To the Editor:

The column written by Davi Bernstein ’03 (“Iraq attack has precedent in our long tradition of liberty,” 10/14) embodies all the hypocritical flaws of the dangerous American foreign policy in the Middle East (and specifically with Iraq) — a policy bereft of the very “idealism” and “conscience” that he exhorts. His assertion that “our national interest and our ideals are, if not always one, usually complimentary” needs re-stating and examining.

The truth is that, in the realm of foreign affairs, “American ideals” are twisted, exaggerated, or completely neglected according to the specific nature of this superpower’s national interest. Simply ask the ghosts of populist leaders Salvador Allende and Patrice Lumumba how the American principles of democracy and liberty applied to the downfall of their legitimate regimes and their replacement by brutal, American-supported dictators. Did combating the “essential wickedness” of the Soviet Union merit leaving a legacy of death and tyranny in numerous countries from Africa to Latin America?

Even current global enemy number one — our pal Saddam — was a beneficiary of the malpractice of American “permanent truths.” The Reagan administration — which Bernstein enshrines in his column — directly equipped and supported Hussein’s Iraq in its invasion of Iran (whose autocratic, CIA-backed Shah had been overthrown by popular revolution). At that time, U.S. spokesmen in Geneva vehemently denied reports when evidence was presented that Hussein’s forces had used mustard gas on members of the Kurdish population.

American warmongers wield moral arguments only when it is expedient, not because they actually care about the virtues they espouse.

It can be reasoned that the United States has real interest (and potential gain) in deposing Saddam, but to justify the inevitable deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians on specious, manufactured moral grounds does dishonor to the Iraqi people and cheapens the values of American society. If you advocate war on Iraq, do not hide behind this delusional veil of idealized jingoism — be fully prepared to accept the misery that pre-emptive American aggression will create both at home and abroad.

Ishaan Tharoor ’06

October 14, 2002