Nostalgia For the Bad Old Days of Saddam


Recently, and especially with the public appearance of the  the Chilcot Report, it has reenergized the  Iraqi war debate. Of course it is a mostly one sided debate as the conventional wisdom expressed  by the media, most politicians,  and academics, that the war was a tragic and horrendous mistake and the  other part of this narrative of the Saddam era was …well actually quite nice! Maybe he was a bit rough around the edges but there was stability, and…. one article , has advanced the truly  wondrous claim that during the Saddam era there were no suicide bombings. I am not at all sure that is true, but then as far as I know there have been no suicide bombings in Mosul since the ISIS occupied the city. Does that mean  the people are really content under the butcher regime…. or maybe like Saddam’s Iraq, it is a Republic of Fear. After all the Suicide bombers LIVE in Mosul.

No use debating the Iraqi was here. It serves no point. I believe it was the correct decision, poorly executed, but I applaud the Bush presidency for his courage and not beating his chest with mea culpas.  I also cheer for Tony Blair who has to endure the slings and arrows of  a very disgruntled elite especially after the ordinary Brits  gave them the collective middle finger on the Brezit referendum. But why are there so few defenders when I know there are many who  think as I do?

In summary there are  several reasons:

President Bush and his chief can cabinet officers have failed to step up to the plate and defend their actions. Bush himself is not very articulate and was despised by much of the eastern establishment elitist media who were always looking for hammers to beat him over the head. The Iraqi campaign gave them  ample ammunition.  Moreover the Bush administration officers, were not very loyal, and ending up pointing the fingers at each other for the problems. Well placed  people in the State Dept, CIA , and other   branches actively undermined the Bush attempts to get a handle on the war and trumpeted  bogus stories like the Niger uranium case. It was an obviously set up by  Bush’s enemies in the CIA to embarrass him.  Ir was a complicated story,not to be retold here.Unfortunately Bush did not stand by his man, Scooter Libby, and allowed him to go to jail for far, far, less than Hillary Clinton  has been proven to have committed .   You can get the full story from Dick Cheney’s book In My time, ( 402- 409). George Tenet ( Bush’s CIA chief) in his usual style, absolved himself of any blame.

What about the claim that Saddam’s Iraq was a veritable  shangri la? He was just a tough guy holding together a fractious country.,  Well   Hayder al Khoei, in the Guardian put it this way. He begs to differ,

“The warped sense of reality in Saddam’s Iraq was partly due to the fact that we did not have the luxury of social media and hashtags to show the world what was happening to us. Even mainstream journalists in Iraq would be accompanied by government minders to make sure stories could be controlled. Before 2003, Iraqis were being slaughtered silently and not inconveniencing anyone by being part of the news cycle”

An American Iraqi social media expert wrote the following text below in reference to a digital banner  posted on Facebook expounding the fact that during the time of Saddam there were no suicide bombings. It was [posted by Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, a self styled human righties activist and a member of the UAE royal family:

“This is what I call selective memory that prefers to forget about all the massacres that were committed by Saddam including Halabcha’s  (Halajah)chemical attack against the Kurds, the mass graves in the south after the Kuwait invasion, thousands of missing political prisoners and “couple” of millions killed in 8 year war with Iran on behalf of the rest of the Arabs. Yes there were no suicide attacks until 2003 but Iraqis have seen other kind of atrocities before 2003 that are equally painful like this recent ISIS bombing in Baghdad. What makes it even more painful is that many more Iraqis think its a good idea to politicize our pain, lecture us about our own history and blame it on the U.S instead of condemning the real killer. Shame”

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The meme/banner posted by UAE activist

The West, including most of the Middle East  academic community were mute, as were all the Sunni Arab elite, as the stories of horrific slaughter of the Shi’a and  certain Sunni tribes that met with Saddam’s displeasure began to emerge. The intensity of the fear invoked in the Iraqi society with informers and “Friends of  Saddam” everywhere and omnipotent created a society of  submission and subjugation. Some fared quite well in this society, just as the ruling classes did under Hitler and Stalin. The Ba’ath party was a deep cancerous growth  and it required major surgery to remove it.  Those who criticize the de – ba’athification process do not understand the  depth of its penetration into the Iraqi society.

I remember quite well interviewing a defector from the  Iraqi Embassy in Washington, looking for a job at the John F Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School in about 1989. He,  a  former member of the favored elite, told of the brutality of the regime in dark  vivid colors, and his fear of retribution was palpable.

Two book that need to be read to understand the savagery of the Saddam regime are…Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party: Inside an Authoritarian Regime by L Joseph Sassoon and especially Iraq in Wartime: Soldiering, Martyrdom and Remembrance by Dina Rizik Khoury.

So rejoice the evil  monster of Iraq is dead….. and In ShAllah so will the Da’aesh  die a similar death.


About Tex

Retired artillery colonel, many years in a number of positions in the Arab world. Graduate of the US Military Academy and the American University of Beirut. MA in Arab studies from the American University in Beirut along with 18 years as Middle East Seminar Director at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Served in Vietnam with 1st Inf Division, Assignments in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, plus service with Trucial Oman Scouts in the Persian Gulf. Traveled to every Arab country on the map including Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
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