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Double standards

An acquaintance of mine, of impeccably liberal (translation for Brits – socialist) views was recently making snide remarks about the impending trial of Saddam Hussein. Funny, I did not notice such folk getting all upset when Spanish authorities attempted to put, say, Chile’s former dictator General Pinochet on trial.

But then I guess I forget the universal rule of thumb – if X is advocated by the United States, particularly when it is led by a Republican, then X must be wrong. How silly of me to have forgotten.

40 comments to Double standards

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    The universal rule of thumb is more basic. Whatever works for leftists, right now, is what is right. History, memory, and logic are just trivial annoyances to be ignored or distorted.

  • Sigivald

    Whoopsie. See I missed a closing tag.

  • Julian Morrison

    Demonizing folks misses that sometimes their viewpoint has some validity. Basically they’re worried that the US has so much invested in the outcome, that the process runs the risk of being distorted.

    On the other hand, they miss that even thinking cynically, the US has a lot of incentive to be fair. A visibly unfair process would fail to serve the process of dissipating Saddam’s mystique – and would be unnecessary. The man’s history is well known and not in dispute. No need to rig the trial when the guy’s guilty anyhow.

  • In fact it is the process of fair trials for murderous dictators that we want to encourage. It’s the message that “We don’t need show trials to get you – just hold you accountable to normal, every-day, common man law.”

    Goodness knows that’s the last thing these Lords of Privilege want to hear.

    Funny isn’t it, the the Left, which professess to side with ‘the people’ always ends up defending the needs, wants and desires of the most spoiled and over-privileged humans on the planets (that being un-accountable dictators, of course). I wonder how that keeps happening?

  • Jacob

    Chile’s Pinochet made in Chile profound and sweeping pro capitalist and free market reforms.
    He did it before free market talk became fashionable under Tatcher and Reagan, and his reforms were far more deep and far reaching and substantial. He is doubtlessly the most outspoken and radical free market revolutionary of the 20 th century.
    As a result of his revolution, Chile is the most successful economy in Latin America, by far.
    That is one of the main reasons he is so much hated by the socialists. The other reason is of course – that he deposed a socialist president, that brought total economic ruin on Chile, albeit, in continuation of a long string of failed quasi socialist regimes.

    You should not acuse the left of inconsistency. They are very consistent in hating anything that is faintly free market, and anyone that snatches government from them (eg. Bush); the power to rule beeing their undisputable birth right.

  • M.


    One must remember that for the left “The People” and “Social Justcie” etc,are abstract concepts.

  • Jacob

    By the way: Pinochet’s arrest was an outrage performed by the Left. The arrest warrant was issued by a radical, activist, publicity hungry Spanish judge, and acted upon by a radical left leaning British Interior Secretary.
    Chile was at the time, and is now, a fully functioning democracy. It was not rulead by Pinochet; Pinochet had handed over the government under a orderly, democratic procedure (in 1989), when he lost a referendum that he himself called. Chile was, and is, fully capable of handling the Pinochet question in the best manner possible, for Chile, as viewed by her people. (Chile was not like Iraq, which needed US help to be freed). Pinochet’s arrest was an arrogant act of paternalism, disregard of Chilean people and bullying.

  • Julian Morrison

    In fact it is the process of fair trials for murderous dictators that we want to encourage. It’s the message that “We don’t need show trials to get you – just hold you accountable to normal, every-day, common man law.”

    I’m thinking: supranational common law, holding states and their leaders to the same rules as anyone else, is a huge step towards anarchism. First, because it denies the idea that nations can do as they please with their subjects, and asserts non-relative non-fiat discovered law. Second, because it can operate in the absence of any overarching meta-government. As such it provides a model for anarchic law between ordinary folks.

    The ICC seems to me to be an attempt to subvert and control this. The hidden message is “we can make metanational law by fiat” and “only our law is the official law”.

  • Well, duh. How can someone be white, male, conservative, American, and… proud of it ? Four reasons to be burdened with shame and guilt and the guy doesn’t get it !!

    How awful.


  • War has a way of speeding up social, economic and political processes that are already underway. It also has a way of stripping off lots of obfuscation and evasion and show things in their unvarnished state, their true configuration.

    The sad truth is that the Left in the US and Britain has sunk very low indeed. It is now a mob of people motivated by crowd psychology and irrational symbolism, with no constructive program and willing to ally itself with anyone or anything which is in opposition to its various demon-images — i.e. the USA, Bush, Cheney, capitalism, globalization, etc.

    Saddam, being the enemy of these demon-images, will appear to be in some degree a friend, or at least a useful tool. The hard core of the Left these days is composed of people much like the Nazis, as Carl Schmitt analyzed them — incapable of a postive self-definition, capable only of giving meaning to their lives in opposition to a hated “other”.

    Looking back, it appears that the days of a sane, principled, democratic Left ended some time in the 1970s — when the “New Left” and the “68ers” began their takeover of the Democratic party, the universities, the news media. These people lived in a childishly simplified world then, and they have chosen to reside there ever since. We’ll never see people like Sidney Hook again for example, or Orwell. A guy like Michael Walzer, who is at least coherent even if usually wrong, is an almost unique figure these days.

    The good news is, this approach loses elections in democratic countries, most of the time. The bad news is, the frustrated inability of this very large group of frustrated ignoramuses to obtain and exercise political power by lawful means is likely to lead them toward political violence, and toward sympathy, complicity and ultimately alliance with Islamic terrorism.

    These are dangerous times, gentlemen. Let us all pay close attention to these trends.

  • I’d never thought I’d see an apologist for Pinochet on a site like this. Do you have any clue what atrocities the man is responsible for?

    Re: your statement that Chileans can deal with it on their own. The whole point of the Spanish case against him is that it is Spanish citizens who he is accused of commiting crimes against, that was the impetus for the case.

    Also, I’d like to commend Julian for their level-headed comments about the ridiculousness of misrepresenting “liberals” on Saddam’s trial. I frankly do not understand how anyone but a pro-Bush fanatic can be anything but doubtful that Saddam’s trial will be run properly. The man had well-documented ties to powerful Americans, and many of these same people are still around and still in power. Rumsfield being the most obvious example with his smiling face in the picture of him and Saddam shaking hands. These people have an obvious interest in ensuring that Saddams trial is not as thorough as it should be since they are implicated in his crimes against humanity.

  • BMN

    Mr Jett–

    Saddam’s ties to Chirac are far more extensive, not to mention the constant defenses of Saddam by Schroeder, Galloway, the UN administration, etc. Surely you’re concerned that an “international” trial held by the very people who wanted to spare Saddam might not be “run properly,” right?

    The US soldiers who arrested Saddam could have easily killed him instead. Why didn’t they?

  • Ted Schuerzinger


    The law that Pinochet was accused of violating was a particularly bad law. The idea that an alleged crime which took place in, say, Chile, the US, or Australia can be tried in Spain because the victim is Spanish is horrible, just as bad as instituting the death penalty only if the victim is a child. Indeed, it’s only a step away from that horrible Belgian law which would have allowed for universality of jurisdiction.

    I’ve always thought that Chile was the proper place to try Pinochet, although it was determined that he was not well enough to stand trial (not unlike Honecker, by the way; nobody seems to have a problem with that decision).

    By the same token, Mikhail Gorbachev ought to be tried in Lithuania for the brutal murders of 13 people defending Lithuanian Radio from Soviet troops in 1991, yet we never hear about this from the chattering classes.

  • BMN, did I say anything about having Chirac, Shroeder, etc. hold the trial? Clearly they too are not impartial and will very likely either be called to testify, be implicated in crimes, or have close associates in one or both of these situations. I don’t understand why it is that every time an international tribunal is mentioned people start raising these absurd arguments. It’s kind of creepy, like you all have attached yourselves to a certain position (i.e. that the trial should be run solely by Iraqis) and are incapable of rationally considering any other proposal. What is up with this?

    Ted, I have very mixed feelings about laws like the one you described. Not going to get into that at the moment, but needless to say I think in many instances it is in the interest of justice for these sorts of legal actions to take place. I don’t think Gorbachev’s actions rise to the same level as Pinochet’s, but on the subject of recent Russian warcrimes, how ’bout indicting Putin for what he has been doing in Chechnya? Grozny in particular stands out as one of the ugliest military actions in recent years. Certainly the ugliest in Eurasia since the beginning of the breakup of Yugoslavia…

  • Guy Herbert

    One has to explain the left’s particular demonisation of Pinochet by comparison with the similarly brutal contemporary juntas in Argentina, Guatemala and so forth.

    It wasn’t his supply-side reforms. They came later, and were contingent good things coming out of bad.They weren’t the object of the coup, and they weren’t a necessary consequence.

    What gave Pinochet his unique aura of evil for the New Left (whose student activists are now in power everywhere) is the nature of the regime he deposed, which was hailed by “progressive” opinion everywhere in theire formative years as a bright hope for a democratic socialist future. By killing Allende, he made a martyr.

    But lets not counter-glamourise: initially he intervened in order to defend clapped-out corporate state of 1960s Chile. And like that of military regimes everywhere, the intervention wasn’t clean, or genuinely orderly. It was effective by being brutal. Callous thugs leavened with sadists do not make great paladins in any cause.

  • R C Dean

    I don’t understand why it is that every time an international tribunal is mentioned people start raising these absurd arguments.

    Maybe because these “absurd” arguments apply every time an international tribunal is proposed?

    I believe that so-called “international” institutions are inherently suspect because they are created by and for states/governments, and are accountable only to states/governments. As I have argued in recent posts, this means international institutions cannot be legitimate, and in fact makes them the enemy of legitimacy because they displace the only source of real legitimacy – the consent of the governed.

  • mad dog

    ” the only source of real legitimacy – the consent of the governed.”

    Mr Dean and I agree on something at last. It must be Christmas…

    …however I suspect our sympathy is short lived when one moves on to examine how that applies to foreign regime change and the forces used to carry out such a process. Does retrospective consent exist and under what circumstances can one pre-emt that consent?

    Well one has to have something to think about during these long winter evenings.

  • Jacob

    I fail to understand this sudden concern for a “fair” trial for Saddam. Any trial for this monster is good enough as long it ends up hanging him.
    All the most sensible and noble hearted humanitarians should seek some worthier objects for their concerns and sympathies. How about the political prisoners in Cuba ? Did they have a just trial ? Should’t we demand an international court for them ?

  • Jacob

    “Do you have any clue what atrocities the man is responsible for? ”

    I do have a clue, I lived in Chile; he did commit some atrocities, or rather brutal acts of combat against opponents of his regime.
    But I suspect that your only clue comes from leftish propaganda, rather than detailed knowledge. (If I’m wrog I apologize, I don’t know you).

    Nevertheless, Pinichet saved Chile from the misery and desolation we can observe in the former communist countries. (The same goes for Franco and Spain). Maybe it was worth it.
    Anyway, his atrocities are not one thousandth of what Castro commited in Cuba (for example), yet Castro is a big hero for many on the left including Jimmy Carter. Castro isn’t arrested by any British home secretary – rather he is given red carpet receptions.
    Pinochet has been demonized by the Left for reasons that Guy Herbert stated very well, and most people have little knowledge about Chile, and are unduly influenced by this demonization, which is entirely unjustified.

  • Yes, when a Republican is in power in the US, usually you will spin and lies. You have that right. And when there are choices to me made that benefit people versus business, yes, the republicans favor the business over the people everytime.

    They also favor their cronies and friends and their largest contributors.

    So, yes, you got it right, and obviously don’t live over here

  • Jacob

    Guy Herbert,
    ” he intervened in order to defend clapped-out corporate state of 1960s Chile. And like that of military regimes everywhere, the intervention wasn’t clean, or genuinely orderly. It was effective by being brutal. ”

    Pinochet intervened in order to save Chile from a total break down of organized society, from chaos and cessation of all economic activities, from a melt down which might have easily led to some brutal communist regime. (I do concede that Allende’s regime wasn’t brutal like Castro’s for example, but there was a danger of it degenerating).
    He did save Chile, he did a splendid job of it, far beyond anything that could be expected or has been done anywhere else – I mean the economic and politic recovery of Chile.

    “the intervention wasn’t clean, or genuinely orderly”
    No, interventions aren’t usually clean and orderly. It was regular. Nobody’s perfect.
    It can be perhaps compared to military interventions in Turkey, that saved it from Islamist regimes. Not all countries are “clean and orderly”.

  • mad dog

    “Pinochet did save Chile…”

    And no doubt Sqaddam saved Iraq from the wild depravities of Iran and Isamic Fundamentalism. But he was wrong to use the methods that he did and that is our problem with him.

    “Pinochet intervened in order to save Chile from a total break down of organized society”

    next the holocaust will never have happened…

  • R C Dean

    mad dog – I have been wrestling with the legitimacy of occupation and transitional governments myself, and have a post gestating. I suspect that the answer will come out looking something to do with de facto governments, de jure governments, and “fully” legitimate governments. As for the US occupation governments of, say, Germany, Japan, and Iraq, they are certainly de facto, most likely de jure, and their legitimacy can be judged only in retrospect. If occupiers act as true caretakers toward the establishment of consensual government, then I think it would be hard to say they were illegitimate.

    Would you be willing to say, now, in 2003, that the Germans and Japanese should have risen up against their “illegitimate” occupiers in order to restore their old regimes? Would you have been willing to say so in 1946?

    What of the initial regime in France in 1945 – there were people running the joint under (I believe) a de Gaulle government that had never been voted in, after all – it took some time I am sure to set up the machinery of elections. I would be fascinated to learn more of the history of the transition from Nazi rule in Western Europe to fully legitimated regimes, but there is always an interim period, and if any interim government is deemed illegitimate a priori, you have boxed yourself into a corner of perpetual uprising and civil war.

    By contrast to the Anglosphere occupiers, the Soviet occupation governments that supplanted Nazi rule in the East were not legitimate (although they were de facto and de jure), because they were not true caretaker governments working toward a handover to an elected government.

    In retrospect, I think we can fairly easily sort the wheat from the chaff. So far, I have seen no indication that the occupation of Iraq is anything other than a caretaker operation, and on that basis I think we can say it is provisionally legitimate.

  • Theodopoulos Pherecydes

    Re Chechnya: it has been part of Russia about as long as Texas has been part of the U.S. The Muslims in Chechnya may not like Russia but if the Mexicans in Texas were in open rebellion (with homicide bombers and saboteurs)I suspect the U.S. response in Texas would be forceful and prolonged.

  • This post from Val-E-Diction The Allende Myth is one of the best and fairest things I have seen about the Allende and Pinochet.

    Whether or not one likes or approves of Pinochet, the Left does have a double-standard in which Pinochet is Satan and leftist and communist tyrants who killed more people are not commented on. I’ve seen this first hand. I once had a boss who was a very good man, a liberal activist lawyer who did a lot of Civil Rights cases for people who had been ill-treated by the police or in prison. He was in Amnesty International, and he and they had an almost obsessive focus on Pinochet and his regime, and care not one jot or tittle about other people (i.e., communists) who were just as bad or worse as far as their body-counts. I mentioned it to him once and he genuinely didn’t get it. To him, Pinochet was in a class by himself.

    I also remember years ago reading Julie Burchill, who said, communists are OK, because they just kill their enemies outright, but fascists like Pinochet torture them first. This is both morally and factually moronic — but in her typical not-really-stupid fashion, she at least saw there was a problem and tried to rationalize her way to a solution.

    More generally on the point of this post, it was interesting to see Daniel Ortega coming out for Saddam. All anti-Americans will end up united. The Left and the Islamic radicals will end up allies, as this site has astutely noted.

  • While I have not been to Chile myself, I must agree with Jacob, as 2 of my brothers both have spent a number of years in Chile. Their take on things was that most of the populace was aware that Allende would have ruined things, and that yes, he did some nasty shit in the 60’s, but 20/20 hindsight has them on the balance marginally glad he did.

    It’s all very touchy, most people would rather not talk about it and just get on with things.

  • Jacob

    mad dog,
    Go read the piece ‘The Allende myth” that Lexington linked to above. Do it before you continue barking.

  • Susan

    The Baathist Broadcasting Corp. has issued a memo telling its “international” reporters not to call Saddam Hussein a “dictator.”

    Check out the Biased BBC website (linked in Samizdata’s blogroll) for the story.

  • ed

    Someone please explain to me how it is at all possible to give Saddam an unfair trial? Even if we took him out, stood him against a wall and shot him it would be extraordinarily more fair than he deserves. It’s not like there aren’t hundreds of thousands of his victims is there? That he’s gassed the Kurds? That he kidnapped and murdered 600-1,000 Kuwaiti’s?

    So just how is it possible to give this fruitcake an unfair trial?

  • Kevin Buckley

    Whenever people start salivating about Rumsfeld, (or Chirac or Schroeder or Putin), being called to Saddam’s trial they always leave out the one person I really want to see on the witness stand.

    “Tell me Mister Hussein. How were you so easily able to turn Oil for Food into Oil for Palaces, Oil for Weapons, Oil for Food for Official Rapists and Torturers to keep their strength up after a hard days work, and all the other sanction busting deals you did?”

    “Well sir, as you know the Oil for Food programme was handled by a UN committee, but whenever there was an impasse caused by some obstructionist nation, the request was handed to the Secretary General’s office and expedited there. Why don’t you call my friend Kofi, and if he can’t remember the full details, I have all the paperwork here.”

    Can’t wait.

  • Jacob

    “Someone please explain to me how it is at all possible to give Saddam an unfair trial?”

    It’s easy Ed.

    Imagine the following scenarios, with a trial by some international court like the ICC:
    1. Saddam gets aquitted on some techincality, like say unlawful arrest (i.e. no Un authorization). Could that happen ? Easily. Fair ??

    2. Or – the more plausible possibility: he gets convicted and sentenced to life – as there is no death penalty in the ICC. He gets a five room prison suit in the Hague, like the Libian terrorist convicted for the Lockerby plane bombing. That includes: living room, sleeping room, study, bath, kitchen. He gets access to all TV chanels, unlimited DVDs, a computer with fast internet link, unlimited telephone access, and unlimited visit rights. Also possibly vacation rights.
    Would that be fair ?

  • ed

    If the ICC is all we have to worry about then no worries. Considering how Dubya & co. feel about the ICC it’s seriously doubtful that the ICC will come anywhere near Saddam. Though they might try to usurp the trial.

  • Ernest, what does your link have to do with the topic?

    To those who say Saddam does not deserve a fair trial: Wouldn’t that make us no different than him? (or perhaps demonstrate that our government is fundamentally based on the same “might makes right” philosophy as his).
    If the US does not afford him his rights under international law how can anyone ever expect to view his eventual trial as legitmate when it is going to be based on his violations of international law?
    You can not pick and choose which laws apply when, the basis of civilization is the rule of law. To act this way demeans the rule of law and only gives aid to Saddam Hussein’s position. So I say to you, do you reject civilization? Do you reject the notion that all people deserve rights and justice? If you say yes then you have much in common with Saddam Hussein, and if he does not get a fair trial then our government has much in common with his…

  • Jacob

    “If the US does not afford him his rights under international law ”
    There is no such thing as the “international law”, it is just hot air, just empty talk. (or almost empty).
    Giving something a big name does not mean it has substance.
    Saddam must be given a trial acording to some well defined rules, preferably the rules of his own country. That’s what Bush said is going to happen.
    No one said Saddam will not be given a trial.
    But no tranzi mock tribunals please. Those are really illegitimate by any possible standard.

  • Jett,

    These exact same moral monsters (Kofi Annan, especially) are the ones calling for an “international tribunal,” when the professional internationalists didn’t give a flying cow chip for bringing Saddam to justice in the first place. They’re all for giving Iraq “more sovereignty” if it means trouble for the U.S. and brutal civil war for the Iraqis to justify their own cowardice. Let the Iraqis employ the power of the sceptreo try Saddam and give him the death penalty he deserves and they vomit filth all over themselves.

    Their tender concern for “human rights” and “opposition” to the death penalty is shown by their actions in Rwanda, that’s why the book chapter I cite is EXTREMELY RELEVANT TO THE TOPIC AT HAND.

  • Correction,

    “power of the sceptre to”

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Great set of comments. Just to clear any confusion about the original meaning of my post, I think that both the Chilean and the Iraqi authorities should have been able to try Pinochet and Saddam respectively. My point was that leftists, normally so enthusiastic about allowing the locals to try a dictator, seem to have suddenly forgotten that view in the Iraqi case.

    And for what it is worth, for all the good Pinochet may have done in Chile, it did not excuse a single violation of human rights. There is a certain kind of free marketeer who likes to excuse Pinochet on the grounds that he introduced capitalist reforms; well, I am not one of them.

    Have a happy Christmas and 2004. Regards

  • Jacob

    “And for what it is worth, for all the good Pinochet may have done in Chile, it did not excuse a single violation of human rights.”

    That view is a little simplistic, and I’ll try to explain.
    In an ideal world you chose the absolute good over the bad. In our imperfect world you have trade offs.
    Chile suffered tremendous human rights abuses under Allende – I mean property rights, which are also rights. It was in great danger of deteriorating into a Cuba style regime. (I won’t repeat the details here, see links above).
    She was saved by Pinochet. The saviour wasn’t a god, he wasn’t perfect. He had a little dirty war on his hands – and he faught it dirtier that we would have liked him to.
    It’s not a matter of seeking excuses. It’s a matter of evaluating a given situation. It had it’s dark sides and it’s bright sides. Usually, in these countries you don’t find many bright sides. The bright side in this case is the prosperity and stability that Chile enjoys now.
    I wish there had been no human rights abuses. I wish you could fight a war without collateral damage, or with minimum such damage. It’s ok to condemn Pinochet for his exagerated brutality. On the other hand – his acheivements must be mentioned too.
    The leftist propaganda has demonized Pinochet, not for his human rights abuses – that’s only a pretext. They usually commit much worse abuses themselves.
    The leftist propaganda machine is so powerful that all people know about Pinochet is human rights abuses. There is a very important aspect of him and his deeds that deserves to be more widely known and appreciated.
    By the way – for comparison:
    Napoleon, which is considered a demi god in France, and is adored by most people – was a far, far more brutal ruler that Pinochet. ( And, no, I’m not implying any comparison between the abilities of these two).