Out of curiosity, I decided to take a look through the news roundup of the reaction to the Saddam death sentence verdict. Sadly, the article containing the quote in my title is one of the less dismal of the many articles that aren't of the "republican false bravado chest thumping" type.
What is now a two day near-total lockdown of Baghdad and other areas of Iraq (because that is living in freedom) has quelled the violence over the past 36 hours or so, but it should be noted that through 5 days of November, there have already been 18 US troops killed and hundreds more Iraqi bodies found - many of which have signs of torture.
This should be the last message that voters get about Iraq and the Saddam verdict - one that will likely leave Iraq more divided, one that widen the sectarian tensions and one that has Iraqis worrying more about the safety of their own families. Hell, even Tony Blair is opposed to the death penalty.
This issue is a loser for the republicans, but we won't get much help from the major media outlets, who are only mentioning how the lockdown and curfew is stemming the violence (gee, when you don't allow anyone out of their houses for nearly two days, that is a shock). But if you look anywhere - hell, nearly EVERYWHERE else, the reaction is mixed, at best.
The new article from TIME has this unflattering passage right at the outset:
But for many Iraqis, the death sentence passed on their former dictator Sunday was not so much a cleansing autumnal rain as just another thunderclap -- albeit a particularly loud one -- in the middle of a terrible and unending storm. Once the clatter of celebratory gunfire that greeted the verdict had died down, Iraqis' thoughts returned to their own future, and the depressing realization that it is no less bleak than it was yesterday. "Whether Saddam lives or dies is not important to me," shrugs Imad Mohammed, a computer technician. "I'm not even sure whether my family and I will live or die."
Obviously, the Shiites who were persecuted and whose families or friends were killed (or terrorized) under Saddam's regime were happy with the verdict. But even they seem to expect some serious blowback:
Naseer Muneer, 25, a Shiite who works in the Social Services Ministry, said that under Hussein's secular government, sectarian divisions seldom burst into the open. The people who support Sunday's verdict, he said, "do not realize the danger and the consequences of what will happen, because the simple fact is that this government has not achieved anything for the Iraqi people up till now."
Muhanned Hussein Okeily, 23, a Shiite working with the Iraqi military, predicted that Hussein would never be executed. "They announced the verdict to distract the people from the lack of social services, security, stability and [from the] sectarian violence," he said.
And what has happened leading up to the verdict? Well, hundreds of dead and wounded in the two days leading up to the verdict:
In Baghdad on Saturday, at least 32 people were killed and 73 wounded in four car bombings, two roadside explosions, four mortar attacks, a drive-by shooting and other violence, according to an Interior Ministry official and news service reports. Elsewhere in the country, at least 12 people were killed and 52 injured in attacks, in addition to the battle south of Baghdad.
The bloodshed followed the discovery of at least 63 bodies in the capital in a 24-hour period that ended Friday, according to an Interior Ministry official, who was not authorized to release the information and spoke on condition of anonymity. He said all of the victims, who were found in 12 parts of the city, had been tortured, one had been beheaded, and one had had both hands cut off.
That Saddam's trial was about what he did to roughly 150 Iraqis doesn't change the fact that he was a very bad man. But it also doesn't change the fact that he was a buddy of Rumsfeld's back in the 1980s, had nothing to do with 9/11, and had no ties to Al Qaeda. It also doesn't change the fact that Iraq has continued to spiral out of control - with our troops, the Iraqi government, much of America and many Iraqis all wanting a major change in direction (or even the outright removal of our troops).
This verdict won't turn the electricity back on. It won't undo the horrific "miscalculation" on the front end when it came to planning. It won't stop this civil war from raging. It won't give our troops the right armor and updated equipment. It won't erase the memory of Abu Ghraib, waterboarding and torture. It won't build hospitals or bring back any of the dead civilians (or troops). It won't restore the veteran's benefits that were cut by this administration and rubber stamp republican Congress. It won't restore the US standing in the world. It doesn't change the fact that Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both indicated that the trial was unfair and has serious flaws.
And it doesn't change the fact that there have now been more US troops killed in Iraq than Americans who died on 9/11.
The rest of the world, and the Iraqis see through this as "timing for political manipulation". And as summed up best by an Iraqi civilian (and as indicated in my title):
"Saddam was accused of killing 148 people. Now, more than 148 innocent people are getting killed in Iraq every day," Muhammad said. "His era is better than the era we are living in now."
Congrats, George - you actually made life WORSE in Iraq. That is your legacy. And that is what should be the take-away from this ruling, not that "the world is better off without Saddam".
Because, even without Saddam, Iraq and Iraqis are not better off. Which is a very hard thing to accomplish.