The worldwide antiwar movement hasn't accomplished much, but it has made George Bush and not Saddam Hussein the villain in certain European precincts. The demonstrators, who might have attacked Franklin D. Roosevelt instead of Adolf Hitler two generations ago, are looking through the wrong end of their binoculars. They're appealing to abstract notions of compassion instead of real issues of humanity.
Andrew Sullivan, the blogger columnist, gets it right. The war against Saddam Hussein, he writes, has taken on the contours of the culture wars. "Almost the whole academic class, the media elites, the college-educated urbanites, the entertainment industry and so on are now reflexively antiwar." The dogma is as inflexible and nondebatable as political correctness. And yet everything that Saddam Hussein stands for is an anathema to the people who make up these categories.
In Iraq there is no free speech. Amnesty International has carefully documented the torture of Iraqi women and children in the presence of their husbands, brothers and fathers. Iraqi dissidents are tortured with cigarette burns and electric shocks, and then murdered.
George W. Bush and Tony Blair are routinely derided on the posters and placards of demonstrators as "baby killers," but it was Saddam Hussein who gassed whole Kurdish families.. At least 100,000 Kurds were killed in 'near-genocidal" proportions, the first ethnic group since the Holocaust to be targeted for death by its own government. Most of the Kurds were not murdered by poison gas, writes Jeffrey Goldberg in the New Yorker magazine, "rather the genocide was carried out, in large part, in the traditional manner, with roundups at night, mass executions, and anonymous burials."
In Amman, Jordan, where a number of dissident Iraqi exiles have fled, men show their scars from the regime's torture chambers. "The people who are protesting the war don't know what the regime is like," says one young man, showing cigarette burns on a shin and scars on neck and breast from a brutal whipping with a power-cable. He says to a reporter for the Village Voice: "You tell Bush my people are waiting for him."
The argument of the antiwar movement is for delay and containment, but since delay is really an argument for more delay, the movement is really about hating the president and the attitudes he represents. The Europeans resent our prosperity and power and show disdain for the "McCulture" they deride but can't get enough of. Recent public-opinion polls in Germany show that almost three-quarters of the Germans say America has "too much power," and more than half find us a greater threat to peace than either Iraq or North Korea.
Unlike the peaceniks of the Vietnam War era, the peaceniks so far show no sympathy or apology for Saddam Hussein; there is no cry similar to "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; Ho Chi Minh Will Win." The demonstrators have appropriated only one memorable cliché from their parents: "Make Love, Not War."
There seems scant idealism among either the American and European demonstrators, no cries for "a better world." There's mostly a continual dump on Israel for not creating a Palestinian state, which has become an acceptable form of anti-Semitism. But if Saddam Hussein is nobody's friend, expecting him to change his ways is as naïve as it would have been to expect Hitler to have changed his in the 1930s. It didn't happen then and it won't happen now; war made the difference then and war will make the difference now.
It's always impossible to "prove" what will happen in the future. That's what Tony Blair meant when he said that no one would have believed a modern-day Jeremiah saying in August 2001 that an al-Qaida terrorist network would have to be destroyed and that the only way to do it was to invade Afghanistan: "Yet, my goodness," he says, "a few weeks later, thousands of people were killed in the streets of New York." When Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor, it felt the wrath of world opinion, but who's sorry about that now?
Bill Clinton correctly identified the evil of Saddam Hussein five years ago. He saw him as the leader of a "rogue state with the weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists, drug traffickers or organized criminals who travel the world among us unnoticed." Too bad that all he did about Saddam was to give him more time.
More delay now in doing what nearly everyone agrees will have to be done sooner or later signals a deadly reluctance to deal not only with Saddam but future predators who will be - and maybe already are - gathering the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction. We can't see into the future, but we can learn from the past, if we only will.