalition's ultimate purpose but also resulted in beastly atrocities that were repugnant violations of the human rights of those who enlisted in the cause championed by the American president.

...Bush said that he was fearful of involving U.S. troops in a protracted internal struggle that could leave Iraq devastated physically and divided politically. That may have been a prudent decision if Realpolitik were the guiding imperative.

Yet Realpolitik was the guiding imperative that caused the world to turn its eyes away from the suffering victims of genocidal madness in Cambodia under Pol Pot.

Indifference to such bloody outrages is indefensible, in Cambodia or Iraq. Invocations of moral purpose in pursuit of just causes deserve the exercise of sufficient moral courage and resolve to see them through. President Bush has chosen to abandon that standard, and with it the pitiable masses of Saddam Hussein's vile inhumanity.

Indeed. Better late than never.