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Friday, April 19, 2002

West's terror goes unpunished

Call me old-fashioned, but was not the deliberate use of force by one nation against another nation once labeled as aggression? And was not aggression once seen as a war crime? Certainly a large number of Japanese and German leaders once were hanged for just that kind of behavior. Yet today's U.S. and British leaders seem to have no problem talking freely about an attack on Iraq.

In the old days, simply planning aggression was seen as a war crime punishable by death. Japan's unrealized 1930s plans to attack the Soviet Union are an example. No doubt the Washington people will say that their planned attacks are different, that they seek to stamp out evil. But that is what they all say, including those former Japanese and German leaders.

In those days communism, rather than terrorism, was the alleged evil. Unlike today's labored efforts to prove that Iraq is a terrorist nation, no one then could deny that the Soviet Union was a communist nation. The Nationalist government in China was also seen as guilty because of its post-1936 agreement with the Red Army to fight against Japan. But that did not save those Japanese and German leaders from a highly ignominious fate at the Tokyo and Nuremberg tribunals. (Nor, incidentally, did it prevent Western leaders from smoothly inheriting the same belligerent anticommunism sentiment, a very sore point with Japanese rightwingers upset about those tribunals.)

Iraq's crimes are said to be preparing weapons of mass destruction and refusing Western inspections. But if you face enemies who already are oversupplied with weapons of mass destruction and who repeatedly threaten to attack you, then surely you are entitled to try and get some of the same kind of weapons for yourself. You are even more entitled to reject their inspectors if agencies of their governments openly hint at wanting to assassinate your leader, incidentally another old-fashioned war crime.

Iraqi evil is said also to lie in aggression against neighbors and brutality against domestic opponents. But wait a minute. Did not the United States actively support Iraq's brutal aggression against Iran just over a decade ago? As for domestic brutality, Washington's claims would carry more weight if it had not condoned and even supported the even greater brutality committed in the 1970-80s by a range of rightwing Latin American regimes against domestic opponents.

Someone should tell Washington that each time it prepares yet another optimistic plan to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein another group of potential dissidents in Iraq is rounded up and executed. Little wonder Hussein has survived so long.

A gaga element seems to have infected Western societies as they try to satisfy subconscious, post-Cold War needs for new enemies. The former Yugoslavia was a classic victim, with Serb resistance to ethnic cleansing by ethnic Albanians in Kosovo presented as a Serbian ethnic cleansing effort justifying support for the Albanian ethnic cleansers and the vandalistic bombing of Serbia.

A little known Web site -- Emperor's Clothes ( www.emperors-clothes.com ) -- has devoted itself to listing the gross distortions involved in justifying the Western demonization of Serbia and its former leader, Slobodan Milosevic. Almost every major Western media outlet, including some such as the British newspaper Independent, usually respected for its nonmilitaristic bias, is listed, chapter and verse.

But don't expect any mea culpas for all this. One of the rewards for overweening belief in one's moral superiority is never having to say sorry. As for any hope that our Western foreign policy experts would realize their criminal mistake in trying to force the Serbs in postcommunist Croatia and Bosnia to accept domination by the very people who had supported Nazi wartime anti-Serb genocide, forget it. They remain firmly convinced of their own wisdom and morality. They have their own war-crimes trials in The Hague to prove it.

Asia is the next target for Western foreign policy illogic. North Korea joins Iraq as a member of the evil axis. Its crime, too, is some pitiful efforts to develop the weapons needed to defend itself from vastly superior weaponry that the U.S. has convincingly threatened to use against it, both in the past and future.

China will be the next victim. Already three times in the past -- in 1953 over Korea, and in 1954 and '58 over the small islands in the Taiwan Straits -- China has been subject to U.S. nuclear threats. Once again it is listed as a theoretical target for future nuclear attack, with U.S. so-called missile defense clearly intended to neutralize any possible response from China's limited missile arsenal. Yet Beijing's rather weak efforts to defend itself from all this bellicosity are presented as yet another threat to which the U.S., and Japan, have to respond.

Other provocations include the bombing of China's Belgrade embassy, aggressive spy flights along its coast (imagine the uproar if China was doing the same thing along the U.S. coast), the probable bugging of China's presidential airplane, continued distortion of 1989 Tiananmen events, support for Tibetan and Sinjiang dissidents, encouragement for Taiwan's military and independence preparations against China, and locking Japan into a firm commitment to support any future attack on China.

Fortunately Beijing has decided to ignore these crude efforts to create yet another typical hawk on hawk, tit for tat, senseless, wasteful and ultimately brutal Cold War-style escalation. It believes that improving its own economy and worrying about its own domestic affairs are more important. Hopefully the Western and Japanese hawks will be defanged as a result.

Another possible result is that China eventually emerges in the United Nations and elsewhere as the one power able to behave with common sense in world affairs and inject a badly needed sense of fairness. That really would be ironic.

Gregory Clark is a former Australian diplomat and honorary president of Tama University. He was also a member of former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka's private discussion group on foreign policy matters.

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