- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 17, 2001

Who remembers Ian Smith? Unless you are a graybeard, you may not know Ian Smith was the (white) prime minister of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) when the country was a British colony. In 1964, Mr. Smith led an independence rebellion against Great Britain when it became apparent the British were going to betray the white settlers and turn the country over to Marxist Robert Mugabe, who has proved to be even more of a thug than Mr. Smith predicted.

British, European and U.S. economic and political pressures forced Mr. Smith to cave in and hand over the government to Mugabe in 1980.

Among African lands, Zimbabwe was stable and prosperous by comparison. Mr. Mugabe inherited a rule of law, a successful agriculture, a manufacturing base and hard-currency export earnings. Mr. Mugabe has succeeded in destroying them all.

Mr. Mugabe unleashed murderous armed bands on the white farmers. Many of the farmers were murdered. Their wives and daughters were raped. Farms were stolen, and agriculture collapsed. Mr. Mugabe not only ignored Zimbabwe Supreme Court rulings against the illegal land seizures but also ordered the entire Supreme Court into forced retirement.

Mr. Mugabe's extraordinary attack on the rule of law angered blacks as well as whites. Widespread opposition almost toppled him, but he held onto power by using intimidation and force to steal the last election. Opposition candidates were murdered by being doused with gasoline and set on fire. Mr. Mugabe's government recently bombed the independent newspaper and deported foreign correspondents.

Mr. Mugabe has committed as many atrocities against Zimbabweans as Slobodan Milosevic is accused of committing in Kosovo in Serbia's attempt to hold on to the breakaway province.

A person might think Mr. Mugabe would be a prime candidate for being bombed into submission and put on trial for human-rights abuses. Relatives of the murdered members of the opposition have filed suit in federal court in New York against Mr. Mugabe for crimes that violate international law.

Mr. Mugabe responded by demanding diplomatic immunity from the U.S. State Department on grounds he is the head of state. The relatives of Mr. Mugabe's victims are outraged that the U.S. government is considering granting Mr. Mugabe's request.

You can bet your bottom dollar that the British will not seize Mr. Mugabe and attempt to put him on trial the way they did Augusto Pinochet of Chile. Like Fidel Castro, Mr. Mugabe is protected by his icon status among left-leaning American and European intelligentsia.

Once again, we see the ideological application of human-rights laws. The laws are applied to the political right, but not to the political left. Mr. Mugabe, like Mr. Castro, will live out his life committing atrocities against his people.

Liberals need to come to terms with their dysfunctional approach to human rights and the rule of law. If "human rights" is to have real meaning, it must be more than a weapon wielded by left-wingers against politicians they dislike.

The left can get away with political murders because of the presumed morality of their goals. The ends justify the means as long as the policy land redistribution, for example meets with the intelligentsia's approval.

If the policy does not meet with the left-wing's approval such as Gen. Pinochet's privatization of Social Security and socialized industries the human-rights weapon is unsheathed.

The two-faced nature of "human rights" deprives the cause of credibility.

When Britain and the United States handed Rhodesia over to Mr. Mugabe, many assurances were given that democracy was replacing minority white rule. This rhetoric was misleading, because Rhodesia was ruled by a rule of law. White Rhodesians were merely a vehicle for the rule of law.

Mr. Mugabe substituted personal rule for the rule of law. "Majority rule" existed only so long as Mr. Mugabe had no opposition. Once Mr. Mugabe was faced with a black opposition party, majority rule bit the dust along with the rule of law.

Under Ian Smith, blacks had jobs and were protected by "the rights of Englishmen," but blacks were considered to be oppressed. Under Mr. Mugabe, blacks have no jobs and no rights, but they are considered to be liberated and free.

The white Western politicians who put Mr. Mugabe in power are still around. As he is their man, they will continue to make excuses for him. With so many enablers covering his back, don't be surprised if you read Mr. Mugabe had the two white, two black and one Asian member of the Zimbabwe Supreme Court doused with gasoline and set on fire.

Paul Craig Roberts is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.

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