If you took a snapshot of the last two months, Iraqis are unquestionably worse off than before the invasion.
GENEVA – Torture in Iraq may be worse now than it was under Saddam Hussein, with militias, terrorist groups and government forces disregarding rules on the humane treatment of prisoners, the U.N. anti-torture chief said Thursday.
Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture, made the remarks as he was presenting a report on detainee conditions at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay as well as to brief the U.N. Human Rights Council, the global body’s top rights watchdog, on torture worldwide.
Reports from Iraq indicate that torture “is totally out of hand,” he said. “The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein.”
[…] A report by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq’s Human Rights office cited worrying evidence of torture, unlawful detentions, growth of sectarian militias and death squads, and a rise in “honor killings” of women.
[…] According to the U.N. report, the number of Iraqi civilians killed in July and August hit 6,599, a record-high that is far greater than initial estimates suggested, the U.N. report said Wednesday.
It attributed many of the deaths to rising sectarian tensions that have pushed Iraq toward civil war.
Let’s think for a minute about what it really means to be better or worse off. If you count the number of innocent Iraqi dead under Saddam at around 400,000 (a generous estimate based on various sources) and spread it over his thirty-year term the death toll comes to about 1,100 innocent dead per month. Let’s call that number the ‘Saddam line.’ Average monthly death tolls passed the Saddam Line a long time ago, often compounded by torture so the average quality-of-death (to coun a phrase) should be roughly the same. On a strictly numerical basis our current occupation actually manages to look worse than Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
One could counter that with the intangible and somewhat-less-tangible differences. Can anybody point to a credible claim that general quality-of-life issues, say electricity, sanitation, healthcare and general safety, are better off now than before? Women might miss the days when they could drive, go about uncovered and unaccompanied by a male family member. I could imagine an argument that things are going through a bad spell right now, just like I could imagine arguing that space aliens will have pity on us and relieve the 2nd Marine Regiment in Fallujah. Things can get better and they can get worse. Hypothetical arguments can go both ways. Right now things look pretty bad and no reason in the world exists to think that they cannot get worse.
Obviously any sane person would find this situation intolerable. If we do nothing then civil war seems like an inevitability at this point, but preparedness limits put a strict cap our ability to do any more than we are doing right now. Shuffling troops around (the ‘inkblot’ strategy’) sounds great except that is what we tried during August, one of the two bloodiest months on record. More success like that is something that we don’t need. It looks at this point like a descent into civil war will happen with or without us. I don’t know about anybody else, but given the choice I would pick without.