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Sunday, October 31, 2004


John Negroponte and Ann Clwyd – a post for Halloween

I have been thinking recently about John Negroponte. I still struggle to understand how he has been placed in the position of Ambassador – de facto Governor - of Iraq, and how on earth his appointment has not caused more of a stir among the pro-war left and liberals. His record precedes him, and ought to scandalize all those who supported the War on Iraq for human rights reasons.

People like Ann Clwyd MP have had a long, principled history of opposing the human rights abuses carried out by Saddam Hussein. The people in charge of the war did not. In the run up to war she famously delivered tearful speeches making the human rights case for war and regime change. I believe those tears were genuine. But given that, what can we imagine were her emotions when she took stock of the attitude towards human rights taken by some of her friends. Is her public silence on the actions of Cheney, Rumsfeld and their associated cold warriors, actions taken at the same time as the worst of Saddam’s atrocities were taking place, a result of political expediency? Does her role as Special Envoy on Human Rights in Iraq adopt a definition of human rights that is very far from universal?

John Negroponte, a man who managed the torture, rape and murder of Latin American opponents of oligarchy, plutocracy and gangster capitalism, is Ambassador of Iraq. Iyad Allawi, a Ba’athist hardman, is the interim Prime Minister of Iraq. Estimates of the number of civilian deaths resulting from the War in Iraq range from 15,000 to 100,000. In the next few days there will be a renewed assault on Falluja. Where are Ann Clywd’s condemnations of these men, or these actions? Perhaps her understanding of human rights depends of the situation, the abused, and the abusers, despite her referencing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Saddam is to stand trial for the crimes of his atrocious regime [.pdf file of UK government dossier], and of that I am glad. But it is possible for us to bring many other human rights abusers, active, like Saddam, in the 1980s, to trial. We would not need a war, we would not need shock and awe. We would simply need to political will to arrest the men and women who walk free in our societies, and in some cases occupy positions of global importance. Speak out, Ann Clwyd.

But she will not, will she? Despite Tony Blair asking the British public to use reason and not emotion, denigrating the principled opposition to war, and then using emotion – though I do not feel that emotion resides in a place separate to reason – to make the case, Ann Clwyd’s tears are genuine. But they have been used to shame the opponents of war, the opponents of handing human rights abusers the power of life and death over millions of people.

Of course, arresting human rights violators without a war is not particularly profitable. It does not require massive purchases of armaments. It does not require the militarisation of society. It undermines the national myth, and is a demand for justice first. And the Iraq War was never about justice first. Ann Clwyd may take a utilitarian view that it Iraq, and the world, are better now than they were before. I hope that she is right, but I do not think that she is.

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