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Double Standards: Strange Symmetries in Global Governance

Learning from Bill Clinton and Saddam Hussein


The USA is acknowledged as the only remaining super-power and Bill Clinton is its leader. The USA perceives itself to be a defender of freedom.

Iraq is perceived to be a "rogue state" and an instigator of terrorism -- in pursuit of its own understanding of freedom, according to the Arab world. It is acknowledged as a major threat to international peace through its policies with regard to weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein is its leader.

Of greater concern to the USA public at this time, than Saddam Hussein, is what Bill Clinton is concealing in his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and whether he is lying about it -- or encouraging others to lie about it.

Of greater concern to the United Nations (and to US foreign policy), is what weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein is concealing and whether he is lying about them -- or encouraging others to lie about them.

To discover whether Bill Clinton is concealing anything, or encouraging others to tell lies, an independent prosecutor has been appointed -- Ken Starr.

To discover whether Saddam Hussein is concealing anything, or encouraging others to lie about it, the United Nations has appointed an inspection team -- headed by Richard Butler .

A major focus of the investigation of Bill Clinton is what he did with his penis -- and whether it was appropriately contained.

A major focus of the investigation of Saddam Hussein is what he did with his missiles -- and whether they are appropriately contained.

Of special concern, in the case of Bill Clinton, is what he did with his penis in the presidential Oval Office. For the investigators, the question of right of access is a major issue.

Of special concern, in the case of Saddam Hussein, is what he did with his missiles in relation to the presidential sites. For the investigators, the question of right of access is a major issue.

Bill Clinton is acknowledged to have a long track record of misuse of his penis whilst in public office.

Saddam Hussein is acknowledged to have a long track of abusive use of weapons of mass destruction.

From Bill Clinton's perspective, the investigation is seen as an invasion of privacy and an infringement of executive privilege.

From Saddam Hussein's perspective, the investigation is seen as an affront to Iraqi sovereignty and the dignity of the nation.

For his opponents, Bill Clinton's actions are seen as fundamentally immoral and as a potentially dangerous corruption of the moral fibre of society. From this perspective he is judged (notably by the Christian right) to be at best misguided, if not evil. Bill Clinton (and the USA) have been labelled "satanic" in the Arab world.

For his opponenets, Saddam Hussein's actions are seen as fundamentally immoral and a potentially dangerous disruption of lifeforms in the biosphere. From this perspective he is judged to be at best misguided, if not evil. Saddam Hussein has been labelled "demonic" in the western world.

Bill Clinton is seen by his opponents to have been remarkably adept at staving off enquiry and out-maneuvering investigators over an extended period of time.

Saddam Hussein is seen by his opponents to have been remarkably adept at staving off enquiry and out-maneuvering investigators over an extended period of time.

Despite questions about his character, Bill Clinton maintains a very high level of popularity and is considered to be a competent president.

Despite questions about his character, Saddam Hussein is much appreciated by the man-in-the-street in Iraq and throughout the Arab world. He has successfully rebuilt his country.

In the case of Bill Clinton, the requirement of many is to know the truth of what really occurred with Monica Lewinsky. How this is to be achieved, without independent objective witnesses, remains unclear. The differences in perspective of two people, concerning what occurred between them when they were alone, are well-known. What "truth" can be uncovered? A pattern of behaviour may have one significance to one party, and another to the other -- or may have a dual-significance.

In the case of Saddam Hussein, the requirement of the United Nations is to know the truth about the status of the missiles (and weapons of mass destruction). How this is to be achieved, given the possibility of constantly moving them ahead of an inspection, remains unclear. What "truth" can be uncovered -- especially since many processes for producing biochemical weapons can be done with dual-usage equipment?

Attacking Iraq would have distracted attention from the investigation of Bill Clinton -- but the problem would not have gone away.

Attacking Iraq would have created the impression of decisive action -- but it is recognized that the neither the weapons of mass destruction, nor Saddam Hussein, would have been removed.

The USA has its own stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction -- which it continues to develop, under the leadership of Bill Clinton, as do some of its military allies. These weapons and facilities are not open to inspection by United Nations teams of observers. This would be viewed as an infringement of sovereignty and national dignity.

Much of the precursor material and equipment for the production of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was obtained by Saddam Hussein from countries that have formed part of the coalition of forces against Iraq. Only modest efforts have been made by the United Nations to curtail such commerce.

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Although use of military force has been avoided, the main conclusion in the Arab world is that the United States, acting through the United Nations, is guilty of a double standard. Whereas Iraq is taken to task because of its failure to fulfil Security Council resolutions, from an Arab perspective there is no equivalent pressure applied to Israel with regard to Palestine and occupied territories.

Perhaps more could be learnt about the nature of the double standard by exploring the strange symmetry between the issues centred on Bill Clinton and on Saddam Hussein.