05/11/2004: "Saddam as a Ruler"
Con bloggers and other apologists have been making a big deal of how the recent Iraqi prison hijinks pale in comparison to the volume and general severity of the torture that Saddam inflicted when he ruled Iraq. I take exception with this point of view on a couple of points. First, any acts by conquering foreigners automatically gain a certain intensity. Just watch that movie “Red Dawn” so beloved by the extreme right, where Americans are put into reeducation camps by the conquering Soviets and forced to watch commie propaganda, triggering Harry Dean Stanton’s demand to his sons, “Avenge me!” Then add the heightened sensitivity that Muslims have to being under the control of non-believers. Then add the sexual element, and then add the angle of the sexual humiliation being perpetrated by a woman. I know from my West Point days that psychological harassment can be far more vexing than physical challenges. But all of this is really beside the point. It makes no sense to use Saddam as any kind of standard against which to assess the actions of a democracy. Just about anyone looks good next to him, so why bother even comparing? It’s like saying that the US has been exercising more mature leadership than Pol Pot of the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian killing fields. Even Saddam comes out well in that comparison! The bottom line is that evil is evil no matter how you cut it, and the US has no business perpetrating evil, no matter how monstrous the previous regime was. This is particularly true when it’s clear why this evil was perpetrated – because the Administration communicated that US Forces should do “whatever it takes” to find Saddam’s WMD. At least Saddam did what he did for good old fashioned greed rather than political CYA.