Moral Outrage
Whew! God help us!

Iraq: “We need another Saddam to get things under control”

Since 2003, a million people have died in Iraq in the wake of post-invasion violence. Sectarian wars have torn the country apart, foreign troops have established huge military bases, and politicians who have sworn to crack down on militias have their own private armies. This once secular nation has been scarred by extremism, with terrible consequences for women, gay people and religious minorities.

With $53 billion in ‘aid’ seemingly evaporated into bloated projects that only served to line the pockets of foreign contractors and local officials, 70 per cent of Iraqis lack potable water, and unemployment hovers near 50 per cent, officially, and much more, unofficially. Over two million Iraqis are refugees, and almost three million internally displaced – roughly a fifth of the population. Many are simply too frightened to return, or too heartbroken by what they have survived.

Almost certainly the violence will continue, whether in the form of mortar rounds fired from Baghdad suburb Sadr City into the heart of the ‘green zone’ (the walled-off international area, home to a US embassy the size of Vatican City), bombs in markets, or the pervasive sense of fear that descends in many neighborhoods when night falls. Fear of the police knocking on your door or of local militias or young thugs. The line between officialdom and criminality remains blurry and faith in the army has trumped faith in the nation.

But how life will change for Iraq’s beleaguered citizens remains to be seen. Will the corruption that has plagued the country be stymied? Will divisions be healed and a cohesive sense of national identity regained? Will security and basic infrastructure be restored? And will heads of households, among them Iraq’s one million widows, be able to feed their families? Or will the promise of democracy remain a hollow one, as the gap between rich and poor widens, and basic services and social welfare programmes remain nostalgic memories of a now rose-coloured ancien regime?

I will ask women in a Baghdad beauty parlour – among them Kurds, Arabs, Christians and Muslims – how Iraq can be saved, and they say: ‘Khelas, we are sick of this lack of security. Before, we could walk in the streets alone and now we are imprisoned in our homes. We need another Saddam to get things under control.’

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