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Fred's Views

Crimes Against Humanity

War is hell. In war there are no winners, only losers. Clichés, to be sure. But still true. As the fighting starts to wind down, we are acutely aware that the war has just begun.

The "coalition" has, so far, found no solid proof of "weapons of mass destruction" - no biological or chemical weapons. Yes, there is some evidence: mysterious cannisters or containers, gas masks and other protective equipment and so on. But, it could be argued, the containers held pesticides and, worse, the equipment was to protect their soldiers from "coalition" attacks. No one here believes the "coalition" would resort to chemical/biological weapons, but it is not unreasonable to suggest that the Iraqi might believe it possible.

And there is recent evidence to suggest that Sadam is still alive and at large - and still surrounded by supporters, despite the "coalition's" overwhelming technological superiority and extensive intelligence network. The "coalition" may be in Iraq, they may have virtual control of the country (in a broad sense), but they have not achieved their primary objectives. It is not too preposterous to suggest that, so far, Operation Iraqi Freedom has been largely unsuccessful.

On the other hand, the people of Iraq have been "liberated". Liberated, but without many essential services. Liberated to loot and destroy much of the country's infrastructure. Liberated to rob and destroy the treasures of all mankind. (Of course, as in most cases, it is a small portion of the population who have engaged in such illegal activities.)

It's hard, in one way, to understand why people resort to looting and vandalism when, in fact, they are destroying their own property. But it is certainly not unusual. And, in a twisted sort of way, it is a release, a way to "get back at" the repressive regime that the infrastructure still represents. While it is highly unlikely that the "coalition" had anywhere near enough forces to stop all the looting, it is hard to believe that more could not have been done. The "coalition" must have known that the type of behavior was likely, and should have been better prepared to prevent it.

While it would have been likely impossible to protect all of a city of five million, it is inconceivable that no protection was provided for those assets that were irreplaceable. That any human being would be so short-sighted as to rob or destroy priceless artifacts is hard to accept, but the "coalition" should have been prepared for even the "unthinkable". They should have made protecting the museums and other priceless aspects of our heritage a top priority.

When you are held up at the point of a gun, you hand over your purse, your wallet, your car because these are only material things that can be (relatively) easily replaced. Your life can not be replaced. But the situation in Iraq was somewhat different. The items stored in the museum were not easily replaceable. They weren't replaceable at all. Not only were they unique, they were part of our universal heritage as human beings. They deserved protection.

The "coalition" is working hard to restore essential services. Not fast enough, of course, for everyone in Iraq, understandably, but as fast as possible. In time, the "coalition" with the help of the UN, NATO and other nations around the world, may bring Iraq back to the standards it had before the war, and, ultimately, lead to even better standards. That takes time, but it will happen. In time, if the "coalition" perseveres, it will track down Sadam and hopefully bring him to justice. In time, this war whether or not "weapons of mass destruction" are found, will be justified in the eyes of most of the world. In time, perhaps, many if not most of the stolen artifacts may be recovered. But no amount of time will bring back those artifacts destroyed in a night of mindless stupidity. And for that, President Bush may ultimately have to take the blame and the burden of guilt. Of all the mistakes that inevitably happen in war, from "friendly fire" to faulty intelligence or ordinance that cause civilian casualties, it is the act of omission that led to the loss of these artifacts that may ultimately be President Bush's undoing.

All humanity was lessened with the loss of these priceless treasures. Yet one more reason why war must be eradicated from the face of the earth.

Copyright © 2003 by Fred Oldfield. All rights reserved.

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