President Bush's father, the former President Bush, has often been said to be a silent critic of his son's foreign policy. He has now broken any purported silence to defend his boy's invasion of Iraq. Presumed to be more of a "realist" than his "neocon" offspring, the elder Bush now employs the crudest neocon arguments, suggesting that anyone who questions the invasion must have wanted Saddam Hussein to remain in power indefinitely.
Let's leave aside the question of whether any nation or coalition of nations had a right to remove Saddam from power, since the answer is so obvious. The fact is, he's gone and won't be coming back. That leaves us with one question to ask: are the Iraqi people better off now than they were, for the sake of arguments, five years ago?
Neocons will answer instantly that, whatever hardships Iraqis suffer, all benefit from being free. It is self-evident, however, that the dead didn't benefit. Bushies may prefer to blame most of the deaths on the insurgents or the terrorists rather than on the invasion, but the fact is that Iraqis didn't suffer random acts of terrorism under Saddam Hussein. He persecuted dissidents and killed many of them, and should be cursed by history for doing so. At his worst, he made families suffer for the perceived offenses of one person. But to my knowledge, he did not subject the whole nation to random terror. He did not blow up marketplaces for the hell of it, or for his own amusement. If you suffered terror under Saddam, it was because you stuck your own neck out, knowing the risk of doing so. Since Saddam, people who probably never had a political thought have been slaughtered simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It may be that the people who might have suffered most under Saddam are the ones who have benefited most from his departure, since they are presumably publishing newspapers and ranting on radio and television, as long as they haven't been blown up, kidnapped or assassinated. But their theoretical benefit has to be outweighed by the terror imposed upon the apolitical silent majority of Iraqis by the state of chaos that the U.S. called into being. It seems indisputable to me that the average Iraqi, the ordinary complacent submissive civilian, was better off by most measures under the dictator than under the occupation and its poor excuse for government. It will only be disputed by those who think "freedom" alone matters, the ones who believe that, as long as you can complain, you have no right to complain.