AN ANGRY YOUNG woman of Arab ancestry asked why the American press, the public and the government are generally indifferent to the assembly-line justice being dispensed in Kuwait.
"Is that why we fought a war," she said, "so they could sentence people to death or prison without giving them a chance to defend themselves? Doesn't anyone care?"
To answer her first question, the answer is no, that isn't why we fought the war. We fought the war for economic and political reasons, not to establish democracy, freedom, justice, or to a create a taste for baseball and apple pie in Kuwait.
As for her second question, the answer also is no. Most people really don't give a hoot about the brand of justice being dished out by a Kuwait kangaroo court.
Oh, maybe a few good-hearted souls who worry about injustice here, there and everywhere in the world are fretting about some guy getting 15 years for wearing a Saddam T-shirt. Or death sentences being dropped on people who don't get to see their accusers or even talk to lawyers.
But take a stool at any bar or diner in America and listen to what people are talking about. Do you hear anyone saying:
"Hmmm, I see that eight more people were given death sentences in Kuwait on charges that they collaborated with the Iraqi invaders."
"Oh, really? Were they truly guilty?"
"Nobody knows, since they aren't given an opportunity to refute the evidence or even see the evidence, to confront their accusers, to question witnesses, or have a lawyer defend them."
"But they must have done something wrong."
"Maybe. But in some cases, they might have been faced with the choice of working for the Iraqi invaders or dying; so now they are being sentenced to die because they are guilty of not having wanted the Iraqis to make them die. It's the old story of being caught between a rock and a hard place."
"Then why doesn't our government do something about it? After all, we freed Kuwait from Saddam. The least Kuwait can do is not embarrass us by acting no better than their former oppressors."
"Yes, so why don't we all write or phone the White House and demand that President Bush speak sternly to the emir about fairness and justice?"
Do you hear people talking about that? Nah. As I explained to the young Arab-American woman, it's old news. The war is over. We won. The parades are still being held. We have purged ourselves of the Vietnam guilt syndrome. We are in a feel-good mode.
Besides, it really isn't any of our business if innocent people are being railroaded to prison or the gallows in Kuwait. We didn't fight for the right of some mope in Kuwait to have a fair trial. We fought to keep the oil wells pumping and to assure that American investors in that part of the world wouldn't have their business goals disrupted by Saddam Hussein.
And there is nothing new about this. Only a wide-eyed innocent expects this country's leaders to do anything more than make clucking sounds when other governments treat people harshly.
We fought a long, bloody war in Korea. And after that war ended in a draw, a series of harsh, authoritarian bullies took turns running South Korea. They jailed, tortured and killed political dissidents, had secret police snooping out troublemakers and used the military to crack the heads of uppity students. What did we do? They were our pals. So we did business.
The Chinese government makes Kuwait's rulers look like a bunch of pansies. At least reporters can watch Kuwait's judges railroad people. In China, they eliminate troublemakers and maybe they announce it and maybe they don't. So what do we do? They are consumers and potential customers. So we do business.
When the late Shah of Iran was using his secret police and kangaroo courts to murder political opponents, did we tell him he had to knock it off or we would stop being his friend? Of course not. We would have sounded foolish, since we put him in power in the first place, and our CIA taught his secret police how best to pluck the toenails out of a troublemaker's foot. We did business.
So there is no reason for us to intrude on Kuwait's system of injustice. Besides, the great emir wouldn't pay attention to our protests anyway. Guys who have gold toilet seats tend to be a haughty lot.
The best thing to do is ignore it and go with the flow. So when's the next victory parade.?