Was Stalin Right?

Nothing more fair than the international protests in the case of Iranian Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, sentenced to death by stoning. The case is not unique. In Iraq, a country under U.S. occupation, just in Baghdad alone, 133 women were murdered ("honor murders") in 2007. We should look at other records too. It is estimated that the U.S. invasion has left more than a million dead Iraqis. In what terms should a discussion of human rights be put? You will need to agree with Stalin when he said that "the death of a person is a tragedy; the millions, a statistic." The article is by Reginaldo Nasser.

Reginaldo Nasser (*)

Ag Carta Maior

The case of Mohammadi Sakineh Ashtiani, sentenced to death by stoning in Iran, has attracted the attention of international media and has caused protests in several countries. Nothing more fair! Mother of two children, she has already received 99 lashes for having maintained an "illegal relationship" with a man accused of murdering her husband. Moreover, there is evidence that she has been tortured. Iran is one of the countries where there have been more executions (388) taking place in the world with a significant increase after the alleged "election fraud," but it is not unique. Amnesty International estimates that about 714 people were executed in 2009. (Iraq, 120, Saudi Arabia, 69; USA, 52, Yemen, 30. China will not provide any kind of information, possibly there were thousands). Were there repercussions? Or is the biggest problem that the stoning is in an enemy country?

In Iraq, a country under U.S. occupation, just in Baghdad alone, 133 women were murdered ("honor murders") in 2007. But we must look to other records too. In a survey conducted by the prestigious medical journal The Lancet it is estimated that over 600,000 Iraqis were killed as a result of the U.S. invasion up until 2006. It is estimated that already there are around more than a million dead Iraqis according to Opinion Research Business (prestigious British research agency). The mainstream press has not given due prominence, but there is discussion in the Congress of the USA about the possibility of cutting off humanitarian aid to civilian victims of attacks by U.S. forces.

In August, in which the topic of Human Rights came to be ventilated by everyone, including the National Journal that questioned the PT candidate, we should seize the occasion of the "celebrations" and remember what happened exactly 65 years ago in order to understand how world powers are concerned with human rights.

The then U.S. president Harry Truman was one of the biggest enthusiasts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted at the UN in December 1948. (Need we remind the condition of human rights abuses of blacks in America?) That's right, then three years later (August 1945) he authorized the release of nuclear bombs that caused the immediate death of 200,000 people and injured about 100,000 with the "humanitarian" goal to "save millions of lives" by providing a quick end to the war.

Aside from the moral issues involved, was the nuclear attack necessary? Japan had been defeated militarily. The Japanese maritime defense area was practically annihilated, U.S. bombers promoted a real devastation in the cities. On the night of March 10, 1945, a wave of 300 American bombers struck Tokyo, killing 100,000 people and destroying 35% of all households. A million residents were displaced. Food had become so scarce that most Japanese lived on a starvation diet. On May 23rd was the largest air raid of the Pacific War, when 10,000 tons of incendiaries were released on Tokyo and other major cities (see this story in the Film: The Fog of War).

According to American air force commander, LeMay, the goal of American bombers was to drive the Japanese "back to the stone age." But the same general said that "The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the ending of the war." Today, there are reams of documentation showing that the Japanese in mid-April 1945, were offering surrender terms virtually identical to those that were accepted by the Americans in September (see the excellent historical research on this question in The Journal of Historical Review , May-June 1997, Vol 16, No.3).

In what terms should the discussion of human rights be put? If torture and the death penalty should be repudiated, whatever the circumstances, are questions of the means and their effectiveness irrelevant? Why condemn torture and keep silence about acts of "war"? For example, the bombings, which are known to cause damage to human life, given its highly destructive power, is it justified for security and national defense? For the mainstream military operations in which civilians are killed or wounded as a result may not be immediately qualified as crimes, whenever your objective is not to "deliberately" inflict harm on helpless individuals.

You will need to agree with Stalin when he said "The death of a person is a tragedy; the millions, a statistic"?

(*) Professor of International Relations at PUC-SP

Translated from the Portuguese version by:



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Author`s name Lisa Karpova