Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Thought

One of the arguments against the war that we hear all the time is that Iraq isn't better off now that Saddam is out of power. The line of reasoning generally goes something like this. "Yes, Saddam gassed the Kurds. Yes, his secret police fed people into wood chippers. Yes, he killed hundreds of thousands of his own people in a pointless war with Iran. But that was all a long time ago. More recently he was a pussycat (at least relatively speaking), and so more civilians have died due to the invasion than he would have killed had he remained in power."

Ok, let's assume for the moment that life is the only quantifiable benefit to be considered in determining whether Iraqis are better off. Let's also accept for the moment the premise that Saddam wasn't directly killing any significant number of Iraqis and wouldn't have done so in the future had he stayed in power. That is not the same as arguing that his being in power wasn't leading to countless deaths. Remember, there were sanctions on Iraq from the end of the Gulf War until 2003. Those sanctions probably led indirectly to the deaths of thousands of Iraqis. (All the estimates are mostly conjecture, and range from 100,000 to 1.7 million)

Granted, at the time, people wanted to blame the West, not Saddam for these deaths, just as they now blame America for Iraqi civilian casualties rather than the terrorists actually killing them, but the truth is a little different. Saddam was directly responsible for the continuance of these sanctions. Had he truly reformed and offered evidence of his change, the western world would have been glad to lift them. On top of that, the UN introduced the Oil-For-Food program precisely to avoid starving the Iraqis and cutting off their medicine. With the complicity of many corrupt European officials, Saddam redirected a large percentage of the funds intended to save the lives of little children into his own lavish projects.