Hot Buttered Death
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Tuesday, February 18, 2003  

From today's editorial in the Telegraph:

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of ordinary people took advantage of this freedom, marching—as is their right—against the Federal Government's apparent determination to join in a war against Iraq.
No criticism should attach to anyone who took part in those protest marches, for they are entitled to their opinions and entitled to express them in such a way.

This is an advance on some of Campbell Reid's earlier statements, at least in that he now seems to grudgingly accept that not everyone necessarily agrees with government policy. Then he reminds us:

Yet another fundamental truth also confronts us. Saddam Hussein heads a murderous regime and according to the most reliable evidence, he has an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. In addition, he is strongly suspected of sponsoring Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation. He has murdered hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of his own citizens and he remains in "material breach", as the Americans say, of United Nations Resolution 1441. [...]
The marchers opposed the suffering which war inevitably entails. They should also oppose the suffering which Saddam has inflicted on his own people.

Let's leave aside for the moment the fact that the majority of protestors, if you actually asked them, would probably say they do oppose said suffering (no sense finding out what people actually think when you can just smear them en masse, eh), and that being anti-war does not automatically equal being pro-Saddam. Let's just note for now that this is a not uncommon method, as far as I can see, of putting down the anti-war crowd, i.e. accusing them of being insufficiently concerned about the people of Iraq both now and in the past. Paul Sheehan, for example:

What is ambiguous about this movement is its timing. Twenty-three million Iraqis live under the jackboot of Saddam's vast apparatus of oppression (the remaining 1 million Iraqis are wearing the jackboots). Yet where were the mass street demonstrators when Saddam was gassing, murdering and displacing hundreds of thousands of Kurds? Or invading Iran? Or invading Kuwait? Or wiping out the Madan tribes?

David Pryce-Jones goes further and accuses the protestors of racism:

No one knows better than the Arabs the horror of being oppressed. No one knows better than they that tyrannical oppression is all that they will get so long as Saddam and his family are in power. Saddam's despotism is not a denial of "Western" freedom: it's a denial of the freedom that every person needs to be able to live a worthwhile life. To imagine that the Iraqis don't want to be freed, or are not entitled to it, is simply to suppose that they are less human than us.

Reid's editorial wasn't even the only manifestation of it in today's Telegraph; you could see it on the letters pages and in the sidebar to Piers Akerman's column today (parenthetically, isn't it damn annoying that the Telegraph doesn't put the sidebar bits online with the rest of the column?).

To be honest, it's a fair question. Where indeed were these people? And for that matter, where were their critics?

Maybe it's just my shoddy memory, but in the years since Gulf War the First, I don't recall there being many protest marches against Saddam killing his own people. Come to think of it, I don't see too many happening now, either. So where are all the pro-war marches? How come we don't see Messrs Reid, Sheehan, Pryce-Jones, Akerman and all those people sniping in the Telegraph letters page leading protests of their own to demonstrate the greatness of their own concern for the people of Iraq? Or is the Liberal Media Bias Conspiracy working to keep them out of view or something?

posted by James Russell | 4:18 PM

what the critics have said