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6/03/2005

Iraqis better off under Saddam? part 2

A little while ago, a UN survey came to the conclusion that the standard of living for the average Iraqi was worse now than it had been under Saddam. Now Juan Cole suggests that more Iraqis are dying under the US occupation than under the Baath regime:

Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank, when questioned about the Iraq war that he helped spearhead, asked, "Would you really prefer to have Saddam Hussein in power?"

But the reason for not having Saddam in power was that he had killed so many people. If not having him means that 8,000 people a year have to die, then what? And what if the number of people dying in Iraq is even higher? What if it is not 8,000 a year, as Jabr maintains, but more like 50,000? Jabr's figures are only for casualties of guerrilla actions. What about all the Iraqis who have died as a result of US bombing raids on civilian quarters of cities? What about all the murders that occur as part of political reprisals?

The Baath Party was in power for about 35 years. If it had killed 8000 civilians per year, that would be 280,000 persons. That is about what is alleged, though it is probably an exaggeration.

In other words, Bayan Jabr's figures suggest that in US-dominated Iraq, people are dying so far at about the same rate as they did under Baath rule. (If he is underestimating the civilian casualties, then it is possible that many more are dying per year than under Saddam!) In any case, Saddam's killing sprees were largely over with by the late 1990s, so the rate of death in Iraq now is enormously greater than it was in, say, 2001.

Wolfowitz should give up on the propaganda technique of just demonizing his opponents and then asking how anyone could want them in power. The real question is, are Iraqis better off under US auspices? So far, the answer with regard to the death rate is a resounding "No!"

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