Immoderate use of force

Global rage at the American-led attack on Iraq derives mainly from the way in which it was decided – the fact that disarmament turned out to be just a pretext which, when it proved to be unconvincing, was simply swept aside, together with the UN, so that a unilateral attack could be unleashed. But the reaction of politicians, the public and the media throughout the world stems from the cynicism and crude complacency that are typical of the way in which the murderous American force has promoted itself, and the ease of mind with which the United States resorts to it. No one forgets that we are talking about politics here, and that the actions of the international powers are judged according to their interests. «We shouldn’t apologize for protecting our basic economic interests,» wrote Richard Nixon during the first war against Iraq, and his comment was correct. It is precisely this utterance by the former US president, however, which demonstrates why the current American stance is poisoning the planet. The public has a firmly grounded impression that the slaughter being sown by the US war machine has no justifiable cause in the defense or establishment of its vital interests. In the eyes of public opinion, Washington kills because it is able to do so without needing to. And it does so with tons of haughty cynicism, which is aggravated by the manner of the people who represent that stance; representatives who have the greater audacity conferred by the possession of superior firepower and who give the impression they would take to their heels at once if they ever had to fight on equal terms. «Praiseworthy are those who are less unjust than their strength permits,» wrote Thucydides, attributing the saying to the Athenians. The US shows that it has lost the moderation that justifies such praise. It does not appear to be a force for civilized values, but, to recall Thucydides again, as «human nature, accustomed to acting unjustly, trampling on the law.» With their cynical arrogance, they take the balance of violence to be the sole and absolute criterion. «To those we rule,» to quote Thucydides on the Athenians’ speech to the people of Milos, «your hatred will serve as proof of our power.»