"The thousands of people who have marched in Iraq in support of the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George W Bush are proof of Iraq's advance along the road to democracy. Imagine what would have happened to a reporter who tossed his shoes at Saddam Hussein? It's even more difficult to imagine people being allowed to march peacefully but militantly in the streets under the old fascist regime. Counter-intuitive though it may be, the war really was about overthrowing tyranny and establishing the foundations of democracy." Barry York, Lyneham, ACT (The Australian, 18/12/08)
Yes, Barry, we can imagine what would have happened to Muntazer az-Zaidi if he'd thrown his shoes at Saddam. However, the bleeding obvious seems to have escaped you: az-Zaidi's protest represents the awful fact that, however bad life was under Saddam, for Iraqis in general life under US occupation is actually worse. And here's why: "According to John Pace, former director of the human rights office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, 'Under Saddam, if you agreed to forgo your basic right to freedom of expression and thought, you were physically more or less OK. But now, no. Here you have a primitive, chaotic situation where anybody can do anything they want to anyone'. Under Saddam the scale of abuse was 'daunting', but now, 'It extends over a much wider section of the population than it did under Saddam'." (An inventory: Better off under Saddam, Garry Leupp, counterpunch.com, 31/3/06)
"Life for ordinary Iraqis is now worse than under Saddam Hussein as the country descends into violence 'much worse' than civil war, Kofi Annan has said. The Secretary General of the United Nations gave his hardest-hitting assessment yet of the present situation as he prepared to leave office. 'If I was an average Iraqi, I would make the same comparison', he told the BBC. '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 society needs minimum security and a secure environment for it to get on. Without security, not much can be done'." (Annan says Iraq life 'worse than under Saddam', Joe Churcher, independent.com, 4/12/06)
"Life was 'better' for Christians in Iraq under the regime of Saddam Hussein than it is today, according to the only Anglican vicar working in Baghdad." (Life 'better' under Saddam says vicar of Baghdad, Joanna Sugden, timesonline.co.uk, 21/12/07)
"Iraq is now in a 'worse shape' than it was under Saddam Hussein, with millions living without even the most basic medical care or access to clean water... The grim picture emerged as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) published a report warning that Iraqi hospitals were still lacking beds, drugs and medical staff, while the poor public water supply has forced some families to use at least one-third of their average monthly income buying clean drinking water." (Red Cross: life in Iraq is worse than ever, Ian Bruce, theherald.co.uk, 17/3/08)
"Iraqi women say they they are now worse off than they were during the rule of dictator Saddam Hussein and that their plight has deteriorated year by year since the US-led invasion in March 2003. Now they are demanding not just equal rights but the very 'right to live', says Shameran Marugi, head of the non-governmental organisation Iraqi Women's Committee. 'The 'right to live' is a slogan that we have begun using because a women's life in Iraq is being threatened on all sides. Laws are not being implemented equally and society is ignoring women', Marugi told reporters. Before the 2003 invasion it was possible for a woman to lead a normal life as long as she followed state policy', she said, adding, 'It was even possible for a woman to engage in political and economic activities through the official Union of Iraqi Women'. She said, 'When the regime change occurred in 2003, women, men, and children went out on the streets to celebrate. We were very happy. Unfortunately there was no qualified leadership to handle the situation and society was not equipped to deal with the changes'. The Union of Iraqi Women was dismantled after the invasion as it was affiliated to the former Baath Party of Saddam. Marugi said in the past few years, violence against women has significantly increased. 'At home, a woman faces violence from her father, husband, brother and even from her son. It has become a kind of a new culture in the society', said the women's rights campaigner. She said out in the society, women were subjected to verbal abuse on the streets if they did not wear a veil, and in extreme cases face being abducted by unnknown gunmen, who sexually abuse and then kill them. It has also become normal for women to recieve death threats for working for example as a hairdresser or tailor, for not wear a veil or not dressing 'decently' ', said Marugi, adding, 'In addition to equal rights, we are now demanding the 'the right to live'." (Many Iraqi women say life was better under Saddam, Agence France-Presse, 26/3/08)
And there's more: See my earlier posts, Main Street, Dujail (17/10/08) & What Iraqis Really Think 5 Years On (4/4/08).
And no, the war was never about "overthrowing tyranny and establishing the foundations for democracy," but I'll keep that one for an upcoming (soon) post.