We haven't learned from blunders of the past

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 March, 1998, 12:00am

I refer to Chris Bilham's letter, headlined, 'Case of history repeating itself' (South China Morning Post, March 2).

I agree that history has repeated itself in the case of the crisis between Iraq and the US, but in a more worrying way than Mr Bilham pointed out.

A nation defeated in a war is subjected to total humiliation and degradation by way of the peace accord - all trade with the country is barred, causing economic chaos. Foreign troops and officials are imposed within its borders, causing serious damage to national pride.

This pride is ultimately lost, because the war's victorious sides make the country's mistakes blatantly obvious to its people, shoving the recent past down their throats. The motives are more to do with revenge than anything else and the country is made to pay dearly for its actions.

From the ashes of this once strong, proud country rises Mr Bilham's 'evil and devious' dictator.

He is seen as everything that his countrymen are not allowed to be. He is strong, adamant, and proud. In a country hurt and humiliated by the actions of the outside world, as well as crippled economically, he is seen as the right answer, someone who will bring back the glory and relative prosperity of the past, and is promptly brought to power.

Is this madman Saddam Hussein? Is the country Iraq after the Gulf War? Possibly, but it was also the position of Germany after World War I, when a now-notorious politician named Adolf Hitler rose to power. There are of course differences. Saddam Hussein was already in power while Hitler was not, therefore Saddam's power was strengthened rather than attained for the first time. But the similarities, Mr Bilham, are frightening.

How could American-led UN sanctions be allowed to humiliate Iraq and its people and destroy the country's economy, when even students of elementary history are made aware of these very faults in the Treaty of Versailles, and its subsequent role in bringing Hitler to power? What did the US expect as a result of its actions, and is it really surprised now that another, possibly more serious crisis has arisen as a result of the sanctions? Saddam Hussein is stronger than ever in Iraq and the US really has itself, its aggression, and its post-war sanctions to blame, though its recent 'sabre-rattling' certainly proves that it doesn't acknowledge this fact. The emergence of this crisis could have been avoided: it is after all logical that learning from the past and its mistakes avoids history repeating itself.

As Mr Bilham pointed out, history indeed dictates that 'we haven't heard the last of Saddam Hussein', and we can only pray that the next crisis when it comes will not resemble the one in the 1930s. I suppose my conclusion is the same as yours Mr Bilham - we have been here before. And we haven't learned a thing.




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