Mixed emotions six years after Saddam’s fall

April 10, 2009

In 2003, when U.S. troops stormed into Baghdad and the statues of Saddam Hussein were pulled down, I think I must have been elated like many other Iraqis. Today, after the six years of bloodshed and slaughter set off by the U.S.  invasion, it’s hard to remember that feeling, which must have been one of enormous relief and joy.  Instead I am left with mixed emotions, grateful that the horror of Saddam’s rule ended but also deeply saddened by the horrors that followed his fall.

  I was eager to live in an Iraq without Saddam. I always hated his brutal rule of Iraq. He had taken us into wars in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed. Iraqis might also easily face death if they spoke out against Saddam or criticized his government. But if you kept your mouth shut and did not join any political party other than his now outlawed Baath party, you most probably would have been left alone.
    When Saddam was ousted by the invasion, and Baghdad fell to U.S. troops on April 9, 2003, I thought then that Iraq would finally be at peace after a long period of tough times. I never imagined what followed. It never crossed my mind that tens of thousands would be slaughtered simply for being a Shi’ite Muslim or a Sunni, the two Islamic sects in Iraq. Millions would flee their homes. And that bombs laid by insurgents would mow down thousands more.
    I sometimes wondered why did we get rid of Saddam if the killing continued, although for different reasons?
    The violence has begun to ebb, but still my relatives and friends are scattered to the winds.
    As an Iraqi journalist I have explored the social impact of war on my country. I have interviewed orphans and widows, and people whose limbs were blown off by bombs. It has left my heart full of more pain than I ever thought it could bear.
    I have also seen Iraq, amid the violence and fear, embrace new freedoms in politics and also in life: we have cellular telephones and satellite television, both restricted or banned in Saddam’s time. Saddam’s government had long lists of forbidden items.  One of them was satellite television. Anyone caught watching international news shows could be sent to prison for six months.
    It is clear to me that Iraqi society would not have been allowed to develop had Saddam remained in charge. Now despite the dark years that have passed, we can at least cling to hopes of better times. We have a parliament that we elect, and not one-man rule.
    This week, an Iraqi appeals court reduced to one year a three-year prison sentence handed to an Iraqi journalist who dared to throw his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush. I was impressed and had to raise my hat to the independence of the judiciary. I asked my parents what they thought the journalist’s sentence would have been had he committed the same offence during Saddam’s times. My mother answered: “He would not only have been executed without trial but all of his family would have been erased from the Iraqi map.”


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Very good description of the situation in Iraq. Though I live very far away from Iraq, I have watched with great interest the development of the situation there. Even though Iraq may be enjoying a new, more liberal system, I think it cannot compensate all the damage that’s been caused by the war and the US invasion. If Iraq were to experience more freedom and to evolve, it would have to be by its own internal means, and political forces, following natural and progressive change.

Posted by Raninski | Report as abusive

Dictatorships must be eradicated, but theoretical democracy does not grant freedom per se, just because. Your action is needed to guide the public opinion towards real democracy. You may now be able and allowed to “(…) have cellular telephones and satellite television, both restricted or banned in Saddam’s time”, but that does not assure you that you will not be exposed to the Western consumer culture that may have worst consequenses than a dictatorship, unless real democracy is attained. Your opinion is needed.

Posted by Colombia: Juan Pablo Calderón Meza | Report as abusive

Very good description of the situation. The only problem with the Iraq war was that it was politicized. Now can we finally move away from political strife and admit that this war will finally bring peace to Iraq? Or are we still going to have a Bush blame fest?

Very impressed at the article though. Great job.

Posted by Angel | Report as abusive

I understand that some of us like to make speculation.Therefore, I like to share my analysis about Iraq. I have strong feeling that many people do not really understand Iraq. In my opinion, Mr. Bush has made biggest mistake in the history of mankind.The Iraq is the first country where Muslim to Muslim blood was spilling and it will last where Muslim to Muslim blood will spil.
I do not know is there any person in this world will be able to stop the bloodshed in Iraq. The real Iraqi bloodshed will start since after the American soldier will left Iraq. The Shia and Muslim will fall in a logest bloodshed in the history that ever remember. God knows the best.

Posted by Mullah Shahin | Report as abusive

a very good insight on an issue where we are used to getting a western view. an admirable thing about the iraqis is considering everything that they have gone thru over the last few years, there are still signs of hope that iraqi nationalisim can over come the shia and sunni divide. that divide is fueled more by countries like saudia arabai, egypt, jordan, and iran. when the U.S first invaded iraq, there wasn’t secterain violence at first because all iraqis were oppresed by sadaam. but extremist countries like saudia arabai and egypt sent al-qaeda into and ira to ensure that they did want iraq run by a shia dominiated government due to their extreme anti shia sentiments. after the bombing of shias al-samara mosque the secterain violence spread like wild fire and al-qaeda showed its face. the shia own extemist group the mahdi army was carrying out its own atrocities. it was after the shia government stopped the mahdi army and the sunni awakening council kicked out al-qaeda that the conditions started to improve. this showed that iraq is capable of caring for itself as long as the sunni and shias of iraq remain united even through their disagreements. iraq has the potential to sit as a symbol for a true united and democratic muslim country. inshalla our brothers in iraq can do that and show the world that muslims are ready to over come centuries of disputes and violence for the sake of the future of their country

Posted by hassan | Report as abusive

I am surprised to know how some people are misleading ordinary people by using the word al-qaeda.1987-88 CIA created al-qaeda to fight against Russia.in Iraq war CIA used the word al-qaeda to justify Bush Administration stay in Iraq. al-qaeda has nothing to do with Shia and Muslim problems.40 HZ, Shia has created first confusion in Islam after their betrayal and establishment of new Akeedah.Since than Shia was trying to get political power. Shia invited Zing Khan in Bagdad to fight against The Khalifa where al-qaeda was in that time, it 250 Hizri. Come stop using al-qaeda in every Muslim problems.Muslims are having problem with matter of Akeedah right after Omar (RD)Sheed it was 23 Hizri. al-qaeda is nothing, they are only few CIA trained deviates. Shia and Muslim will have greatest bloodshed in the history of mankind that is true and it is fact. There are three bloodshed Muslim will face. One Shia and Muslim. Second Europeans and last Jews these are prophecy of Prophet Mohammad(PBUH). In Bagdad 100 Mujaheed will go to fight and only one will survive, The western world will fight with only 12000 Mujaheed and western power will banish , and Jews will hide near to stones. These are authentic Prophecy.

Posted by Mullah Shahin | Report as abusive

I do not believe that the God of Islam is apposed to war and violence at all. They seem to have a “holy war” for every thing they wish to fight about. Not saying the God of Infidels (Christians; Jews; Unbelievers or any other than Muslim) is not above having “holy wars” either. Still and all, what ever happened to love your neighbor as yourself; turn the other cheek; give every stranger food and shelter; love one another, hail fellow well met; well, you get the idea.
If God is indeed dead in this century, He probably drowned in the spilled blood of mankind!
I,myelf, give up trying to understand ANYTHING…..

Posted by Betty Bee | Report as abusive

I watched Saddam being hanged by men who thought that the US invasion would bring them freedom.Your article is right,it has brought more slaughter and unrest in the middle east.Iraq has lost a great leader and hero.The supporters of the US invasion and its allies,are in Saddams words “Not Iraqis”.You say you have TV and cell phones,at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives,what a cost. Chris NZ

Posted by chris nz | Report as abusive

mullah shahin, your comments are more appropriate for a madressa in pakistan or saudia arabia instead of a forum where moderate and insightful people of all faiths come to discuss matters from a pragmatic and rational view. you try and paint shias as the problem to all this, yet they are only 10% of all muslims. you don’t see shias carrying out suicide bombings or blowing up schools.for all its crimes and terrorists attacks you don’t see the iranians sending suicide bombers into market place.perhaps,you would be better suited if you studied and learned the “akeedha” correctly. to chris, I agree that yes after sadaam there has been slaughtering in iraq, but to say iraq lost a “great leader and hero” is ridiculos. sadaam was a lunatic,who spent the oil money of his country buying gold toilet seats for his palaces and buying toys for his spoiled sons. the shia and sunni were united under sadaam because both were oppressed and lived in fear of him. sure they were’nt killing each other, but that’s becasue sadaam was doing that equally. millions of iraqis lived under pverty and fear. many were arrested, tortured and killed. the Iraqis themselves are not a secterain divided coountry. it is the actions of outside forces like the U.S, saudia arabia, iran, egypt, al-qaeda,UN that is causing the divide amongst them.

Posted by hassan | Report as abusive

First, I like to say that there are some criminal mind people pointing fingers.Secondly, I never went to Pakistan Madrassa, I went to Kumillah Madarrasa and I born in a scholar family. I speak true without bias.Islam is very sweet, short and to the point religion. Islam main concepts is Monotheism than worship to only one God. if any one maintain it that person is a true believer.13 years, that what Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was preaching Meccan Arabs. Only for this reason they were torturing him, humiliating him, calling him mad man, intended to kill him and finally self exiled. Yes, Islam is very sweet religion but no one has absolute right to torture us curse us, hate us, only because we love only one God and pray five times a day. You don’t want do what we do, its o.k. But do not curse us, fight us, spread rumor about us, shoot us. thats all. respect us and we are command by God to respect every one disregard their belief, culture, race, and so on.But if any one fight us, we might be patience first time sake of God, second time sake of God but third time we are permitted to fight back until our last breathe.

Posted by Mullah Shahin | Report as abusive

There are two ideas that have been brought up which are especially misleading: 1) the association of electoral and press openness with a “power of the people” (aka Democracy), 2) the idea that religion is the real issue when it comes to the middle east or Iraq.

As to the first, the question of elections and press openness doesn’t address who is taking advantage of (or to the say the same thing, who can afford) these situations? Saddam, who had no international or internal support, could not afford, as a ruler, to allow these things. The US promoted elements, the local religious bourgeoisie, the privileged national groups, they have been able to rely on US support and international media support, and a confused population, like this author, so to them elections in no way do anything to prevent them from holding power. At most it is just a way of mediating inner-ruling class conflicts. The media, of course, is controlled by whomever can afford to print papers, run TV shows, please the American and government censors. The International TV is so pro-government that dishes are welcomed.

Of course this is the problem of what the west calls “Democracy,” which is simply dictatorship of those who can afford to rule through electoral and open forms, because of real dominance- they don’t need to- at the moment- resort to the isolated, scared thuggery of Saddam or any other precarious third world ruling class.

“Democracy” has nothing for Iraqis, like it has nothing for any other country. And if mere partial restoration of Saddam era stability is a great accomplishment, why is this great praise of America and their imperialism?

6 years, a million deaths, and the same subordination to the biggest liars, only now on the US side of the American war map. Things will only change when we all reject “democracy,” religion and the homicidal pretenses of our leaders of market and military.

Posted by Roy Fairbank | Report as abusive

Bush attacked Iraq to avenage the failed attack on his dad (Bush Sr) by supposedly Saddam hired assassins. It was a war between Bush of Texas and Husseins of Tikrit. And if innocent people died they were just expandable and means to richen the respective family. Hundreds of Iraqi people died and hundreds of American soldiers returned home wounded both psychological and physical.

Posted by Aman Singh | Report as abusive

Excellent points mr. fairbanks. people tend to confuse democracy and free elections with true freedom and independence.things will be disguised by the western press, stories will be highlighted to show that progress is being made. however with every suicide blast and car bombing that takes place, those small steps of progress are again over shadowed. as for mullah shahin, again your are preacing religio in a political forum. I have no doubt the greatness of islam or the prophet mohammed or jesus or moses. they are all messengers of god. islam is not the problem. muslims are. you talk about the disrespect and humiliation that muslims face, yet, the majority sunni muslims discriminate and oppress their fellow muslims. in your previous posts you blasted shias and tried to point a finger on them, when they are actually more moderate and pragmatic then the majority of other muslims. yet in places like saudia arabia and pakistan, they are atacked and killed openly. muslims have strayed away from the teaching of their prophets of tolerance and peace and have become hypocritical and intolerant in an ever more diverse world. the west can only share so much of the blame, it won’t be until muslims first learn to tolerate each other that we start seeing a more progressive world.

Posted by hassan | Report as abusive

You have ears, but are you listening? You have eyes, but do you see? You have a heart, but does it feel? You have a mind, to you think? History tends to repeat itself! The invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with an assassination attempt – it happened because the world could not afford Hussein having nuclear or biological weapons, even if those weapons were nothing but a lie by Saddam. Do you homework – study, do the research. Leave your heart and your religion at home for a day and research the big picture, what was the world like that prompted the invasion of Iraq? No democracy is not perfect and any American will tell you that. But – it is better than a dictatorship. The very basis for a democracy is government by the people for the people. Do you really believe any American soldier wants to be in a war, let alone a war in Iraq? If you do, you are a fool. Do you really believe American soldiers want to guard your markets so that you can go there? Know this, wars are a final solution when diplomacy fails. Right now Muslims are being confronted by the world because of all of the suicide bombers and all of the violence. Discourage those bombers and those that encourage them and the world will be a far better place.

Posted by Dennis W | Report as abusive


Freedom is fun? The freedom to die is fun? I don’t believe you, author! I don’t believe your sceptical optimism. How can anyone see any reason for any sound optimism over what happened to Iraq, after the devastating and killing brought by the brave W.? Weekly we see footage with blood and brains after new bombing, we read about the US Troops firing at families, we see your religious leaders having no mercy to their opponents, kamikazeing their own followers to kill. How can this bloodshed feed to any of your “buts” and “however”?

In Russia we were on the very brink of the same type of problems thanks to the US influence and destruction of the USSR’s political system. We were drowned into the criminal revolution, and our territories were set on fire due to the West’s strategy of the “managed conflicts”. (By the way Iraq is just another card in the stock of the managed conflicts. Iraqis are used better then we are.). Due to this Russians already changed their mind about the democracy and about Gorbi and Eltsin, so much welcomed in the West. It was not Putin to take the power, it was all people to take him into power, striving to reinstall state power and bring in order and peace.

On the opposite side is China which in terms of political freedom is immeasurably worse than Saddam’s Iraq. There is no political freedom at all. There was even less just 10 years ago. Forget about independent trial. Citizens cannot easily move across their own country. The media are 100% under control, and anyone calling to limit Communist’s authority will be executed with or without trial (!). Besides they oppress strongly their nations on the country’s borders: Uyghurs, Inner Mongolia, Tibetans, and Siam people. Still the Chinese are happy and doing increasingly better just being busy with their economy, doing business, working their leaving, and happily paying triple taxes: to the tax office, to the local official, to the stop-by policeman. If they want to leave their country, they do. But many of them don’t, because life is good and promising.

Iraqis, can admit a very big mistake they did to topple the stubborn dictator for the sake of anarchy. But how could you know? How could you know, that American soldiers would not want or would not be able to replace the bad system with any stable system at all? Could you stand by Saddam and not let rip your country? How could we in Russia know, that to become as prosperous as the US, it won’t help to firstly destroy the state power without having a replacement?

After years of authoritarian rule, we could not remember that it takes slow gradual change to become strong and prosperous. Iraqis suffered to make the other world to see it better then ever.

Posted by Ivanoff | Report as abusive

Dennis W, although i agree that sadaam was a ruthless dictator who deserved nothing but the death penalty, it is you who needs to open their eyes, ears, and heart. are u really insane enough to believe that iraq was invaded because sadaam was a murderous dictator? did u forget the events of 9/11 and how that was used as the premise to attack a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11? infact we had the chance to take sadaam outback in the 90s during the desert storm, the forces within iraq were ready and willing to do so. it was after we backed out at the end and left those anti-sadaam iraqis to be slaughtered that we let them down. let’s also not forget that it was us who put sadaam in power, it was us who supplied him with money, weapons, and intell against that war in iran and us who supplied him with the weapons we have. its not the “muslim worlds” fault that the world confronts them. it is the U.S, and other “free democratic” nations that supports extremist producing countries like saudia arabia, egypt, and pakistan. we have the “muslim world” surrounded. with us “peace loving” westerners on one side and the extrmist regimes on the other. it is you who needs to open your eyes, your ears, your heart and most importantly your mind.

Posted by sidney | Report as abusive

Sidney is very truthful and knowledgeable. I am very impressed to know some American are really knowledgeable.

Posted by Mullah Shahin | Report as abusive

I do not think that the Kurds share article author his “mixed emotions”. The Kurds are unambiguously happy about Saddam overthrow.

Posted by Nawrooz | Report as abusive

The message I get from this is that muslims can only live under more or less brutal dictatorships, otherwise they’ll always find reasons to kill somebody, including their own kind. In future the “International Community” should always bear this in mind.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

if that is the message you got from this article matthew, then you obviously must represent the product of the failing educational system in america, if that is where you are from. perhaps looking at the recent history of the type of regimes that muslims have had to live in will give you a much more clearer respect. recent history shows that muslims have had to live under the grueling and idiotic regimes of oppresive american backed regimes like the ones in saudia arabia, egypt, pakistan, iran,iraq, indonesia. or oppresive regimes who later on became ant-american like iran after the revolution or iraq after the U.S decided to stop sleeping with him. in the rare case of indonesia, where the people were able to oust the american backed dictator and implement a true democracy. mind you that indonesia is the largest muslim country in the world. the same applies in malaysia, turkey,and now in pakistan even though it is a weak and terrible government.perhaps reading up on the history of the foreign policies of your country will give a you a much better idea of why things are the way they are and how much the west has had a hand in creating this mess.

Posted by hassan | Report as abusive

I have read most dumbest comment, Matthew, I think this guy does not have any brain. People like him are core problem in the society. They produce opinions without any proper brain storming.It does not even reach the smartness.

Posted by Mullah Shahin | Report as abusive

You are the typical fatuous brain-washed voter who gets politicians like Bush in power…. it is sad actually to read such strong uneducated comments made in 2009

Posted by Damia | Report as abusive

We Americans are never going to be able to imagine the horror of what living in Iraq feels like, and we should stop pretending that we can guess. We watch American-biased newscasts and read a few international news articles and feel that we have been enlightened and have a right to judge. I know that I can’t imagine what it is truly like to be an mother and wife living there right now. Her heart breaks a little every day that she sends her children off to school and her husband to work, knowing that someone may not come home alive that day. All because of some jerk fighting for his “cause”. Whether it be political or religious violence is kind of beyond the point. Most people in Iraq are just fighting for their basic right to be alive and live a normal life with their family and friends every day. We can’t take back the Bush administration any more than we can take back Sadaam. The only thing we can do is move forward. I applaud the bravery and the optimism of those people who are trying to do that.

Posted by Stacey | Report as abusive

The American Gouv’t kept Saddam Hussein in power until they wanted an excuse to punish someone for Sept. 11. You cannot build democracy on lies and a settling of accounts. All the people who died in Iraq believed that they were doing the right thing. Sadly Iraqis will not have peace and the pandoras box has been opened.History has a way of coming back to haunt those who thought they could get away with their lies. If anyone is a war crime criminal it is George Bush and he even almost bankrupted his country which we are now paying the price for.

Posted by Michael Banks | Report as abusive

Why does the headline, “Mixed emotions 6 years after Saddam’s fall”, imply that this is a story about more than 1 iraqi’s personal opinion? If you were to stay true to the stories description ‘mixed emotions’ and investigate why you would quickly and easily find that the US has brought far more pain and suffering to the region and to the Iraqi people than Saddam. The real story you would find is one of propaganda.. both in the US and in Iraq during the setup of the invasion.
Anyone suffering from mixed emotions after just the latest crime by the US in Iraq in 2003 needs to ask themselves why in the name of the most basic logic they would ever trust the US in the first place?? A country with by far the worst reputation for violence, imperialism and the destruction of the societies they invade in the last 60 years..
If you’re having mixed emotions, im sorry but its completely your fault, what did you expect would happen!!? The people that told you it would be alright, that it was the right thing to do, are the wrong people to trust, period.
And all the billions stolen, the hundreds of thousands dead, the reconstruction fraud, all the priceless treasures looted from the cradle of civilisations museums along with the orchestrated toppling of saddams statue and the stolen 10000 page weapons declarations blacked out pages will seem as non-existant as your weapons of mass destruction the next time the US government and media move to attack.
The same pattern has been repeating for a long time now, so how can it still surprise us? Now THIS is a story worth writing..

Posted by Brian | Report as abusive

I think there, the people smile litlle, they all day are listen bad news, the people there suffers much. The journalist who wrote the article shows his broken heart, perhaps create a global special committee, to try to help Iraq, and all day it was the item be improved at least somewhaa . I think a lot for the children there.

Posted by Gladys | Report as abusive

During Saddam`s rules, the persons were living in distressed because the social impact of the war was enough to think in the suicide, But now, after of the stormed into Bagdad, all is the same; continue the horror of the war and the bloodshed.
So. I think that the violence, isn`t the solution to the conflicts, because forever is the same history.

Posted by edgar alonso madrigal | Report as abusive

No doubt. Matthew, you are way off while your statements. You clearly arn’t seeing the clear picture of Saddam and what he did.

Posted by Justin Giroux | Report as abusive