Whose human rights?

Whose human rights?
: Human Rights Watch, self-declared protectors of humans and their rights, issues an appalling opinion saying that the ouster of Saddam Hussein was not a matter of human rights because not enough people were being murdered. How many is not enough, they don’t say.

The US and British governments cannot justify the Iraq war on humanitarian grounds, according to the annual report of Human Rights Watch published yesterday.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of the human rights organisation, said at the launch of its 407-page report in London: “The Bush administration cannot justify the war in Iraq as a humanitarian intervention, and neither can Tony Blair.

“Such interventions should be reserved for stopping an imminent or ongoing slaughter. They shouldn’t be used belatedly to address atrocities that were ignored in the past.”

Although Saddam was responsible for massacres, especially of the Kurds in 1988 and of Shia Muslims in 1991, Human Rights Watch said the killing had “ebbed” by the time of the invasion last year.

Mr Roth said: “We know summary executions occurred in Iraq up to the end of Saddam’s rule, as did other brutality. These should be met with diplomatic and economic pressure, and prosecution.

So by this horrid logic, if only Hitler or Amin or Stalin or pick your tyrant had stopped mass murders, they should be left in power. Cool. Murder to your heart’s content but as soon as the U.S. troops are at the border, stop and the world will be on your side.

In his own paper, Roth says:

The result is that at a time of renewed interest in humanitarian intervention, the Iraq war and the effort to justify it even in part in humanitarian terms risk giving humanitarian intervention a bad name. If that breeds cynicism about the use of military force for humanitarian purposes, it could be devastating for people in need of future rescue….

In our view, as a threshold matter, humanitarian intervention that occurs without the consent of the relevant government can be justified only in the face of ongoing or imminent genocide, or comparable mass slaughter or loss of life. To state the obvious, war is dangerous. In theory it can be surgical, but the reality is often highly destructive, with a risk of enormous bloodshed. Only large-scale murder, we believe, can justify the death, destruction, and disorder that so often are inherent in war and its aftermath. Other forms of tyranny are deplorable and worth working intensively to end, but they do not in our view rise to the level that would justify the extraordinary response of military force. Only mass slaughter might permit the deliberate taking of life involved in using military force for humanitarian purposes.

Oh, please, give us the chart that defines “mass.” Give us the color-code that says that rape rooms and executions and political prisons and utter repression are not worthy of intervention. Since you, sir, are the sold arbiter of what is mass murder versus just plain murder and what is humanitarian and what isn’t, please illuminate us.

This is a tainted political move by Human Rights Watch and it will color its credibility in the future. The organization would rather fight Bush than defend the human rights of the Iraqi people.