When Saddam Hussein carried out the 1988 gassing of Kurds and when he massacred the Shiite rebels in 1991, the atrocities did not amount to matters of egregious human rights abuses insofar as Washington and other Western capitals were concerned.
The capturing of Saddam Husseinby US soldiers in December 2003 left most people with genuine concerns about human rights and justice naturally overjoyed, regardless of the fact that Hussein's captors had other motives behind their actions.
When genuine human rights defenders like some Amnesty International activists were campaigning vigorously against Saddam Hussein for his 1988 and 1991 crimes, Allan Cowell of the New York Times reported that Washington and its Western allies held the "strikingly unanimous view that whatever the sins of the Iraq leader, he offered the West and the region a better hope for his country's stability than did those who have suffered his repression." The use of the term "stability" here needs to be interrogated.
This is exactly the same way Augusto Pinochet enjoyed Western support as he ruthlessly deposed a democratically elected Allende government in Chile in 1973, leading to his murderous and torturous 19 year rule. His crimes amounted to the "stability" of Chile in the eyes of the West, the same way the ruthless repression of fighters for democracy in Bahrain is seen in the West as the "stability" of that country, with Saudi Arabia backing the repression of people in that tiny kingdom.
The term "stability" has been often used to describe the environment of countries ruled by Western supported dictators, from the murderous rule of Mobutu SeseSeko in Zaire, that of General Suharto in Indonesia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, to the current violent and chaotic rule of the National Transitional Council in Libya.
After the Marikana massacre of striking miners by the South African police a week ago Rodger Phillimore,the chairman of Lonmin, the London based company that owns the mine, saidsomething very telling. He said: "It goes without saying that we deeply regret the further loss of life in what is clearly a public order rather than labour relations associated matter."
In Phillimore's eyes the dead miners suffered their fate in what he calls "a public order matter" and the death had nothing to do with the welfare of these striking miners. What these miners suffered has no difference with what the Kurds and the Shiite rebels suffered under Saddam Hussein - deaths to do with maintaining "public order."
The miners suffered "public order" deaths because they had become a serious threat to the "stability" of South Africa - stability being the Western code name for the safeguarding of Western interests, especially the stability of profiteering Western corporations. It is easier to say "public order" than it is to say "capitalist order."
The BBC mournfully reported that the strike by the Marikana miners meant that Lonmin "would lose 15,000 ounces of platinum production, and as a result it was unlikely to meet its production forecasts for the full year." When 34 lost lives are less important than 15 000 ounces of platinum we know we are talking Western democracy.
The US State Department issued a statement to express its confidence in South Africa's ability to perpetuate the stability of Western capital in this "regrettable" time.
The statement partly read: "We are confident that the South African government will investigate the facts around this case and, as always, we encourage all parties to work together to resolve the situation peacefully."
One can contrast this mild statement with the one recently issued by the U.S State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland after clashes between Syrian Western-backed rebels and the Syrian army reportedly resulted in the death of some civilians.
She said: "We hold the Syrian government responsible for this slaughter of innocent lives......This massacre is the most unambiguous indictment to date of the Syrian government's flagrant violations of its U.N. Security Council obligations." There was no need to "encourage all parties to work together to resolve the situation peacefully," - aptly because the Syrian government is in essence at war with the US and its Western allies.
It was so hard for the U.S State Department to hold either the South African police force or Jacob Zuma responsible for the Marikana massacre of miners. Firstly the matter was just a "public order" issue, and secondly President Zuma offers "stability" for South Africa, as recently shown by Hillary Clinton when she danced happily at a dinner hosting in expression of her satisfaction with the stability of Western capital in post-apartheid South Africa. There was no reason to do such dinner dancing in neighbouring Zimbabwe, where the presence of radical Robert Mugabe continues to threaten not only the dominance of Western capital, but also Western hegemony in general.
The only worry to the "stability"of South Africa is the troublesome Julius Malema, the ousted ANC Youth League president whose powerful rhetoricon nationalisation of mines and land reclamation has been viewed by threatened white capitalists as an effort to destabilise South Africa.
Liberal policy analyst James Chase once observed that the Nixon-Kissinger "efforts to destabilise a freely elected Marxist government in Chile" were carried out because the United States was "determined to seek stability." One cannot miss the contradiction in destabilising to seek stability.
In December 2002 it was quite ironic when Britain's foreign Secretary Jack Straw released a dossier of Saddam Hussein's crimes, dating all the way back to the days of US-British support for the Iraq tyrant. The report blatantly overlooked the role of the United States and Britain in Hussein's egregious crimes, and instead portrayed a supreme display of moral integrity on the part of the two Western powers.
This is exactly what happened when Augusto Pinochet was arrested in Britain in 1998, six days after an indictment by a Spanish magistrate. Britain postured as noble advocate for the defence of the human rights regime, but that is as far as the action went - mere posturing.
In 2000 Jack Straw unilaterally overruled a House of Lords decision to have Pinochet extradited to Chile and released the dictator without trial. Of course a trial for Augusto Pinochet in London or anywhere else would inevitably incriminate the British government as one of the main sponsors of his atrocities. Pinochet was to be prevented at all cost from saying embarrassing and humiliating things in court, and Straw dutifully ensured no trial would ever materialise for the tyrant.
Western foreign policy operates on what Noam Chomsky calls the "doctrine of change of course," where Western elites simply invoke a change of course every two or three years, especially when supported tyrants become irrelevant to Western interests, or when they outlive their usefulness.
According to Chomsky the content of the doctrine is, "Yes, in the past we did some wrong things because of innocence or inadvertence. But now that's all over, so let's not waste time on this boring, stale stuff."It is amazing the number of times we are reminded not to live in the past by people who daily persecute other nationalities based on the strength of a past of racial supremacy.
So the West can flip flop easily from financing the Taliban to power in Afghanistan to hunting them down as world-threatening terrorists. It does not seem to cause too much confusion in the West when the Western allies do something like sponsoring Saddam Hussein's murderous war against Iran for eight solid years, only to wage a war against the same tyrant for his invasion of Kuwait, and later invading Iraq, capturing and murdering the same man on baseless charges of possession of weapons of mass destruction, or was it crimes committed using the fire power provided by the United States?
The "doctrine of change of course" does very well in protecting the Western public from the danger of understanding what is happening before theireyes.
One can imagine what should have happened when the Western population came to understand that the proclaimed reason for going to war in Iraq was not to save the world from a tyrant who had developed weapons of mass destruction, and that even George W. Bush's speech writers did not believe an inch of this fabrication.
One could reasonably predict raucous outrage and even revolting from the public. But what happened was a smooth switching to a new reason for the war, this time with all major Western media units dutifully informing the listening public that in fact the United States and its Western coalition had invaded Iraq to establish a democracy, not only in Iraq but in the whole of the Middle East. In fact the West was in Iraq for the noble cause of freeing the Arabs from their own backward selves.
Apart from the dissenting voices of a few vocal leftists in the West the switch in pretexts passed for impressive reality in the Western world.
Right now nobody believes that the illegal economic sanctions imposed by the West on Zimbabwe are justified, not even the proclaimed victims of the government's alleged abuse of human rights, not least the award winning victim Morgan Tsvangirai himself. The West has smoothly and conveniently switched pretexts, promoting the new cause of establishing a new constitution for Zimbabwe, "leading to free and fair elections," - the phrase being the euphemism for an election that produces a government that is subordinate to Western interests.
We had a telling illustration for America's passion for democracy in 2003. The Turkish population was vehemently against the Iraq war, and resultantly the Turkish Parliament refused to let the United States deploy fully from Turkey. Chomsky described the reaction from Washington as "absolute fury."
Paul Wolfowitz angrily denounced the Turkish military for failing to overturn the parliamentary decision and he even demanded an apology for this senseless betrayal of a noble venture to defeat a tyrant wielding weapons of mass destruction, or better still to democratise the whole of the Middle East.
The US was launching an open attack on Turkey for listening to its people because in the lexicon of Western democracy, orders are taken from Washington and other Western capitals and not from the ignorant masses of the lesser world.
There is this kind of stability and democracy that is always linked to Western interests. When the Zimbabwean government listened to its people and reclaimed white held farmlands in 2000the Western world repeatedly reminded President Robert Mugabe and his government to listen to what was coming from London and Washington. The rebuttal from Mugabe and his team send the entire Western polity into raucous fury.
Britain even offered to help arm the Zimbabwean police force so it could go and evict the "land grabbers." The offer was turned down by the Zimbabwean government and the Western world expectedly reacted angrily by illegally imposing economic sanctions on Zimbabwe outside the UN Security Council framework.
This democracy where the South African masses are demanding better wages from Western capitalists, where the Turkish people are opposed to Western wars, or where Zimbabwean masses clamour for the reclamation of their colonially stolen land is not the democracy the West would want to establish around the world. That kind of behaviour constitutes "instability."
True democracy in the eyes of Western elites is tied to weaker countries subordinating themselves to Western interests, and allowing the free flow of Western capital as rich natural resources in the less developed countries are exploited for the benefit of profiteering Western corporations.
Africa we are one and together we will overcome! It is homeland or death!
Â· Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia.