And now the award for the “Most Irresponsible Statement by a World Leader” goes to…Kofi Annan. (Applause.) Accepting the award for Mr. Annan is My Name Is Earl‘s Jason Lee.
This week the United Nations Secretary General had this to say about the ongoing sectarian violence (or is it civil war?) in Iraq: “They had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets: they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back without a mother or father worrying ‘Am I going to see my child again?'”
A lot of pundits have been saying similar things, but they have been said mostly tongue in cheek. At least, I hope so. In late November the New Republic‘s Jonathan Chait called for bringing back the former Iraqi dictator:
Yes, I know. Saddam is a psychotic mass murderer. Under his rule, Iraqis were shot, tortured and lived in constant fear. Bringing the dictator back would sound cruel if it weren’t for the fact that all those things are also happening now, probably on a wider scale.
Leaving aside the fact that Saddam’s regime murdered 300,000 Iraqis — twice as many as Iraqi health minister estimates have died due to sectarian violence — one cannot help wonder if Mr. Chait is not bucking to be the next Jon Stewart? Perhaps this is his attempt at a little Swiftian satire. Anyway, no one takes his modest proposal seriously. Or do they?
Columnist Ilana Mercer was apparently dead serious when she wrote that “Saddam’s reign was one of the more peaceful periods in the history of this fractious people. What a shame it’s too late to dust Saddam off, give him a sponge bath, and beg him to restore law and order to Iraq. Secretly, that’s what anyone with a head and a heart would want.”
Ms. Mercer was only repeating what knuckleheads like radio host Michael Savage have been saying. Mr. Savage recently told his audience of mouth-breathers that “we should bring back Saddam, a Sunni, because he knows how to control the Shia….You can laugh all you want. He knew how to control them; he knew how to keep these maniacs under control. And he was also a counterbalance to Iran.”
Not to be outdone, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly said that if he were president of Iraq he would run the country “just like Saddam ran it,” by establishing curfews and shooting violators “right between the eyes.” In June, O’Reilly suggested that “if we wage the war the way Saddam handled Iraq, then we would have already won.”
It is not hard to find Iraqis to interview who will enthusiastically call for Saddam’s return. Just go to any Sunni neighborhood of Baghdad or to any Baathist enclave. “Maybe Saddam did oppress those who opposed him,” one Sunni told the AP. “But for every Iraqi, deep inside, he looks like the strongman we need.” Did you hear that? Need a strongman? Forget about Uncle Sam. Call Uncle Saddam.
Indeed one need not go all the way to Baghdad to find such sentiments. Just go to any Democrat party stronghold. Remember that Fox News Opinion poll (PDF) from a year ago in which 43 percent of Democrats said the Iraqis would be better off with the Butcher of Baghdad still in power?
Doubtless some Iraqis were better off. The Sunnis, in particular. Or those Sunnis who supported the Baathist regime. But God help you if you were a Shiite or Kurd.
Yes, dictators do make for a seemingly stable society. The opposition evaporates. Troublemakers disappear. Sectarian differences are smothered. It has often been remarked that Srebrenica could not have happened under Tito. But just because the murders are going on behind the scenes does not make boost a nation’s quality of life index. Bringing back Saddam would indeed restore order, if your idea of order is “focused, systematic, and orderly massacres in freshly dug pits,” writes National Review‘s James Robbins.
To even suggest bringing back Saddam is an insult to the memory of the 300,000 Iraqis that he murdered and their families and the thousands of coalition troops that have given their lives to remove his regime. The Iraqis do not need Swiftian satire or Kofi Annan’s silly reminiscences of a benign dictatorship, and they sure as hell do not need Saddam Hussein’s rape rooms and meat grinders. Iraqis need law and order, and, as John McCain and Lindsey Graham have been saying, that means more police, more boots on the ground. Then perhaps Iraqis will have their streets again.