Steaming Douglas


Before an audience at a British soccer clubhouse in Blackburn, England, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has apparently learned that the best attack involves self-immolation, had this to say about the U.S. war in Iraq, according to the Washington Post:

But in response to a question about whether the administration had learned from its mistakes over the past three years, she said officials would be "brain-dead" if they did not recognize where they had erred. "I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them I'm sure," Rice said. "But when you look back in history, what will be judged is, did you make the right strategic decisions."

Unfortunately, Rice is wrong. History has little patience for "right strategic decisions" if they later prove to be unsuccessful. That's a shame, because getting rid of Saddam was nothing if not "right." But perhaps the most galling aspect of Rice's partial mea culpa is that she allowed that avatar of British old-school realist pomposity, Douglas Hurd, to brush off the mildew and utter a phrase of such smug duplicity, that one is tempted to reach for whatever Mappin & Webb implement is sharp.

"It is quite possible to believe" that democracy is essential, Hurd said to the crowd after [Rice] spoke, but also to "believe that essentially the path must grow from the roots of its own society and that the killing of thousands of people, many of them innocent, is unacceptable whether committed by a domestic tyrant or for a good cause upon being invaded."

Indeed, mass murder is unacceptable committed by anyone. However, if Hurd cannot distinguish between the actions of Saddam Hussein, whose Baath regime was responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths through the conscious implementation of plans of extermination, for example the successive Anfal campaigns against the Kurds in 1988, or the savage repression of Iraq's Shiites and Kurds after the 1991 Gulf War; if he cannot distinguish between all this, and far more, and what the Americans are doing today in Iraq, then he really is living proof that life peerage is a repository for cretins.

But Baron Hurd is no cretin, or is one only figuratively. This was, of course, the man who refused to arm the Bosnian Muslims during the war in Bosnia during the 1990s, effectively perpetuating Serb military superiority; the man who peddled NatWest's wares to Slobodan Milosevic when he became deputy chairman of the bank after his retirement from government. In other words, Hurd is precisely the kind of foreign official those like Saddam and Slobo could rely upon to defend the status quo allowing them to escape accountability for their crimes. Thanks Condi, for giving the old fart a platform.