Letter to the Editor,
It seems that nearly every day there is a terrorist attack in Iraq that results in American or Iraqi deaths. Amidst the attempt to rebuild the country, head US weapons inspector David Kay has resigned from his position, saying that Saddam's weapons will probably never be found, if they in fact ever existed. The constant attacks and Kay's statements have galvanized anti-war forces both in the United States, the United Kingdom, and across the world.
However, upon a recent trip to Budapest, I became certain that even if President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair knowingly deceived the world as to the true justification for war, history should still not look wholly unfavourably on them, for they will have freed the Iraqi people from a totalitarian condition that many people of eastern Europe remember too well.
I arrived at this conclusion after visiting the Museum of Horror in Budapest at Andrassy Boulevard 60. The address was the home both of the Hungarian Nazi party that ruled the country in 1944 and 1945, and the secret police that terrorized the country under the Communist regime from 1949-1989. In the present-day museum, one sees the dank cells in which the Communists held their prisoners, beat them, burned them with cigarette butts, and starved them.
One day, there will be a similar museum in Baghdad that will describe the means of brutality that Saddam Hussein used to uphold his rule. A pamphlet describing Hungary under the Communists could just have easily been describing life under the Hussein regime in Iraq: "Terror overshadowed daily life."
Since it has become clear that the allies will not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the questions that the media, investigators, and the political opposition are asking Bush about the intelligence that he relied on and the true reasons for war are just, proper, and should continue.
Nevertheless, one should not forget the positive result of the war: Once the allies calm the insurgencies in Iraq, the population will be free to build a museum to the atrocities of the former regime, rather than having their identities vanish from history.
Though encouraging coalitions of countries to depose another country's leader simply because that country is dictatorial, if taken literally, would result in the shedding of innocent blood, one should not forget that such an attempt could have benefits. One benefit is that such an effort would put other dictators on notice that their days in power may be numbered.
A good example of fear precipitating acquiescence to the international community was the recent decision of Libya's dictator, Mohamar Qadafi, to submit to international weapons inspections. Though some commentators are quick to say that he allowed inspections as part of a long deliberate plan to rejoin the international global economy, it is hard to believe that witnessing his fellow dictator Saddam Hussein receive an ignoble lice inspection from a US Army doctor played no role in Qadafi's decision. Therefore, it is possible that had the coalition gone to war on humanitarian grounds, the brutal regimes in North Korea, Cuba, and Zimbabwe might have made public examples of their being less brutal through the releasing of prisoners or the relaxing of repressive laws.
Some critics will, of course, call this last scenario a pipe dream that only sets a precedent for innocent deaths through international armed conflict. They then might further argue that the citizens of the Eastern Bloc countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia (Czechoslovakia in cold war times), Hungary, Russia (and its former member states), Poland, and others are free now without there ever being international bloodshed. Why, these critics ask, revert to bloodshed when, over time, totalitarian dictatorships will fold?
Governments such as the eastern European members of the coalition know that one answer to this question is that bloodshed is already taking place within these dictatorships, as their people are all survivors of a brutal and dictatorial past. These new democratically elected leaders know that totalitarianism left on its own will eventually self-destruct. However, the cost in waiting for this "natural" self-destruction is counted in lives and families ruined, such as those whose sufferings are memorialised at Andrassy Boulevard 60.
The allied action in Iraq has doubtlessly saved many Iraqis from a similar fate, and a future Iraqi museum, in addition to the writings of historians, should look favourably on "Operation Iraqi Freedom," for it will soon have fully achieved its eponymous objective.
15. Mar 2004 at 0:00