Morton Weinfeld (letter, Bulletin, June 2003) seeks to rationalize the U.S.-U.K. invasion and occupation of Iraq in terms of "a new discourse on human rights" that transcends international law. He cites the discovery of mass graves as justification, neglecting to mention the fact that these graves go back a long time, to uprisings after the first Gulf war. They are the graves of rebels whom the U.S. actively encouraged, then did nothing to help.
It is hypocrisy in the extreme to claim this as ex post facto justification for the brutal invasion and occupation of Iraq, now that the claim that Iraq possessed or was developing weapons of mass destruction has been shown to be a blatant lie.
It is also worth remembering the U.S. and U.K. supported Saddam Hussein and his Baathist party throughout his worst excesses, up until the first Gulf war. In fact, the U.S. and U.K. have helped create every repressive regime in Iraq since its formation in 1922, and they worked to overthrow the one popularly-backed government Iraq ever had, that of Abd al-Karim Qasim, who was assassinated during a CIA-coordinated coup in 1963.
The war in Iraq is not about human rights. It is about conquest, resources and bases for future aggression in the area. The term "new discourse on human rights" seems a singularly inappropriate description of the atrocities inflicted on Iraq, Palestine and elsewhere by the U.S. and U.K.. It is based on the doctrine that might makes right, overrides international law and serves as a cover for racism, imperialism and aggression.
We need to return to the old discourse on human rights, one which at least had some respect for human life and dignity, international law, cultural institutions and the right of nations to self-determination.
John T. Jensen
Linguistics, University of Ottawa