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Euphoria at Saddam’s fall becomes a sigh

October 31, 2008

I still remember what my father-in-law told me that fateful day in 2003, as we sat riveted by the sight of American soldiers on television pulling down the iconic statue of Saddam Hussein from its pedestal in a Baghdad square.

My father-in-law, whose brother had fled Iraq after being jailed for a few days after Baathists took the power in 1969 and who was never a Saddam supporter, was reflective.

“The only thing I fear is that a day will come in which we will regret Saddam’s fall,” he said.

During a visit a couple of months ago to Jordan, where my children, my wife and her parents have lived in self-exile for almost two years, I asked my father-in-law whether he had come to regret the end of that era.

“Unfortunately, yes,” he said, his voice filled with disappointment. Since then, I haven’t been able to drive his response from my mind.

For five years, I have been asking myself the same question: how did it come to be that Iraqis like my father-in-law, driven to live as an illegal immigrant outside Iraq, rue Saddam’s fall?

I can say without hesitation that many Iraqis share my father-in-law’s feelings. Not because they supported Saddam, although there are many who still do, but because the hopes of a better life that were born in April 2003 have been crushed.

Iraqis today spend a great deal of time comparing their lives today to the situation before 2003. It’s not a winning comparison. Unbelievable bloodshed, a lack of basic services from electricity to clean water, and widespread unemployment have made life hellish for many Iraqis.

It is true that there is less violence today than there was a year ago, but assassinations, bomb attacks and other grim acts still occur on a daily basis. All this casts a dark shadow on the security situation in Iraq and reminds us of the fragility of Iraq’s vaunted turnaround.

A conversation with any person on any Iraqi street will be one marked by disappointment. Anger is particularly sharp at Iraq’s political class, which is now locked in a fierce power struggle at the highest levels while most ordinary Iraqis struggle to simply get by.

Many Iraqis describe their regret for having voted in parliamentary polls in December 2005 for politicians they now feel have little regard for anything but their own advancement.

After waiting for decades for democracy, many believe it has brought nothing but chaos and bloodshed, the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis and the displacement of millions more. Three successive governments that have ruled since 2003 have delivered empty promises but little more.

These concerns and many others are what lie behind a growing desire for a strong, powerful ruler like Saddam. Many Iraqis believe that they need such a strongman to bring stability to this complicated country.

An Iraqi I once interviewed in Baghdad commented to me that the only thing that had changed in Iraq since 2003 was that we had replaced one dictator with many.

One of my Iraqi colleagues, who stayed here in Baghdad when his family fled to Amman three years ago, says we don’t have a future because there is no clear vision of what Iraq can become.

Even I, someone who makes a living from the printed word, cannot seem to find the right terms to describe how so many Iraqis came to long for Saddam.

With such unbelievable destruction and death across Iraq, it makes one wonder whether inĀ 10 or 20 years we will be gazing up at statues of Saddam in an Iraqi square once more.

Comments

AS IT IS IN EVERY COUNTRY, PEOPLE WANT LEADERSHIP THAT TRULY WORKS FOR THE COMMON PERSON, NOT JUST THE STATUS QUO. EVEN HERE IN AMERICA, WE SEE THAT GOVERNING BODIES DO LITTLE TO EFFECT THE HUMAN CONDITION. THEY ONLY SEEK TO RAISE THE LEVEL OF THEIR OWN POWER OVER OTHERS, NOT SERVE THE NEEDS OF THOSE WHO HAVE PUT THEM ON THE PINNACLE OF POWER.I BELIEVE THAT AS “HUMAN BEINGS” , WE ALL NEED TO LOOK WITHIN TO FIND THAT ONE WHO IS WORTHY TO BE CALLED TO BE IN LEADERSHIP, AND ADMONISH THAT ONE TO BE DILIGENT IN THAT ENDEAVOR TO LEAD A PEOPLE IN THE VEIN OF COOPERATION, AND PRESERVATION OF ALL THAT IS IN THIS FRGILE ENVIRONMENT WE ALL INHABIT………C L COX

 

Now the trick is to go to Germany and find people that wished before Germany was bombed in the 40s for Hitler to be back… regardless of what some Iraqis think about Saddam he was an INTERNATIONAL evil and I would rather some Iraqis suffer a few years of problems then the world suffer more of the terror that Saddam was about. I wonder if Kuwatii’s share your father-in-law’s regret…

Sometimes people need to look at the bigger picture and just like people in the 60s-70s whining about Vietnam, even with the loss, we slowed the progression of Communism.

Posted by Ben | Report as abusive
 

If one looks at the elder Germans, one can still find those who regret Hitler lost, so Bea’s point is nebulous. Germany was rebuilt after the war (if only to keep a Communist uprising from developing). Thus few Germans have it worse than they did under the Nazis.

What has been done to rebuilt Iraq? Not a damn thing! Billions of your tax dollars have been contracted to the likes of Halliburton who write off most of it as “studies” rather than do anything that would rebuild the shattered nation they profit from occupying. Therefore, a rational person could easily understand why Iraqis consider life under Saddam better than life under Bush.

 

Of course some now wish for Saddam’s day. What else did anyone expect? I really don’t understand how this could come as a shock. There are some posts here that are referring to the ‘big picture’… What ‘big picture’? This was not a global threat of any kind and the whole world with the exception of a few ‘allied’ states were against this terrible invasion, the UN categorically refused to sanction it. How can anyone justify what happened in Iraq in 2003 by comparing it to neutralizing Nazi Germany? The invasion of Kuwait was nearly a decade before and the Iraqis were punished enough for it, their country prostate under sanctions that crippled the life of a common Iraqi citizen, but at least he had basic security and the basic amenities of life…What does he have now after the disaster of the 2003 invasion? A life far worse and more hazardous for those who lived through that debacle and a back door open for Al Qaeda to go in and wreak their own havoc, and for what? For WMDs that did not exist and a whole bunch of other outrageous pretexts that turned out naturally to be false, if indeed they WERE the true intentions behind this failed venture. The very idea that people try to justify the plight of the Iraqis today as a result after 5 years of this tragedy as a ‘necessary evil’ sickens me and fills me with shame.

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive
 

Most freedom loving peoples are disapointed that the Iraq people did not join together and create a democracy…the chance was given to them …but they did not take it…they instead just continue to express their hate for each other and murder their women and childern in the dirty streets of Iraq…will god punish them?.

Posted by old ewok | Report as abusive
 

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