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The human rights issues of Saddam's overthrow are lost amid inane politics

By Jim Nolan - posted Wednesday, 5 November 2003

There is apparently a tradition in US conservative administrations to reserve one cabinet post for a representative of the evangelical Right.

Thus the Christian crooner John Ashcroft gained the consolation prize of US Attorney-General.

This was a choice of portfolio which could have been given more thought by President Bush, but Ashcroft deserved a good deal better than to be compared in the fundamentalist stakes with Osama bin Laden.


Of course, this was a cheap shot that went begging for the hate-Amerika 101 crowd, but despite a series of political pratfalls, the fact that a comparison was made at all says more about Ashcroft's political enemies than of the cabinet minister (rightly) tagged the "confederate dunce" by Christopher Hitchens.

There is an echo of the continuing attack on Ashcroft in the ridiculous lack of proportion that marked last week's inane attack made by the Liberal senator from Queensland, George Brandis on the Greens, whom he compared to the Nazis.

The reducio ad hitleram argument has long been the refuge of the dimwitted. Now the "Bush as Hitler" caricatures of the lunar Left have well and truly met their match with the preposterous comparison offered by Brandis.

A moment's reflection upon its implications suggests that it seriously – indeed disgracefully – belittles the victims of nazism. If the Greens are to be equated with nazism then logic requires acceptance of the reverse of that proposition – that is, that the depredations of the Nazis were no more serious than those of the Greens.

One central plank of Tony Blair's eloquent and compelling case in favour of the intervention in Iraq and against his (and the US's) critics has been his attack on moral equivalence – the shallow charge by the ultra Left that there is no difference between the US administration and the jihadists. Blair has rightly rounded on this false logic which Brandis has now, by a different route, endeavoured to legitimise.

Of course, there were good reasons to criticise Brown's cheap stunt at the Bush speech – not least that the space on the Green Senator's lapel lacked the real estate to contain the pictures of the 200,000-plus Iraqis who now lie in mass graves.


The real and enduring victims of Hussein were once again ignored for narrow political advantage. One would have thought that genuine concerns about the prolonged detention of two Australians in Guantanamo Bay could have been weighed in the balance against removal of one of the world's worst tyrants.

Hussein, remember, also holds a grotesque trifecta – human rights abuses, genocide and the world's biggest environmental vandal, as the marsh Arabs can attest.

Brandis's dimwitted diversion has now added another fresh excuse for the practitioners of "subject change" which took the form, pre-war, of a consistent desire to take the focus in Iraq away from Hussein's massive human rights abuses and his fascist Baathists.

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This article was first published in The Australian on 3 November 2003.

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About the Author

Jim Nolan is an old fashioned social democrat and Sydney Barrister with an interest in Human Rights. He is a long-standing member of the Australian Labor Party.

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