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(DV) Sanders: Is Anyone Better Off?







Is Anyone Any Better Off?
by Ken Sanders
August 24, 2005

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There can be no dispute that Saddam Hussein was a cruel despot and an embodiment of evil. It is debatable, however, whether the Iraqi people, let alone the world, are better off without him.

Since the removal of Saddam as the ruler of Iraq, the Iraqis, far from being free, have lived under the military occupation of a foreign nation. Not just any foreign nation, mind you, but the U.S., the very nation that aided and abetted Saddam in the 1980s and used Iraq as a proxy to fight Iran. It is the same nation that in the 1980s coyly condemned the use of chemical weapons without specifically naming Iraq or Saddam. In fact, it lobbied against a U.N. resolution condemning Iraq's use of chemical weapons. It is the nation that responded to Iraq's use of chemical weapons against Iran and Iraqi Kurds by increasing its support of Iraq in its war against Iran.

Iraqis currently live under military occupation by the country that falsely promised their liberation once before. Following the first war against Iraq in 1991, Iraqis were encouraged by Bush Sr. to rise up against Saddam and grasp freedom for themselves. The Iraqis rose up. The promised U.S. assistance never came. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis suffered Saddam's wrath, slaughtered because of empty promises.

Not surprisingly (except to the Bush administration) the U.S. forces were not greeted as liberators. Similarly, while pleased that Saddam was gone, many Iraqis looked upon the U.S. forces with suspicion and were impatient for their departure. Their impatience has only grown.

But are the Iraqis better off?

Under Saddam, Iraqis had to worry about Saddam's unpredictable acts of violence and arbitrary punishments. Under U.S. occupation, Iraqis now worry about being killed or maimed by suicide bombers, roadside bombs, or by scared-senseless U.S. forces at innumerable roadblocks. Under Saddam, Iraqis lived under fear of arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture. Under U.S. occupation, those fears remain. Under Saddam, Iraqis suffered and starved as Saddam used the nation's resources for his own gain. Under U.S. occupation, Iraqis still suffer, this time while those contracted by the U.S. pocket funds intended for humanitarian aid and rebuilding.

Is this an improvement or merely a lateral move? Can Iraqis really be said to be better off when hundreds of civilians die and thousands are wounded every month from acts of war? Are an average of 70 insurgent attacks every day signs of a better quality of life? What about only 12 hours of electricity per day with temperatures far in excess of 100 degrees? An unemployment rate of between 28 and 40 percent?

How could they be any worse off?

Nor can it be said that the world is any better off without Saddam around. He was a toothless tyrant, a paper tiger, who had no ability to cause any real harm to anyone but his own people. He had no weapons of mass destruction and, thanks in large part to constant scrutiny by the international community, could not have developed any. He was secular to a fault and served as an impediment to the spread of Islamic fanaticism in the region. While Saddam supported terrorists, they were leftist groups like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which were driven by politics, not jihad.

Now that Saddam is gone, however, Iraq has indeed become a training ground for terrorists, Islamic fanatics, sworn to jihad against the U.S. and its allies. By invading and occupying Iraq, the political appeal of fundamentalism and fanaticism has been maximized, threatening the stability of U.S.-friendly Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. It is not by mere coincidence that incidents of terrorist violence in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia has increased since the invasion of Iraq. Similarly, through its bombardment, invasion, and occupation of an Arab state (not to mention the mistreatment and torture of its inhabitants), the U.S. has virtually guaranteed that it will be subjected to future terrorist attacks. The recent closure of the U.S. embassy and consulate offices in Saudi Arabia is but a harbinger of things to come.

It all boils down to a few basic questions. Now that Saddam is gone, are we any better off? Are the Iraqis? Is anyone safer? More free? These are the standards by which Bush's war in Iraq must be judged.

Ken Sanders is a writer based in Tucson, Arizona. Visit his weblog at:

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