The Black Book Of Saddam Hussein

A reader pointed me to this column about a book of Saddam’s atrocities that turned the author, who was against the war, into a reluctant supporter. I disagree with the author’s over-the-top, typical far left characterization of how the war has gone, but am intrigued by the thought process that led someone with such a negative opinion of the war to come to the conclusion that it was necessary.

Before it began, the war in Iraq seemed to me a thoroughly bad business, and subsequent events have confirmed me in that opinion: the dodgy dossier, the persecution of Dr Kelly, the public lies, the botched reconstruction, the torture at Abu Ghraib, the massacres, the proliferation of terror, the descent into civil war – an unmitigated disaster. And like many opponents of the war, I have taken a grim satisfaction as increasing numbers of its erstwhile supporters have come round to my view.

War is a contradictory business, though, and my gloomy complacency is severely dented by a French book entitled Le Livre Noir de Saddam Hussein (The Black Book of Saddam Hussein). Edited by Chris Kutschera, and published by Oh! Editions, it is a collection of writings by historians, journalists and jurists offering an exhaustive account of the dictator’s crimes against humanity.

At his trial in Baghdad, Saddam stands accused of 148 killings, but the Black Book puts the number closer to two million…

…The Black Book’s preface is by Bernard Kouchner, a co-founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres and former cabinet minister, who writes that “Saddam was one of history’s worst tyrants and it was necessary and urgent to remove him.” The war may not have been the ideal way to do so, but there was no other.

What I found amazing is that someone with such an intensely negative view of the war effort, could read of Saddam’s atrocities and decide that even what he found to be an extremely ugly war was preferable to what existed under Saddam. It made me wonder how many of those who have a less extreme negative opinion of the war might look at the success of the effort differently if reminded (in detail) of the extreme viciousness and vast reach of Saddam’s brutality.

For those who say pointing to Saddam’s atrocities as a reason for the invasion of Iraq is an attempt to change the rationale for the war after the fact, I must conclude that they are either dishonest or did not read a newspaper or watch any television in the year leading up to the invasion. I vividly recall the references to “rape rooms” and other forms of torture included in both the President’s speech to the UN and in the State of the Union. I also recall the revelation from CNN’s Eason Jordan, after the invasion, that he was aware of atrocities taking place in Saddam’s Iraq, but did not report them for fear, at least partly, of losing their Baghdad bureau. Of course, for those who choose to believe the rosy picture of kite-flying children in Michael Moore’s vision of Iraq under Saddam Hussein, there is not much room for reality and everyone in Iraq was happier with Saddam in power.

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