Were Iraqis better off under Saddam Hussein?That would have been a extraordinary question to ask in 2003. Saddam was, after all, a saber-rattling tyrant. He operated a feared secret police, a system of prisons and psychiatric hospitals full of people who were tortured and held without charge or trial, as well as rape camps.
But three and a half years later, my question has taken on a shocking legitimacy because of the extraordinary mess that the Bush administration has made of everything it has done in Iraq.While Saddam's brutalities cannot and should not be dismissed, they were not why the Bush administration beat the war drum so ferociously. Saddam, the White House argued, had to be taken out because he had WMDs, including a nuclear weapons program, had close ties to Al Qaeda and connections to the 9/11 terror attacks, and was a threat to regional stability and world peace. In his stead, a U.S.-nurtured democracy would grow and flourish, and Iraq would become a beacon of hope in the Middle East.
Well, Saddam was not a regional or global threat. He had no WMDs or nukes and no terrorist ties of consequence. His saber had been dulled and the Bush administration knew it. We were lied to.Wait. It gets worse:
The occupation has been a bloodbath of broken promises. The Iraqi people were lied to.
It is beyond unlikely that a democracy in the image of the neoconservatives who beat the war drum can be established, and Iraq today has become a genuine threat to regional stability.
Two new reports paint a bleak picture of U.S.-occupied Iraq:
One report, a stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies, says that the invasion and occupation have spawned a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the threat from terrorists has grown since 9/11.
The other report, a U.N. analysis, finds that an extraordinary 7,000 Iraqis have been killed in the last two months alone and that things are likely to deteriorate further.
Sectarian militias and death squads have upstaged even Saddam's secret police.So here's another question that also has taken on a shocking legitimacy:
Many of the resulting deaths are attributable to a level of torture far worse than under Saddam.
An excerpt from the U.N. report: "Bodies found at the Medico-legal Institute often bear signs of severe torture, including acid-induced injuries and burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones (back, hands and legs), missing eyes, missing teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails."
Many Iraqis, perhaps thousands, are being held without charge or trial.
There is no evidence of rape camps, but there is an epidemic of "honor killings" of woman and teenaged girls who are murdered after death sentences imposed by secretive sharia committees are carried out.
George Bush and his neocon cabal have taken a broken country and broken it all over again. They have succeeded in doing the impossible by making many Iraqis nostalgic for the bad old days.
Will the U.S. guarantee that Saddam Hussein's legacy is martyrdom instead of infamy?
I regret to say that I believe that it will.