Dispatches > The Buzz

Worse than war

War kills, but Saddam's "peacetime" regime is even more bloody

Issue: "War inside the red zone," April 12, 2003

In 1951 Douglas MacArthur told Congress that "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away." In 1954 Bing Crosby sang in White Christmas, "What do you do with a general when he stops being a general?" Today, the answer is obvious: Old generals don't fade away, they go on cable networks and complain about current strategy, often kissing up to media pessimists by acting like Boston Red Sox fans who yell "Down the drain" after the first inning.

After a few days of major league baseball and two weeks of war, it was still early to conclude either that the New York Yankees will win the pennant or that the U.S. Yankees will lose the war. But one New York team, Columbia University, was having problems in its bullpen. Anthropology professor Nicholas De Genova went too far by telling a "teach-in" that "The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military. I personally would like to see a million Mogadishus." (That's when the forces of a warlord in Somalia killed 18 American soldiers and dragged their bodies through the streets.)

Mr. De Genova said he hopes for "a very different world than the one in which we live-a world where the U.S. would have no place." Other radical professors embedded at major universities agree with him, but it's impolitic to say so at a time when demonstrators are trying to win friends beyond their leftist base.

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But academic comments on the Iraq War aren't all bad. Three University of Chicago professors-Steven Davis, Kevin Murphy, and Robert Topel-produced a study concluding that Iraqi income per person has fallen by at least 75 percent since Saddam Hussein came to power in 1979. One chunk of that decline is due to United Nations sanctions imposed after the 1991 war. (Those would have been lifted had Saddam kept his promise to disarm.) But dictatorial policies have been the main contributor to Iraq's transition from upward mobility to poverty.

War kills: Probably 10,000 Iraqis died in the 1990-91 Gulf War, although estimates vary. Regimes kill: The policies of Saddam's regimes have led to an average of perhaps 200,000 Iraqis dying per year through brutal repression, slaughter by chemical weapons, government-forced poverty, and so forth. It's right to ask about war, "What is it good for?" It's wrong to conclude, "Absolutely nothing." Regime change could save lives and allow oil-rich Iraq to prosper.

Of course, regime change would hurt many people, and not all of them are French. Saddam since 1991 has apparently built 50 new palaces for himself and his entourage, at a cost of $2.5 billion. Those who specialized in installing gold faucets in those lavish digs would have to look elsewhere for work, as would Saddam's "internal security" spies. Some of the regime's stalwarts might die at the hands of their newly empowered victims, but others would just fade away, which is fine. We already have too many shrieks echoing in the night.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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