Ten years ago this very day the world was changed and changed utterly when Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging for crimes against humanity.
President, tyrant, leader, murderer, dictator – all words that spring to mind when one thinks of Saddam Hussein but was Saddam not the necessary force of power who single-handedly kept order and stability in the Middle East?
The crimes in question were with regards to the murder of 148 Iraqi Shi’ites back in 1982 in Dujail, after Saddam found out members of the town where planning to assassinate him.
Hussein was tried and found guilty in a Kangaroo court set up by the U.S. two years after their 2003 invasion of Iraq – but most importantly, did killing Saddam Hussein and taking him out of power have a positive effect on the world or a negative one?
Well, first we need to see what life under Saddam Hussein’s reign was really like.
Vladislav-Guerassev spent his youth in the Soviet Union before moving to Iraq in the early 90’s for work – 12 years into Hussein’s reign as president.
Writing about his experiences in Iraq on Quora, Guerassev wrote:
I spent half of my life before in the Soviet Union, so I have a good benchmark, a reference point to judge any totalitarian regime. In the USSR, there was no freedom of religion whatsoever (at least not if you wanted to be an active citizen), no free travel abroad whatsoever, no room for any private initiative, persistent scarcity of consumer goods and mediocre (albeit free) healthcare and education.
In contrast, in Iraq as I saw it there was freedom of religion along with a firm policy of secularism. Among my staff in Baghdad, there was a retired Army major (retired because Saddam drastically reduced Army after the first war) who was a Kurd (which sounds as a surprise to most of my American friends who believe that under Saddam a Kurd would have been shot dead on sight), two Coptic Christians, an Armenian (Christian, naturally) along with Arab Iraqis.
There were plenty of consumer goods in shops, restaurants were doing a brisk trade, alcohol was available for those who wanted to buy it, many different types of music could be heard, a burka-covered or veiled lady was a rare sight in Baghdad, and gas was available plentifully and cost nothing. All utilities worked mostly normally after the post-war reconstruction.
Vladislav goes onto explain that healthcare in Iraq during the Saddam era was some of the best he’d ever experienced – far superior to that of eastern Europe and pretty much all of the Middle East – and that he never felt uneasy about walking around even late at night as violent crimes were so rarely heard of.
In conclusion to his essay, Vladislav states that although Saddam’s ruling of Iraq was undeniably totalitarian the quality of life there was significantly better than that of other totalitarian nations such as Soviet Russia, North Korea or East Germany.
“You could have had (especially before the Iraq-Iran war) a good quality of life under the Saddam regime, with the modern social security safe nets, travel abroad, practice your religion (whatever it was) etc”, Vladislav concludes. Which poses the question – why was Iraq invaded?
Well that’s entirely down to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
In the late 80s and early 90s Kuwait began lowering their oil prices in an attempt to destroy Iraq’s economy – and it was working. Saddam tried to negotiate with Kuwait on many occasions but had no success so he invaded with a plan to ‘take back’ Kuwait once and for all.
Historically Kuwait did belong to Iraq, however many believe that Saddam used this fact merely to give his attack a certain level of reason. Shortly afterwards, the U.S. joined the fight and lost almost 300 soldiers.
The First Gulf War didn’t last too long at all but the repercussions did as the U.S. enforced some serious economic sanctions on Iraq which essentially forced the country into a dire state of poverty.
Wael Al-Sallami lived through this period in Iraq and wrote of his experiences in The Huffington Post.
At the time, my father was a Biology Ph.D student, and my mother was a teacher. I had a little sister and an older brother. And since my father was teaching in college before his Ph.D, the government paid him while he studied. They paid him 8000 Dinars/month, the equivalent of $4. My mother’s salary was 3000 Dinars, the equivalent of $1.50. A family of five people was living off of $5.50/month, and that was the case for pretty much all low-level government employees during the 1990s.
It took my father four years to finish his Ph.D in 1998. Those four years were by far the worst I’ve lived, and I’ve lived through some serious shit, trust me.
However Wael believes the 2003 U.S. invasion brought on the most devastating consequences.
To add insult to injury, the 2003 war didn’t change things much. It actually made matters worse! Instead of people living really safely but extremely poor, the picture flipped, and people became somewhat wealthy, but safety was gone with the wind.
People had one Saddam to be afraid of, now they have hundreds! They used to live safely by keeping their mouth shut, now they can’t even if they do. Iraqis were being killed for having the wrong religion, the wrong place of birth, and a lot of the time, the wrong name. 2006 was worse than 1991 and 2003 combined. Militias took over, and it was chaos.
And it’s hard to disagree. Just look at the Middle East today. Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen – just how many of these countries are stable and even then just how stable are they?
In Iraq in particular we now have a country utterly divided by religion. Bombings are the norm. Sunni’s and Shia’s are killing one another every day. Christians are preyed on and murdered. As are homosexuals, non-believers, and just about anybody who challenges the rulers of their territory.
We have Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians and Kawliya all fighting and defending someway or another. We have ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and those that oppose them. The entirety of Iraq in the present day is a barbaric and bestial hell which certainly wasn’t there under Saddam’s reign.
Now I’m not saying that Saddam was a good man – he committed some of the worst atrocities known to man – but surely he was the necessary evil which kept Iraq and the Middle East stable and secure. A life under Saddam is far, far better than life under ISIS or Al-Qaeda or even a life which is lived under constant fear and threat from their murderous ideals.
Perhaps it was best summed up only last week by CIA analyst, John Nixon, who was the first person to interrogate Saddam after he was captured.
Writing in Time Magazine he wrote:
Today, a decade following Saddam’s execution, with ISIS’s black flags still unfurled over sections of Iraq, we need to ask ourselves some provocative questions. One of them is: What would have happened if we had just kept Saddam?
It is impossible to say with any certainty. But my own belief is that if Saddam had remained in power, Iraq would have eventually gotten out from under international sanctions and he would probably be in charge today, preparing one of his sons to take over after his death.
I doubt that he would have had much to worry about from an event like the Arab Spring.
Likewise, it is improbable that a group like ISIS would have been able to enjoy the kind of success under his repressive regime that they have had under the Shia-led Baghdad government. Saddam felt that Islamist extremist groups in Iraq posed the biggest threat to his rule and his security apparatus worked assiduously to root out such threats.
Now if the CIA agent who caught and interrogated Saddam believes his execution and the procedures which followed were a travesty for the Middle East then surely it’s a no-brainer.
The invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein from power with no real strategy in place for the years that followed where a tragedy not only for Iraq but for the world as a whole and that tragedy is something governments across the globe need to learn from before making similar mistakes in the very near future…
Joseph Loftus is a Gold Standard NCTJ journalist with four years experience working for international and regional press.
As well as working for UNILAD and LADbible, Joseph has worked as Liverpool Correspondent for Unsigned & Independent Magazine, as well as stints with the Liverpool Echo and Warrington Guardian.