Compared to the current Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's former president Muhammad Khatami is regarded in Western foreign affairs circles as a moderate. When Khatami visited the US in September, he called on the US and Iran to stop verbally assaulting each other in the interest of dialogue that could build trust and eliminate the frictions between the two countries. Khatami said that the precondition for dialogue was "to eliminate the language of threat."
In an attempt to "resolve conflicts by talking, rather than by aggression," the venerable Scottish University of St. Andrews invited Khatami to the United Kingdom for an honorary degree, followed by a speech at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.
However, a spanner was thrown into the works by two Iranian exiles, who claim to have been unlawfully imprisoned and tortured in Iran during the period of Khatami's presidency. Under Section 134 of Britain's Criminal Justice Act of 1988, torture wherever committed in the world is criminal under British law and triable in the UK. Thus, Khatami might still be arrested as he tours the UK in the interest of opening communication.
If Khatami can be arrested in the UK for torture, how does British Prime Minister Tony Blair escape arrest for the torture of Afghans and Iraqis by coalition forces?
Why are not US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Richard Cheney, and President George W. Bush arrested when they visit the UK?
Does the British law excuse Anglo-Americans from its reach? Does it exclude government officials while they are in office and pursue them only when they have become private citizens?
Or are we witnessing the operation of the neoconservative assumption that there is one rule of law for the US and its allies and another rule for countries that do not support the neocon agenda? Neocons maintain that whatever the US and its allies or puppets do in the interest of US hegemony is defensible and permissible but is a crime if any other country does it.
When the president and vice president of the United States publicly defend and advocate torture and ram torture legislation through the US Congress, it is hypocrisy for the US to condemn others for torture.
Perhaps Americans don't notice, but the rest of the world does see the double standard applied when Saddam Hussein is put on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, while US, UK, and Israeli government officials commit far greater crimes by illegally invading countries, targeting civilian populations, and torturing detainees.
Considering the enormous bloodshed and destruction of civilian lives and infrastructure in Afghanistan and Iraq by US and UK troops, why do British left-wing academics and human rights activists want to help the neoconservatives in the US and UK spread the war to Iran? Helping to spread war is what the British left is doing when they agitate for the arrest of Khatami while leaving Labour Party PM Tony Blair free to commit more crimes against humanity.
Could it be that the two Iranian exiles are acting as neoconservative agents to block any possible rapprochement with Iran? This is not a wild speculation in view of the role Iraqi exiles played in deceiving the American public and making false accusations against Iraq that Bush used to justify his invasion.
The Iraq and Afghanistan invasions have turned out to be a catastrophe for the US and UK as well as for the Iraqis and Afghans. Only a totally deranged political leadership would want to spread the catastrophe to Iran.
According to a BBC news report (October 30), British private security firm personnel—mercenaries to some—outnumber British soldiers in Iraq six to one. A British charity group accuses PM Tony Blair of "allowing mercenary armies to operate completely outside the law." In Britain it is no longer permissible to hunt foxes, because it is "cruel and inhumane," but it is perfectly alright for private mercenaries and British soldiers to murder Iraqi and Afghan men, women, and children for the sake of Anglo-American-Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.
Saddam Hussein was overthrown and indicted, and Iraq largely destroyed, in part because Saddam is "an evil man who tortured political opponents." Evidence of US torture of Iraqis is all over the Internet in vivid photos. According to Amnesty International, "Adequate safeguards against torture and ill-treatment are not in place in Multinational Force detention facilities, and thousands continue to be held without charge or trial." The president and vice president of the US advocate torture not only of Iraqis but also of everyone declared, correctly or incorrectly, by some US government official to be a "terrorist suspect."
Why are not Bush, Cheney and Blair on trial? Their crimes dwarf any that could possibly be attributed to Khatami.
The only possible answer is that "might makes right." Yet, Bush, Cheney and Blair parade around draping themselves in moral justifications for their inhumane deeds and despicable acts.
The fact that Americans tolerate crimes against humanity by their own leaders is evidence that Americans are exceptional only in their hubris.
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Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow's Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.