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August 22, 2005

Incredibly Stupid Statement Making The Rounds

The next time i hear someone say that Iraqi women were better off when Saddam was in power, i'm going to scream. Why are so many people saying that? Do they all get the same stupidity newsletter?

Listen up. When the son of a country's leader goes around town picking out women, who are then abducted, raped, and their husbands killed, that is not a situation that any sane person should characterize as "better off."

Posted by annika, Aug. 22, 2005 | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: annikapunditry


That's no different from: "The people in Russia were better off during the Soviet Union."
And when that old bastard castro finaly dies, and the people of cuba switch over to capitalism, you will hear the same thing "You didn't have all this poverty under Castro".

Posted by: Kyle on Aug. 23, 2005

And similarly, Kyle, "The Soviet People had more rights guaranteed by their Consitution than Americans did!"

Which is technically probably true. It's just that in practice they didn't have any.

Posted by: Sigivald on Aug. 23, 2005

When assessing whether the women of Iraq are better off in 2002 or 2005, a whole host of factors need to be considered. A few powerful above-the-law (such as it was) rapists, while appalling, are a pretty small factor when we're talking about the welfare of a group of many millions of people. We can condemn the acts you speak of, and still recognize that they had an impact on a tiny fraction of Iraqi women. Sharia Law has a tremendous negative impact on far more women; Hussein generally kept a lid on that practice, and no post-Hussein authorities have been able to do so systematically.

I have no idea if the statement is true or not; I certainly think it's plausible, but I'll willingly grant you the point that most people making the claim don't really know one way or the other. But the data you offer to refute it is pretty clearly insufficient, and I suspect you realize this.

Posted by: djw on Aug. 23, 2005

To djw:
Thoughtful post - but sharia law hasn't been instituted. If and when it does become the law of the land, we can revisit the question.

In the meantime, 25% of the national assembly are women(more than the U.S. Congress), women have the right to vote(which they didn't have in America until over a century after our constitution was implemented).

We agree there are problems in some parts of Iraq: kidnappings, terror attacks, and roving bands of "sharia bullies" who threaten and prey on women in some public areas. Still, when one looks at the staggering number of citizens killed during Saddam Hussein's rule - including the staggering number of sons and husbands forcibly sent into fatal military actions by Saddam - it is absolutely and deviously wrong to claim women are worse off now than they were then.

IF sharia law is instituted, THEN one can assess whether women are worse off under sharia than they were being widowed under Saddam.

BTW: The muddled constitutional compromises:
*Islam is "a" source of law.
*No law shall contradict Islam.
*No law shall infringe upon human or democratic rights.
*The people shall be the source of law(as opposed to the Koran)

reminds me of our own constitutional compromises, in which blacks constituted 3/5 of a citizen, and women did not have the right to vote. Some famous black leader - maybe Dred Scott - said the 3/5 Compromise was the foundation upon which the union was built - as the nation cound not have been birthed without it. I hope that will also be the case with Iraq's constitutional doublespeak.

Posted by: gcotharn on Aug. 23, 2005


Whatever happened to that large number of starving children living under Saddam - so large that Oil for Food was neccessary to help them - then they didn't get helped b/c Saddam never got the food to the children?!?!

If your children are starving, I believe you were worse off under Saddam than you are now.


Infrastructure? Anyone? If your infrastructure was antiquated and crumbling, I believe you were worse off under Saddam than you are now.

Posted by: gcotharn on Aug. 23, 2005


Marsh Arabs? Anyone? If you were a female Marsh Arab w/o a marsh, I believe you were worse off under Saddam than you are now.


Kurds? Anyone? If you were a Kurdish woman, you were definitely worse off under Saddam, and you only got better off when America helped your brave Kurdish men fight off Saddam for a decade. At that point, when your life and your family were saved, you were really living under the protection of America and Kurdish warriors, and under the rule of brave Kurds. When you were safe, you WERE NOT living under Saddam.

I've got to stop. I'm starting to really get pissed off at the whole "better off under Saddam" lie.

Posted by: gcotharn on Aug. 23, 2005

there's a danger of not seeing the forest for the trees on a topic like this. My comment was intended to counter this tendency. Law, at its root is about predictability. In societies where the rule of law is not respected, in the most general sense the problem affects all citizens because no one knows with any certainty what the consequences of their actions or inactions may be. In a more specific sense, the argument that because most Iraqi women were not raped by Uday (or was it Qusay, i forgot) then women as a whole had it pretty good when you consider the rest of their circumstances, just doesn't hold water for me. And it shouldn't for you either. Saddam was the law. Therefore if his sons were able to go around doing that kind of shit and no citizen could do anything about it, all citizens suffered because the rule of law had broken down. Imagine if Roger Clinton had gone around raping women with impunity because no one complained, and those who did suddenly "disappeared." If you said "well he never raped my sister, and besides there's a hundred thousand new cops on the street" i would say that your moral compass needs fixin.

Posted by: annika on Aug. 23, 2005

Agreed; the predictability associated with rule of law is more important than specific instances provided by it. This is central to the (small r) republican conception of freedom, which I've always found very persuasive, and more useful than conventional liberal understandings of freedom.

Still, it remains to be seen that there's more rule of law in todays Iraq than Iraq of 2002. The constitution isn't really all that important until the country is actually under the control of the government that is (hopefully) bound by it. Much of it isn't. The forms of law in much of the country don't measure up to that standard, and are subject to the abuses of a host of local power-abusers, many of whom are embracing a form of law particularly harmful to women that Hussein never allowed.

(For the record, I object to the characterization "had it pretty good"--I certainly wouldn't claim that; I think all observers of any sanity would agree we're talking about two pretty suboptimal situations. Same goes for the line about my moral compass--I don't see how my comment could have implied that because a certain set of depraved actions by one actor might not have made the overall situation for millions of people the worst imaginable, that constitutes moral permissability.)

Look, I'm not a conservative in my political ideology (as noted above, I'm far more sympathetic to a form of rebuplicanism, with a fair dose of liberalism mixed in as well). But conservatives get some things right--they nailed the French Revolution, for example. Some of them conceded the fundamental injustice of the existing ruling class (actually, similar stuff about powerful people raping women of their choice with impunity...), but they reminded us that the reflexive choice of justice over order every time, regardless of circumstances, despite being a morally and philosophically persuasive position, is fundamentally ignorant of the realities of the practice of politics and the nature of social power. That's the most important lesson conservative political ideology has for us, and I wish more so-called political conservatives would see the wisdom in it once in a while.

Posted by: djw on Aug. 24, 2005

Look, you want to talk realities of politics and social power, here's reality:

Saddam was horrible tyrant who needed to be overthrown. A period of readjustment and renewal is in progress.

Forget "moral and philosophical," your "realist" argument is dead wrong. What you think you know about Saddam's Iraq is untrue, and what you think you know about present day Iraq is untrue.

I do not think you appreciate the horror Saddam visited upon Iraqis by presiding over:

*a million Iraqi deaths(via murder and misguided military adventure),
*a wretched economy
*wretched living conditions(including depriving Kurds and Shia of electricity - among other things), and
*a Baathist murder/muscle force which violently repressed innocent Iraqis - especially innocent Kurds and Shia.

I do not think you appreciate the significance of:

*Iraq's infrastructure being rebuilt(with electricity and oil production now exceeding pre-invasion levels),
*it's economy booming,
*it's people eating and going to school,
*hugely reduced police thuggery, and
*2/3 of the nation living in peace and prosperity.

Unemployment is high - but the unemployed are generally eating as well as they did when they were employed under Saddam. Unemployment may stay high for some years, as Iraqis adjust to free market realities. The picture of near 100% happy employment under Saddam is false. If that employment was so good, I ask again: where did those hungry Oil for Food children come from?

Posted by: gcotharn on Aug. 25, 2005

the thing is, djw, you seem reasonable and decent, and I've no doubt you are reasonable and decent, but your entire position disgusts me. It is factually wrong and morally bereft. In its own way, it is an evil position for you to take, insofar as you building a argument upon falsehoods; and your argument - if it were to influence future policy in the case of a tyrant who is a security threat to the world - will result in great harm.

Posted by: gcotharn on Aug. 25, 2005