Jewish World Review Nov. 4, 2002 / 29 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Jonah Goldberg

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The politics of evil | If you type into the LexisNexis news database the words "Saddam" and "Hitler" and search for news stories in just the last 30 days, you'll get more than 1,000. I haven't read them all, but I can promise you a great many compare the two mustachioed tyrants. In fact, ever since Poppa Bush compared Saddam to Hitler prior to the "first" Persian Gulf War (yes, I am assuming there will be a second), Saddam has been measured by the yardstick of Hitler's evil.

Now, I don't think comparisons between Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein are useless or inapt. For example, if you are making the case that Hussein is like Hitler in terms of a foreign policy argument, I'm with you. This analogy says that the United States turned a blind eye to Hitler until it was too late. That if we stopped Hitler at Munich, millions of lives and perhaps trillions of dollars could have been saved. Similarly, if we stop Saddam now, it will be a lot less costly than it might be in the future if he gets his hands on nuclear weapons.

But you really don't need Hitler for that analogy. We could use the story of the Bolsheviks - after all, it would have been far better to have stopped them in 1917 or 1945 than 1989. Solving small problems before they become big ones is, in essence, the guiding principle of all foreign policy.

But many people don't use the Hitler-Hussein comparison that way. In 1990, the first President Bush said Saddam Hussein was guilty of "brutality that I don't believe Adolf Hitler ever participated in." Ever since, anti-war critics have ridiculed the idea that Saddam is as bad as Hitler because they understand that in our culture Hitler is shorthand for evil-that-must-be-stopped-no-matter-what. And, some Jewish groups, who sometimes confuse touting the horror of the Holocaust as a defining attribute of Judaism, have argued that no one ever has or ever will be as evil as Hitler.

Now, it may be true that nobody ever has or ever will be as evil as Hitler. He certainly seems like a good candidate - as does Saddam Hussein's idol, Joseph Stalin. But, and here's the kicker, we will never know. Determining evil is not a science. Or maybe it is a science. But it is a science only the Creator has mastered.

Nevertheless, one can certainly forgive Jewish groups for seeing the evil of the Holocaust with singular clarity. Victims of a specific crime tend to understand the evil of that crime best. Which is why I am sure that Saddam Hussein is considered the greatest evil in the world to the (at least) tens of thousands of people who've been brutally tortured and murdered on his orders.

Which brings us to the unforgivable moral cowardice of the anti-war zealots who pooh-pooh the Hitler-Hussein comparison. The question of whether Hussein is as evil as Hitler is not only childish, it's entirely irrelevant. The only pertinent criteria is, "Is Saddam evil enough?" And that's a blazingly simple question to answer. Of course he is.

Hussein has weaponized aflatoxin, a compound only truly useful for giving children slow-killing and painful liver cancer. He's ordered mass murders, including the paving over of still-living Shia Muslims in Southern Iraq and the gassing of Kurds in Northern Iraq. Eyes have been gouged out and tongues cut off at his whim. He orders the rape of families, male and female members. He's invaded two countries. And he has forgone roughly $160 billion in oil revenues just so he can attain nuclear weapons.

If, as liberals are supposed to, you believe that wars can be justified by high-minded moral ends - the liberation of people, the ending of suffering etc. - then you must believe that Saddam Hussein is worth toppling by any means necessary.

And that is why the Hitler comparison is so infuriating when made by anti-war types. When they insist "Saddam's not as bad as Hitler," they are in effect saying, if he's not as bad as Hitler he doesn't deserve to be gotten rid of.

What used to be considered the maximum of evil - Hitler - is now considered the minimum for warranting decisive action. It's as if they are saying so long as a dictator is only 90 percent as evil as Hitler, it would be wrong for us to go to war.

Hitler's evil depended on all sorts of unique factors - technology chief among them - that can never be repeated again. If we think another Hitler is the only justification for war, we will avoid a lot of wars for sure, but we will also countenance a great deal of evil while we're waiting.

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