There’s a peculiar tendency among many progressives and leftists to blame the United States for all the world’s ills. Consider Iraq: In the wake of the ouster of Saddam Hussein, critics of American actions suggested that the United States had killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The only problem, with such a suggestion, is it is blatantly untrue.
Former Baathists, Islamist terrorists, and Shi’ite militias killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, if not more. U.S. forces, meanwhile, worked with Iraqi security forces to defeat the insurgents and terrorists who, unlike American forces, were targeting schools, markets, churches, and mosques. When the going got tough, however, most European contingents left.
Many progressives and human rights activists will castigate the United States for much more. While they are right to say that the Reagan administration sought rapprochement with Saddam Hussein (and publicized once and future Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld meeting the Iraqi dictator as Reagan’s envoy), too many make the logical leap to suggest that the United States was therefore complicit with Saddam’s subsequent use of chemical weapons against the Kurds.
Perhaps they should put their knee-jerk anti-Americanism aside and consider the facts. It wasn’t actually the Americans who provided Saddam’s government with the chemicals which he used against Iraq’s Kurds. Rather, it was Frans van Anraat, a Dutch businessmen, whom a Dutch court sentenced in 2005 to 15 years in prison for aiding genocide. While many in the Netherlands knew what Van Anraat was doing, it was the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq which made his guilt undeniable and forced the Netherlands to act.
There’s a couple logical fallacies to those who want to blame the United States anyway for Saddam’s use of chemical weapons. Mostly, they argue the U.S. government knew or should have known Saddam would use chemical weapons and therefore should be considered guilty by association, even if it was the Dutch (and perhaps also the Germans) who were enabling Saddam’s genocide for profit.
What is unclear is if the same progressive activists would argue that the United States should have gotten militarily involved at that point, despite the war raging between Iran and Iraq and despite the still-existent Soviet Union acting as Iraq’s patron. Human rights activists like to criticize with hindsight, but as atrocities occur they are often more concerned with criticizing those who would advocate for military action than those whose atrocities they are trying to prevent.
Indeed, this is currently the case with the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose regime suppressed minorities, has actively sought to acquire weapons of mass destruction and, even after the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, maintains an industrial-scale nuclear program. The Iran case isn’t just theoretical, nor is it simply a problem of progressives cozying up to a repressive regime.
Again, the Dutch come front and center. In a story the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal relayed, the Dutch ministers of defense, foreign affairs, and foreign trade reported to the Dutch parliament that “Dutch technology was used in programs of weapons of mass destruction and means of delivery in Iran, Pakistan or Syria.”
So as it was with Iraq, it now is with Iran: When it comes to the problem of weapons of mass destruction, if the money is right, Dutch businessmen will side with the dictators that would use them rather than the victims who would suffer at those dictators’ hands.
Now, this isn’t to suggest that all Dutch businessmen are morally vacuous or would enable murder if the money was right. But the culture of Dutch commerce is a problem, especially when it comes to the Middle East. And it’s not just the Dutch.
The ultimate irony, of course, is that among European diplomats and human rights activists, there is no shortage of condescension and spite directed toward the United States and its foreign policy when, arguably, the European prioritization of its business interests above nonproliferation in the Middle East which has cost thousands of lives, and threatens to cost millions more.
Indeed, if European leaders want to understand why so few policymakers in the United States trust European peace initiatives, they need look no further than the Netherlands. Or Germany, where former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder arguably used his position to privilege Russian oil interests, before taking a leadership role in Russia’s major oil company after his political retirement.
It’s easy to blame America. But when push comes to shove, the United States more often provides the solution, while European businessmen seek to profit off the problem.
Michael Rubin (@Mrubin1971) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official.
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