February 21, 2003

Heroes or dupes? Those are

Heroes or dupes?

Those are the only choices offered in the sub-head of this fascinating piece by Michelle Goldberg on "human shields" in Iraq. Reading the article, other, less charitable descriptions spring to mind. They mean well. But they also seem to have no idea what they're getting themselves into:

It's no surprise that the Iraqi government would want the shields there. Shortly before the first Gulf War, Saddam's regime kidnapped hundreds of foreigners and forcibly used them as human shields around factories and military installations, finally releasing them after four months under intense international pressure. Though the voluntary human shields say they're only going to protect civilian neighborhoods and infrastructure, an Iraqi ambassador has said they'll be put at "vital and strategic installations," just like their hostage predecessors.

The Human Shields aren't too worried, though. The ones quoted here all seem to have acquired what knowledge they have of Saddam's Iraq from the internet and from "alternative" popular literature. One who cites Ramsey Clark's "US War Crimes in the Gulf" as a chief source of information, responds, when asked about Saddam Hussein: "personally I don't know enough about him to give you an educated opinion." Clark has done his devious work all too well.

The words of one Judith Empson, a 52-year-old British woman, are truly astounding:

Empson... says questions remain about Halabja, the town where Saddam's regime used chemical weapons to massacre thousands of Kurds in 1988. "I don't think one can necessarily say it was a thing deliberately carried out by Saddam Hussein," she says...

Because she doesn't believe Saddam is a monster, she doesn't worry about him forcing human shields to guard sites other than the ones they choose. "I don't think the Iraqi government would use us to that degree," she says. "I think they know goodwill gestures when they see them. I don't think they're that indecent."

The poor woman. They're at least that indecent. How can it possibly have escaped her?

Another Shield (and mother of three) says that she remembers "reading somewhere" that, if things go wrong, there is an escape plan that will be "part of the training." Sadly, pathetically, there is, of course, no plan, no training. The biggest delusion of all, however, is an astonishing faith in the notion that this cockamamie plan actually stands even a remote chance of "stopping the war."

Some may, perhaps with some justification, claim diminished capacity on their behalf, but those who organized and enticed these sad, sweet, deluded lambs to their pointless impending slaughter really ought to be ashamed of themselves and held responsible. What, if anything, can they be thinking?

Posted by Dr. Frank at February 21, 2003 06:13 PM | TrackBack