The Saddam Hussein argument stopper no longer works


When critics of the Iraq war condemn it and criticize those who started it and the others who acted as cheerleaders, supporters frequently come back with what they feel is the ultimate argument clincher, that the world is better without Saddam Hussein and so for that reason alone the decision to invade was the correct one, even if subsequent events have resulted in a disastrous situation.

Leaving aside the fact that attacking and invading another country that never threatened you is an illegal and immoral act and indeed a war crime, that defense has become even shakier as the whole region has become destabilized. The increase in conflicts between rival sectarian groups and the rise of ISIS can be traced to the fact that the US and its allies have created a number of failed states starting with Iraq and now extending to Libya, Yemen, and Syria which have proved to be fertile breeding grounds for conflicts. And things are not that great in Afghanistan either.

This is now the view of even people like Richard Clarke who served in the White House of George W. Bush as his National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism, in other words his chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council.

“And all the stuff we’re seeing today — the rise of ISIS, the disintegration of the state in Iraq, the disintegration of the state in Syria, I think is directly connected to our invasion,” said Clarke.

“We destroyed the state. This is what happens when you destroy a state. You have chaos, you have the rise of factions, regional and ethic factions,” he continued. “And I think you can look at that decision and say that’s the reason hundreds of thousands — probably a couple of million if you add it all up — people have been killed.”

We should never stop pointing out that the Iraq war was wrong when it was initiated and is wrong now and those who advocated for it and supported it are accomplices in creating immense suffering for the people of that region.

The cheerleaders for the war sometimes suggest that those who argue that the Iraq war was wrong are somehow admirers of Hussein. That this argument is ridiculous should be obvious and is a symptom of how bankrupt their position is. In fact, to those who make it, the question should be turned back on them because by their logic, that means that they must be admirers of ISIS.

Comments

  1. Smokey says

    the world is better without Saddam Hussein

    The world would have been much better without George W. Bush as President.

  2. Just an Organic Regular Expression says

    I’ll grant you Libya; I’m ignorant on the sources of the Yemeni collapse; but I’m not clear on how you would justify Syria as a failed state created by the US and its allies. Are you saying that the US or its allies created or incited its civil war? I had not heard that. Certainly the fact that we are not contributing arms to the rebel side is something the Republicans use to criticize the President.

  3. says

    The US has always opposed democracy in countries with natural resources the US wants. For decades, the US installed and supported fascist dictatorships (e.g. Cuba, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Iran) until such regime were untenable politically both inside the occupied country and in the world. The smart thing to do after 1990 would have been to either (a) support democracy and try to win friends or (b) bugger off and at least not create any new enemies. In time, the US might be forgiven.

    Instead, for the past 25 years the US chose “divide and conquer” – destroy governments and prevent any stability internally and within the region. The “thinking” is that weak states are easier to control but in reality, weak states became easier for local strongmen and extremists – usually, those oppressed by US friendly dictators – to take over said countries. Both have proven to be founded on premises as false and as stupid as the “domino theory” of anti-communism which only sered to create more communist countries.

    Would Iraq have been better off under a free and peaceful democracy than Saddam Hussein? Yes, but the US prevented any possibility of that by backing his seizure of power in 1968 and by the US opposing and destroying democracy in Iran in 1953.

    Was Iraq better off under Saddam than it is now? Absolutely, as much as Yugoslavia was better off under Tito and communism than the genocides that followed its breakup. But unlike Yugoslavia, there has been no divisions of regions, no separation of warring factions by borders that help cool tensions. The US kept Iraq in one piece in order to steal its oil.

    Iraq’s Attorneys Practicing in a State of Fear

    […]

    Iraq was hardly an example of blind justice before the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, who ensured that nearly all lawyers and judges were in thrall to his Baath Party. But for routine trials, Iraq’s legal system, designed in the 1920s to resemble the Egyptian and French models, generally meted out fair justice guided by well-trained lawyers and judges.

    “It was an impressive overall legal system, as long as we did not get into the political sphere,” said Khaled Abou El Fadl, a law professor at UCLA and a scholar of Islamic law. “What we have consistently forgotten is how well-educated Iraqi academics are. They’re sophisticated people who know quite a bit” about Western law and government.

    Now, many of the best-educated have fled the country, and yet life goes on in the lawyers’ union, Iraq’s equivalent of a bar association, which has 42,000 members nationwide. Well-dressed attorneys flitted in and out of Hamdoun’s office quietly, asking the union leader to sign papers. Downstairs, they met in the dark, cigarette smoke-filled cafeteria below Hamdoun’s office, where they talked shop with each other or their clients. Their sentiment was unanimous: They preferred the dictator’s law to none at all.

    “We were waiting for the day when Saddam was gone,” said one lawyer, Ali Gatie al-Jubouri, who spent nine years studying engineering in Michigan, only to become a lawyer after he inherited a fortune in property from his father. “But now we feel sorry that Saddam’s days are over. It’s a tragedy.”

    The lawyers, along with American legal scholars, almost unanimously blame the United States — particularly the Coalition Provisional Authority, which administered Iraq in the year after Hussein’s government fell.

  4. says

    @2

    Well, I think the first part would be to pull out a map and find Syria and Iraq. Note that they share quite a bit of their borders. While I would agree that Syria was by no means a stable state before Iraq, I think it could easily be argued (using ISIS as a main example) that the power vacuum left behind in Iraq has had an impact on Syria. Actually, I would say it is precisely because Syria was not fully stable that has allowed for there to be an impact. So, sure, saying “the US or its allies created or incited its civil war” is likely taking things to far. But I find it completely fair to say they made a bad situation worse.

  5. mnb0 says

    It didn’t take a genius to predict that the second war on Iraq would decrease world safety. In the first place there was no alternative for SH; the Iraqi didn’t have a coalition opposed to him. In the second place about everyone in the Middle East was dead against it. The amazing thing is that it took IS that long to get started.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Just an Organic Regular Expression @ # 2: Are you saying that the US or its allies created or incited its civil war? I had not heard that.

    Then you must have paid remarkably little attention to Dubya’s war from the beginning, when warnings about how it would “destabilize the region” abounded (except on tv, of course).

    Here, I did a little search for ya: US created ISIS.

    Certainly the fact that we are not contributing arms to the rebel side is something the Republicans use to criticize the President.

    That the Republicans use this should have been a major clue for you about whether it’s a “fact”. In reality, the US did provide a lot of weaponry to Syrian rebels – who, poorly trained and motivated, let ISIL/Daesh and other jihadi factions capture huge amounts of it rather promptly.

  7. Just an Organic Regular Expression says

    @Pierce Butler, I am aware of how ISIS grew in the chaos of the 2nd Iraq-US war. However ISIS is not identical to the Syrian civil war. My impression is that the Syrian war at least began as a “legitimate” (as much as such things can be) Arab-spring-inspired revolt against the Assad regime, and was inflamed by Assad’s scorched-earth response against his own cities. And the U.S. at least officially stood back and watched, only being involved in supporting the UN-run removal of poison gas munitions from the Assad army (remember that event? actual international cooperation, such a concept).

    I was not minimizing the idiocy of US policy in the region over many decades. I was questioning the sole point of Mano’s inclusion of the Syrian war in a blanket indictment of U.S. interventions. I think that’s one we don’t have to take the blame for.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    Just… @ # 8: My impression is that the Syrian war at least began as a “legitimate” (as much as such things can be) Arab-spring-inspired revolt against the Assad regime, and was inflamed by Assad’s scorched-earth response against his own cities.

    The Obama-neocon “we must overthrow Assad!” cabal got their sticky fingers all over the “legitimate” (as you say…) protests early in the game, subverting both their own embryonic leadership and their credibility among other Syrians.

    … the U.S. at least officially stood back and watched, only being involved in supporting the UN-run removal of poison gas munitions …

    And you believe a word of the “officially” part??!?

    …remember that event? …

    Yep, and I also remember a sellout former peace activist US SecState beating the war drums incessantly for bombing and invasion until a clumsy answer to a well-put question got ju-jitsued by Assad (surely aided by Putin) presented the world community a way to pressure the US from responding in the ways that the US habitually responds to any crisis in a nation of darker-skinned people.

    I think that’s one we don’t have to take the blame for.

    I think differently, and I have lots and lots of evidence. Check out this search, and note that many of the events referenced go back to the (Bill) Clinton era. Look for “Syria” at juancole.com or commondreams.org or tomdispatch.com for more.

  9. StevoR says

    However much things went and continue to go wrong in Iraq after his overthrow, nothing will alter the fact that Saddam Hussein was an immensely evil tyrant who oppressed and murdered and committed so many atrocities. It is god that Saddam Hussein was removed from power and stopped from doing more of what he always did.

    Other things that went wrong afterwards and other arguments aren’t addressed by this point are also of course true but their reality doesn’t make that above point vanish.

    The war on Iraq was wrong but this doesn’t mean Saddam Hussein was right or good.

    @ 4. astrosmash : True Ish (Saddam Took power himself) but still see above.

  10. Dunc says

    The war on Iraq was wrong but this doesn’t mean Saddam Hussein was right or good.

    Nobody’s saying that it does. Unfortunately, much of the time our choice is not between “good” and “bad”, but between “bad” and “worse”. In this case, not only have we made things demonstrably and inarguably worse in virtually every sense, but we also killed about a million people along the way and destabilised the entire region for decades to come. Where does that leave us, in the grand moral scheme of things? We’ve almost certainly killed more Iraqis than he ever did, and the rubble hasn’t stopped bouncing yet…

  11. Mano Singham says

    StevoR @# 10,

    It is interesting how the apologists for the Iraq invasion keep ratcheting up the rhetoric describing Hussein as the case for invasion is increasingly seen as fraudulent, like your description of him as an “iImmensely evil tyrant who oppressed and murdered and committed so many atrocities”. Of course, he was also compared to Hitler. It would not surprise me to hear him described as the spawn of Satan.

    The reality is that he was just another brutal tinpot dictator who was supported by the US just like they supported other such dictators such as Chiang Kai-shek, Fulgencio Batista, Ngo Dinh Diem, Anastosio Somoza, Duvalier father and son, Rafael Trujillo, Shah Reza Pahlavi, Suharto, Mobutu Sese Seko, Augusto Pinochet, Hosni Mubarak, Fedinand Marcos, Efrain Rios Montt, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Idriss Déby, Manuel Noriega, Islam Karimov, King Abdullah, Berdimuhamedow, and many others, and they turned against him only when he was no longer useful to them and overthrowing him served their purposes.

    So spare us the rhetoric about how he was uniquely evil and thus required removal.

    As Dunc points out, it is possible to make a bad situation worse. The saying “out of the frying pan and into the fire” comes to mind when describing what happened in Iraq.

  12. StevoR says

    @ ^ Mano Singham : I didn’t say he was “uniquely” evil just evil – nor am I being an apologist for the Iraq war having specifically stated it was wrong.

  13. StevoR says

    @12. Mano Singham :

    .. seen as fraudulent, like your description of him as an “immensely evil tyrant who oppressed and murdered and committed so many atrocities”.

    How is that description of Saddam Hussein at all fraudulent exactly? He did oppress the Iraqi people, just look at the joy most of them expressed when his statue came down and when he was captured and convicted and executed by an Iraqi court of just some of his many crimes notably the Dujail massacre of over 140 Iraqi Shi’ites. Look at how Saddam used chemical weapons against the Kurds and Iranians, started and waged the almost decade long Iran-Iraq war (yes, I know the US supported it at the the time – that make it right?) invaded Kuwait, butchered the Marsh Arabs and other rebels afterwards and so very much more :

    .. his (Saddam Hussein’s) tenure was also characterized by day-to-day atrocities that attracted less notice. Wartime rhetoric regarding Hussein’s “rape rooms,” death by torture, decisions to slaughter the children of political enemies, and the casual machine-gunning of peaceful protesters accurately reflected the day-to-day policies of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Hussein was no misunderstood despotic “madman.” He was a monster, a butcher, a brutal tyrant, a genocidal racist–he was all of this, and more. … (Snip) … Saddam Hussein was unquestionably one of the most brutal dictators of the 20th century. History cannot even begin to record the full scale of his atrocities and the effect they had on those affected and the families of those affected.

    Source : http://civilliberty.about.com/od/internationalhumanrights/p/saddam_hussein.htm

    Are you really disputing the reality that Saddam was an evil monster and did deserve to lose power and face some justice for his horrific crimes and atrocities? Seriously?

    The reality is that he was just another brutal tinpot dictator who was supported by the US just like they supported other such dictators such as .. (Long list of mostly, arguably, less evil, evil men)

    Some of those dictators on your list whilst dictators with issues were also pretty reasonable in a lot of ways. I’ve known Iranians – had them as neighbours -who thought The old Shah Reza Pahlavi was a good person and leader and that things were much better when he was in charge of Persia. I think there is a good case that Iran would be a lot better off and the rest of the world too had the Iranian revolution failed and the Shah’s stayed in power there. The failed anti-Ayatollah’s revolution a few years ago during the death throes of the so-called “Arab Spring” seems to show that many young Iranians would agree with me here.

    Hosni Mubarack followed Anwar Sadat’s example and lead after he was murdered by the Islamists (Sadat that is) and kept Egypt far more stable and prosperous and probably happy and less oppressed that it was under Morsi’s Hamas-related Muslim Brotherhood and is under the current military rule. In hindsight it probably would better for the Egyptians and the World generally again had Mubarack (& sadly maybe a few more generations of his sons) stayed in charge until Egypt was a bit more educated, secular and less prone to Islamism to be ready for democracy.

    Ditto again with China and Chiang Kai-shek – surely you don’t think the Communist rule ofMao TseTung with its horrendous atrocities and almost unfathomable amounts of human suffering was a better alternative?

    Yes, you’ve got a lot of obscure evil dictators in there who are indeed evil men – subjectively we can argue over who is worse and back up stats and figures but ultimately none of this exonerates Saddam Hussein from his evil in any way.

    No, Saddam wasn’t uniqe, yes to the USA’s eternal shame it backed him for a while – almost certainly, for lack of better realistic alternatives. Yes, that was wrong but probably, sadly, the lesser (still evil but *less* evil) evil. This world is a long way from perfect and it cannot be fixed overnight however much you, I or anyone may wish it were so.

    As Dunc points out, it is possible to make a bad situation worse. The saying “out of the frying pan and into the fire” comes to mind when describing what happened in Iraq.

    Agreed and yeah, that is what happened – but not because Saddam wasn’t evil or it wasn’t right at least in some ways to remove him from power. The Coalition of the Willing won the Iraq war then badly fouled upon the Occupation phase and aftermath no doubt about that. A lot of awful mistakes were made on many sides not least by the Iraqi people themselves who should’ve rejected the terrorists much earlier and done a lot more to make their own newly liberated nation work rather than sabotage it and fall into the sectarian Sunni-Shia / Daesh/ Iran divide that frankly looks like it has already destroyed their country.

  14. StevoR says

    PS. Hopefully if one good thing comes from the Iraq war / Second Saddam war aside from making Saddam Hussein and his sons appalling tyranny history – it will be an independent progressive democratic, successful Kurdish nation in the northern third of Iraq and maybe the Kurdish parts of Syria too. As far as I’m concerned the Kurdish people have set the best example and done the right things in many ways and deserve (as well as are having) success the most out of all the various “Iraqi” groups.

    Iraq like Indonesia, Yugoslavia and lot of other ex-colonial nations really is a very artificial construct that was probably always unlikely to cohere and last. I do think it might be wise for everyone to simply accept that and acknowledge the already de facto break up of Iraq as we’ve recognised the break up of the former Jugoslavia, Sudan, Czeckoslovakia and others before it and likely after it too.

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