The Iraqi dictatorship: a unique case needs
an exceptional solution
the passionate debate over whether to wage war on Iraq,
the position of those opposed to military action has come
to rest on the grounds that such action is not morally
justifiable and would result in the deaths of many innocent
Iraqis. Yet a crucial element of this argument is often
neglected, namely what is the opinion and attitude of
the Iraqi people themselves to the prospect of war?
is a unique issue, unlike any other in the world in almost
every proportion. Yes, it has a dictator, and an oppressed
people, as in many other countries. However, what is fundamentally
different is the way this dictator oppresses his people.
The suffering of the Iraqi people is profound and extraordinary
in scale. What makes it even more painful is its concealment
by the Iraqi government and the ignorance about it of
the rest of the world.
is impossible for anyone who has not lived in Iraq to
comprehend the continuous psychological oppression of
the people by the regime. Saddam Hussein has such a complex
intelligence apparatus that people are afraid of expressing
any opinion, anywhere, to anyone that may be deemed negative
of the government. Families are afraid of each other;
friends do not dare to test the genuineness of their friendship;
people are even cautious of their eyes in case a certain
way of looking at a picture of Saddam or a government
building is deemed 'disapproving'.
are not mere words - this is the daily, lived experience
of millions of Iraqi people. The result is that every
Iraqi is trapped and isolated in an individual cocoon,
on constant alert from what their eyes may do or their
tongue may let slip. The consequence of any such 'mistake'
or 'slip' has almost always been the execution of the
'guilty' and some or all of their immediate family, preceded
by unimaginable torture and interrogation. And in case
the fear is not great enough, the Iraqi government has
been known to carry out random arrests of thousands of
citizens, subjecting them to inhuman treatment according
to the logic that this helps to flush out opponents of
Saddam. No wonder that every knock on the door makes the
hearts of Iraqis stop.
this is the way the 'innocent' are dealt with, what of
those who actively oppose the regime? The violence against
anyone even suspected of opposition (and their family
and friends) is of course no less ferocious. Whole towns,
such as Dujel, have been wiped out in hours because a
couple of townsmen were found to be actively opposed to
Iraq floats not just on a pool of oil, but on an ocean
of blood. According to the lowest estimates, over ten
per cent of the Iraqi population has been killed by Saddam
Hussein and his regime over the three decades of its rule.
choice of evils
choose between good and evil requires only the common
sense of ordinary humanity, but to choose the lesser of
two evils requires wisdom. This wisdom is now desperately
needed. The Iraqi people now find themselves at a junction
where either path is full of danger. In the absence of
an ideal solution, they must choose whether to back or
oppose a U.S. 'war on Iraq'.
oppose such a war would be to maintain the status quo.
That is for another million Iraqis to be slaughtered,
hundreds of thousands to be tortured, and an entire nation
subjected to fear and individually encapsulated in their
support such a war would mean that several thousand Iraqis
would be killed during bombing and fighting. It would
also mean that the U.S., not the Iraqi people, would decide
the make-up of the post-Saddam government. Yet, almost
all fellow Iraqis I have spoken to - from the United Kingdom
and North America to those who have recently escaped to
Syria, Iran or Jordan - express their support for the
U.S.'s call for a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The
reason for this near-unanimous support is the reality
in which Iraqis live. No war, no government can ever be
as bad as Saddam Hussein's regime. Iraqis are so desperate
that even a Latin America-style or Shah of Iran-type ruler
would be preferable to them.
who oppose the war say "It should be left to the
Iraqi people to overthrow Saddam Hussein, if that is what
they want." But this argument ignores the fact that
over half a million Iraqis have given up their lives attempting
to overthrow Saddam and his regime. More than 200,000
Iraqis were slaughtered in the 1991 uprising trying to
do just that. At least 100,000 Iraqis have been executed
or tortured to death in Iraqi prisons attempting to do
just that. No less than 200,000 Iraqi Kurds have been
killed, in the infamous Anfal operation and other operations
in northern Iraq, trying to do just that. The Iraqi people
cannot overthrow the regime on their own, so to oppose
regime change in Iraq is only to lock the Iraqi people
in Saddam's box.
civilian casualties are tragic, but those resulting from
regime change would be minimal in comparison to the numbers
that would die if Saddam were to remain. From the hundreds
of Iraqis that I have spoken to, many go as far as to
say they would be willing to be killed as 'collateral
damage' in such a war, just so Iraq can be freed of Saddam
Hussein and his regime.
regime change - to democracy
core realities of the Iraqi regime mean that there is
no moral justification in opposing the only method of
ending the suffering of the Iraqi people. Yes, forced
regime change is wrong in principle; but in this unique
situation, where normal rules do not apply, it is the
only morally justified solution.
can only be one reason for opposing regime change, and
it is neither moral nor ethical: lack of care for the
suffering Iraqi people.
to support a war to remove Saddam Hussein does not mean
to side with the U.S. There are two parts to the so-called
'war on Iraq'. The first is the overthrow of Saddam Hussein
and his regime, and the second is the installation of
a puppet, pro-U.S. government. In the light of the uniqueness
of Iraq, the suffering of its people, and their mass support
of change, the role of the international community and
the people of the world should not be to argue over the
desirability of regime change, but to advance the argument
for democracy to replace Saddam's regime.
linger in discussions about regime change would be to
grant the U.S. the freedom to decide what replaces this
regime. Instead, pressure should be applied to ensure
that what replaces Saddam is a truly proportional, democratically-elected
Iraqi government. This would rescue a suffering, abandoned
people from endless torment and oppression. It is the
true humanitarian stance to take.
need regime change - a change to democracy. The moral
and ethical grounds for this are undisputable, and such
a course would save hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives.