Paris.--The Arab League is outraged. With characteristic courage and vision, the organization that represents 21 Arab governments and the PLO has taken up the execution by Iraq of London-based journalist Farzad Bazoft. Pulling no punches, the Arab League has blasted Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for asking Iraq not to carry out the execution.
It came as no surprise that the appeal was rejected by Iraq's rulers, who head not a government but a criminal enterprise that has taken control of a country. But the Arab League reaches a new stomach-turning low in meekly endorsing Iraq's judicially sanctioned murder of the Iranian-born free-lance journalist, who was traveling on British documents when he was arrested and accused of espionage.
How dare she? the league huffed of Thatcher's appeal for clemency. Meddling in Iraqi affairs! the league puffed, much as it did 18 months ago when outsiders briefly criticized Iraq for using poison gas against its Kurdish citizens.
The truth is that Western nations, including Britain and the United States, have responded too mildly to this latest example of Iraq's disregard of international norms. The weakness of Western response to Iraq's cynical execution of Bazoft encouraged the Arab League to spit in Thatcher's eye. The league knew it would not suffer from doing so.
Arab governments have again shown a collective willingness not just to endure evil within their community, but to endorse it. Claiming to speak on behalf of the world's 200 million Arabs, the Arab League reflexively defends murder in its midst in the name of Arab solidarity.
This is not solidarity. This is craven and
Moreover, the Arab leaders undermine their own legitimacy with their policy of silence and acquiescence. Their disgusted citizens see this not as solidarity, but as weakness and lack of courage. Given a choice between decency and Iraq, Arab leaders make the wrong choice time after time.
That is not the worse part of it. The worst part is that they are aided and abetted in this by Western democracies and Japan, which do not even have the phony excuse of solidarity to explain their inaction. They placate Iraq because they smell money--or rather, they smell oil. They fail to see that the promise of lucrative contracts from the debt-ridden regime in Baghdad is a mirage.
I exaggerate? Consider the dispatch from Tokyo this week: Japan's Foreign Ministry has asked the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan to explain why it had revoked the honorary membership of the Iraqi ambassador to protest the Bazoft execution. The Foreign Ministry should be joining the correspondents in ostracizing Iraq, not exerting the subtle pressure of an official demand
mindless surrender to the worst elements within the ranks of Arab leadership, who insist that their fellow rulers sink to their own beastly level. By failing to take a moral stand on the excesses of brutality committed by the butchers of Baghdad, by Gadhafi and others, Arab leaders undermine their criticisms of human-rights abuses committed elsewhere, specifically in Israel. for an explanation.
Or think back to the debate in Congress about imposing economic sanctions of Iraq for using poison gas on its own citizens in 1988: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Claiborne Pell (D-RI) was unable to get House members to share his outrage and pass a bill imposing limited sanctions against Iraq. Heavy pressure from firms doing business or wanting to do business in Iraq helped block passage. During the debate, I found out later, a major U.S. chemical company called one congressional office to ask for a briefing on the effect the sanctions might have on its business in Iraq.
Sanctions are generally an ineffective, unwieldy policy tool. But because Iraq's $70 billion to $100 billion in war debts (making Iraq an unlikely source of future profits for American companies), sanctions would bite and force change in this case.
But there is an even more important point to be made with sanctions, Iraq is one of a handful of governments that openly engages in criminal conduct as a matter of routine. This is government by Murder Inc. As were the educated classes of Cambodia during the time of Pol Pot or Jews in Hitler's Germany, Iraqi Kurds are killed or dispossessed of their belongings because of who they are, not what they have done. There must be a way to cast such countries beyond the pale of the international community. Sanctions here would be a beginning.
But the House did not have the courage to do that in 1988. Nor did the British, the French or others take meaningful actin. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein must have taken the measure then of his fellow Arab leaders and his outside critics and concluded that he could continue to act in the blood-soaked style to which he has become accustomed.
If poor Farzad Bazoft counted on international pressure to save him, he misunderstood both Saddam Hussein and the international community.