Saturday, December 02, 2006

Bush and Hussein: Pretty Much the Same?

I recently told someone that as far as I was concerned, George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein aren't really that different from one another. I realize that's a pretty heavy statement to make but it was really designed to provoke an interesting after-dinner discussion. The response I got back, with rolling eyes, was that Saddam Hussein killed millions of people. My friend was implying that this made the two leaders entirely different.

Well, first of all let's get something straight: Not many people in history can claim that they've killed millions of people and looking at the reports available to the public, it's clear that Hussein can't either. The Worst Genocides The highest estimate I was able to find, based on actual studies, is 800,000 deaths caused by the Baath Regime over the course of 20 years, 500,000 of which was a result of a ten-year war between Iran and Iraq, which by the way was perpetuated by the Reagan Administration by providing weapons to both sides. Not that this makes a huge difference with regard to Hussein's morals, but let's at least base our arguments on actual estimates rather than baseless generalizations.

I can't find any reason why we shouldn't compare this high estimate of 800,000 over 20 years to the high estimate of 650,000 deaths caused by Bush's war in Iraq in the last three years and doing so certainly puts Bush in the same genocidal neighborhood as Hussein. Of course these are high estimates and not everyone agrees with them. The 650,000 figure comes from studies conducted by the John Hopkins University and published by the Lancet medical journal. In contrast, Bush admits to a much smaller estimate of 30,000, which is ironic considering that this figure comes from a government that refuses to do body counts. (Even the recent Iraq Study Group has found that the Pentagon has drastically under reported the level of violence in Iraq.) Another estimate comes from a UK-based research group that puts the number at about 50,000. Obviously, there are significant differences in these estimates. There usually is when dealing with war-related death tolls and that goes for the estimates for Hussein too. For instance, the official death toll reported by Iran on the Iraq-Iran war is 300,000 not 500,000; and the 300,000 deaths resulting from causes outside the Iran-Iraq war also has alternate counts, the lowest being 17,000 reported by Amnesty International. So the low estimated total for Hussein is actually 317,000 over 20 years.

Taking the timeframes into consideration also reveals some interesting insights. The low estimates yeild an average of 15,850 deaths per year from actions initiated by Hussein while the number is 7,500 deaths per year from actions initiated by Bush. Taking the high estimates we have 40,000 deaths per year for Hussein and 216,666 deaths per year for Bush.

This isn't an exact science but my point is that both leaders have caused an enormous number of deaths so to say that one killed millions while implying that the other hasn't killed any at all is perposterous.

But converting human deaths into numbers for playing comparison games isn't really my intention here. I'll leave that up to research studies and advocates such as the World Tribunal on Iraq that holds that the illegal US invasion has killed more people than Saddam Hussein ever did.
The point I was trying to make with my after-dinner statement has more to do with the disregard for human life that characterize the personalities, the ethics and the intentions of both leaders.

Hussein has been a human rights violator right from the beginning. Over his 20 years as President, he has facilitated the torture and illegal killing of thousands of people. I tend to think that this is the result of two things. First is Hussein's disregard for human life and second is the lack of limitation on what Hussein was allowed to do. Americans are lucky to have a constitution that limits what our President can do. However, it's become clear that the Bush administration is making strong efforts to remove some of these limitations so that just like Hussein, Bush can imprison people indefinatley without charge or representation and torture them at will.

Whatever "reasons" one may have for treating people this way has no bearing on the simple fact that you can't do it without a disregard for human life. Even if you do your best to dehumanize the prisoner by thinking of him as a monster or a terrorist or whatever illusion you might conjure you can't escape the simple fact that they are human beings after all.

So what's the difference between one president who violates human rights because he has no limits and another president who is working hard to reduce his limits so he can do the same thing? It seems to me that if there is any difference between George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein, it's in the legal limitations around them, not the disregard for humanity that apparently comes from within both of them.


additional sources:

Is Bush Next? by Paul Craig Roberts
How Many People Has Saddam Hussein Killed? by John F. Burns
Iraq Body Count
 


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Books That I am Reading:


The World Is Flat
A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

Thomas Friedman

In this book Thomas Friedman continues his exploration of globalization and how the playing feild is leveling out.

War on the Middle Class
How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back

Lou Dobbs

This book is pretty much a print version of his TV program. This is what I call good investigative journalism


Books That I've Read Lately:


Catcher in the Rye


J.D.Salinger

My daughter is an avid J.D.Salinger fan and turned me on to this book. I'm glad she did. I read the first half on one airplane trip and finished the next half on the return flight. Salinger's naration is wonderful, his vivid style reminds me of Steinbeck.

Crash Proof
How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse

Peter D. Schiff

I've been reading the writing on the wall for some time now about the comming economic collapse and this book is one of those messages. I highly recomend this book for anyone interested in an easy to understand explanation of what is causing the crises and basic strategy for how to weather the storm.

A Peoples History of the United States: 1492 - Present


Howard Zinn

This book seems to draw a lot of criticism from people who point out that Zinn fails to present the complete picture, but I think that's the point. Zinn is simply filling in the gaps intentionally left by "politically correct" historians and in so doing, he sheds light on some of the real American heros who continue the "politically incorrect" American Revolution to this day. These heros are not the celebrated leaders and soldiers of the American Establishment who took the reins of exploitation from the British Establishment but the working class people who continued to stand up to exploitation regardless of what banner they wave. It's these working class people who continue to fight for liberty and justice and it's these unsung heros that we need to thank for our way of life and we can thank Howard Zinn for pointing them out, especially now that patriotism has somehow come to mean loyalty to a flag rather than to a principal.

Paradox Of Choice: Why More Is Less


Barry Schwartz

An interesting counter-view to the ever-so-popular notion that our vast array of options improves our culture.

Why I Am A Reagan Conservative


Edited By: Michael K. Deaver

I'm reading this book because I don't consider myself to be conservative. I suppose this is because I've been focused for so long on issues around which conservatives hold positions that I disagree with. But recently I've been looking beyond these issues in search of what I might agree are valid conservative positions and it seems the more I look the less I find, which is alarming to me considering the influence that conservatives have over the policies that effect our lives. Hopefully this book will provide me with some insight.

The Ayn Rand Reader


Ayn Rand: Edited by Gary Hull

I know, I know... what is Ayn Rand doing on this booklist? Answer: I read from as many perspectives as possible. Being a free thinker, I refuse to submit myself to a reading diet. Besides, I want to understand what it is that Ayn Rand fans are raving about and what institutes like ARI are pushing into our education systems.

A Thousand Barrels a Second
The Coming Oil Breakpoint and the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependant World

Peter Tertzakian

I've been trying to understand as much as I can about the coming oil crises. The author is Chief Energy Economist of ARC Financial, one of the world's leading private equity firms focused on energy. As far as I can tell so far, his book isn't a crack on politics or doom and gloom but a straightforward analysis of the realities of energy that so many people are ignoring.

TechGnosis
Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information

Erik Davis

I've actually been reading the hardback version of this book, on and off, for long time now. The problem I have with this book is it's depth. Davis presents so many interesting ideas and references that I wind up placing a book mark and taking excursions into related materials. It can take me days to digest what Davis is saying in one sentence. Eventually, I always come back to the book, drawn in my Davis' poetic language of intellect. This book represents a true frontier for my mind.

The Moon Is Down


John Steinbeck

Steinbeck is always an easy read for me. His characters and scenes are so vivid. But this book in particular has the added significance of having had an extraordinary impact as Allied propoganda in Nazi-occupied Europe. Despite Axis efforts to supress it (in Fascist Italy, mere possession of a copy of the book was punishable by death) hundreds of thousands of copies were secretly translated into numerous languages, printed on unnaccounted paper and smuggled across borders. This story, a triumph of ideas in the face of cold steel and brute force, offered hope for the "unconquered" people under foreign occupation and celebrated the unbreakable spirit of free people. I feel like I should be sending copies to Iraqis currently under US occupation, but that could easily be construed as an act of terrorism.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman


John Perkins

I've been able to put two and two together for some time, so nothing in this book astounds me but it does bring the workings of the international banks and corporations as well as the US government out of the speculations of so-called conspiracy theories and into the matter-of-fact narration of one man's career path as an economic hitman.

Collapse:
How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed
Jared Diamond

Facinating book. Jared Diamond's name is what caught my attention as I was killing time at the bookstore at the airport. I was very impressed with his documentary "Guns, Germs and Steel" and figured he would make this study of societal destinies equally interesting. I was 100% correct. I especially enjoyed the chapters on the collapse of the Polynesian societies, realizing the scale-relativity with the evolution of our global society.

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Of course... the third book in my dystopian trilogy.

The United States of Europe:
The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy
T.R.Reid

An excellent perspective on the power that's rising in Europe as we Americans continue to sleep with visions of our own glory in our heads.

Imperial Ambitions:
Conversations with Noam Chomsky on the Post-9/11 World
Noam Chomsky, David Barsamian

As always, Professor Chomsky presents that calm and collected voice of logic that cuts through all the noisy rhetoric, half-truths, corporate funded media hype and emotionally driven spin sessions. Barsamian's interviews with Chomsky are clear, crisp and sober conversations.

Farenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

Figured I'd continue my journey through "negative-utopia" that I started with 1984. It does seem appropriate given the current state of America from which I found much more connection with Bradbury's vision than I did with Orwell's, especially the way in which the real source of oppression is not the government but the people themselves.

Cuba
A New History

Richard Gott

Just a straight forward history book, but Cuba has a facinating history that reaches back to the days of Columbus and offers everything from pirates to revolutions.

1984
George Orwell

It seemed like a good idea to refresh my memory of a mid-century perspective on where the world is headed. Although I found some relief in knowing that we have not followed the Stalinesque course to the letter, I nevertheless found much of Orwell's larger concepts ringing ever so true in 21st Century America, especially Orwell's concept of continuous war and Big Brother.

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
Greg Palast

Easy read... Palast is a circus ring master showing us unbelievable things. Penetrating investigation with a sense of humor.

One Market Under God
Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy

Thomas Frank

After reading the Lexus and the Olive Tree, I felt I needed a counter-balance view of globalization and how the liberated capitalism that I see everywhere around me, breaking the chains of regulation, is riding the globalization wave.

20:21 Vision
Twentieth-Century Lessons for the Twenty-First Century

Bill Emmott

The author, Economist cheif editor, tends to present very objective and slightly outside views of American economics/politics. I think this renders a more accurate assesment of how we fit in with the rest of the world. The book is a tour of the major forces of the 20th century with emphasis on how they are currently shaping the 21st century.

The Lexus and the Olive Tree


Thomas Freidman

Damned good book! Really opened up my eyes to what globalization is all about. Freidman's style of writing is engaging and his explainations are straightforward. I can see why people regard this book as the essential primer on the subject. I can also see why people think he is "pro-globalization" but I tend to think he's not so much promoting it as just pointing out the inevitability of it. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding globalization.

The Gnostic Gospels


Elain Pagles

I thought it was good. Explains a lot about the gnostic strain of Christain faith.

Consilience


Edward O. Wilson

Facinating. From the moment he starts decribing the Ionian enchantment on the first pages. This book describes the interrelation of seperate bodies of knowledge and how it all comes together.

The History of Money


Jack Weatherford

Human culture is possessed and these are some involving stories about the demon we call money.

Other material of interest:

Origins of the Federal Reserve (PDF) - Murray N. Rothbard

Excellent account of the monetary imperialism that led to the creation of the Federal Reserve.

The Elkhorn Manifesto
R. William Davis

This is an open letter to Americans that provides a historical perspective on the U.S. government's prohibition of Marijuana. Without stating any position on that particular issue, I have nevertheless saved a copy of the letter here because of what I think are some valueable and verifiable references to to what I call the "corporate priority over the better interests of the nation".