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Editorials./OP-ED From Overseas

Have the Iraqis benefited from the overthrow of the Ba'athist regime?

Revisionist thoughts on the war

By Fawaz Turki

10 November, 2003

Is it too early to adopt a revisionist view of the U.S. war in Iraq and for this column to admit its mistake in having vehemently opposed it from the outset?

At issue here is whether the Iraqi people have benefited from the overthrow of the Ba'athist regime and whether the American occupation will eventually benefit their country even more. I'm convinced and berate me here from your patriotic bleachers, if you must that what we have seen in the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates in recent months may turn out to be the most serendipitous event in its modern history.

One need offer no apology for saying that the supreme virtue of this war is that Saddam Hussein was gotten rid of. Period. The very man who had established arguably the closest approximation of a genuine fascist state in the Arab world, that sustained itself on fear, repression, genocide, cult of personality and wanton murder a state whose law was that those who rule are the law.

One doesn't become a revisionist in a vacuum. I pore over material from various media sources about the mass graves unearthed all over Iraq, particularly those discovered in uncounted pits in the south, where Saddam had crushed a rebellion there in 1991 with genocidal ferocity, and I turn away in nauseated disbelief.

Then there's the U.N. Special Rapporteur's September 2001 report about the execution of 4,000 prisoners at Abu Ghraib's prison in 1984, and 3,000 others at the Mahjar prison between 1993 and 1998. And you ask how a regime could become so monstrous, so whisked clean of human decency.

Last Saturday, The Washington Post's Peter Finn filed a gut-wrenching report about Baghdad's Kadimiyah High School, where during the 1990s kids were being dragged off for questioning by members of the Mokhabarat for writing boyish anti-Saddam graffiti on their walls, such as "Down with Saddam" and never returned home. Only now are their families, like other families of the "disappeared," speaking up, asking questions and demanding to know how and why their children were killed and where they are buried. One of the ancillary byproducts of the U.S. invasion of Iraq was the ouster of Saddam and the obliteration, clearly forever, of the totalitarian dungeon that he had turned his country into.

That, in my book, is enough to warrant extending my support for that invasion and for Washington's projected plans to rebuild the country.

Washington may not succeed in turning Iraq into a "beacon of democracy," but it will succeed, after all is said and done, in turning it into a society of laws and institutions where citizens, along with high-school kids, are protected against arbitrary arrest, incarceration, torture and execution.

Look, I have no illusions about the shenanigans and hypocrisies of a big power like the United States, including its neocon ideologues, who are more cons than neos. Lest we forget, at the height of Saddam's bloody reach in the 1980s, which saw the Halabja atrocities, Washington not only uttered nary a word of criticism of the Iraqi leader, let alone called for his overthrow, but provided him with political, military and economic assistance that, in effect, underwrote his survival and made possible the very repression that American officials now claim they want to banish forever from the land.

All true. Yet, the United States may, just may, end up doing in Iraq what it did in war-ravaged European countries under the Marshall Plan. And if it doesn't, well, what would Iraqis have lost other than the ritual terror of life under a dictator who had splintered their society into raw fragments of fear, hysteria and self-denial a man who insisted that third graders learn songs whose lyrics lauded him with lines such as "when he passes near, the roses celebrate."

No, I don't believe that by going to war America had dark designs on Iraq's oil or pursued an equally dark conspiracy to "help Israel." I believe that the United States, perhaps willy-nilly, will end up helping Iraqis regain their human sanity, their social composure and the national will to rebuild their devastated nation. And no, it's not too early to adopt a revisionist view of the U.S. war in Iraq, or too late for a columnist to say he was wrong all along.

Fawaz Turki is a columnist for theJidda-basedArab News.
The article originally appeared in the Arab News.

Originally appeared in The WashingtonTimes

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