Civilians killed, Sectarian Violence & Militia Groups – Was Iraq better under Saddam?

Matthew Stinchcombe,

US led intervention in Iraq has opened up a chasm, which has since been filled with sectarian violence. In May this year the UN revealed 1,045 civilians and security personnel were killed in violence: this is the highest number of casualties in a month since June 2008. Iraq is quickly gaining all the hallmarks of a failed state, with sectarian violence, political instability and corruption rife in the dismembered country. Given the continuing slide into civil war that Iraq appears to be experiencing, it would be a good time to assess whether the invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein has benefitted the civilian population of Iraq or whether it has it merely encouraged the plight of an unstable nation.

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Did the removal of Saddam Hussein benefit the civilian population of Iraq or has it merely encouraged the plight of an unstable nation.

Influential Iraqi political figure and former representative to the UN, Adnan Pachachi, claims that the most significant failure of the US intervention was to create a political system in Iraq divided on a sectarian basis – the intended effect of this division was to allow both sides their own political opinion. In reality it has amplified problems and tensions between the Sunni and Shiite groups, leading to a highly unstable political system incapable of governing the country. The caveat of this inherent sectarianism is bloody violence at its worst, between 2006 and 2007, over 3000 people were killed each month because of Sunni and Shiite tensions. The majority of violence is centred in Baghdad and would appear to largely be from Sunni militant groups with the backing of al-Qaida. However, Shiite attacks – killing over 100 Sunni’s at mosques – have contributed too and escalated the violence.

Given the progression of these violent actions and the lack of a competent government system prepared to deal with the onset of a civil war, the question must be asked whether or not an Iraq under the tyrannical control of Saddam Hussein is actually preferable to one split down the middle by combat hardened militia groups. Under Saddam Hussein political opposition was ruthlessly removed and the dictatorial presence kept civil unrest at a minimum; under weak political control these militia groups have free reign to endanger the lives of the innocent.

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Iraq, then, has fluctuated between a stable but autocratic state, under Saddam Hussein, and one that is democratic but marred by sectarian terrorism since Saddam’s removal. These sectarian problems, although most likely exacerbated by the US led intervention, are inherently Iraqi and would more than likely be a prominent feature of Iraq, regardless of whether or not it had been invaded.

The US led military forces would deem the war in Iraq a success as they toppled a tyrant and installed a ‘democratic’ government. This is true to an extent, yet, whilst the people of Iraq are no longer living in fear of a tyrannical ruler, they are now living in fear of religiously fuelled terrorism and the sporadic and relentless violence that accompanies it. This is a highly unstable situation which needs a united government in order to counteract it. Put succinctly by political analyst Ramzy Mardini ‘Iraq’s nascent politics is not equipped to sustain the current dangerous levels of external and internal pressure’.

To further add to the trouble in the region, five al-Qaida suspects have recently been found with the apparatus for chemical weapons in Iraq – it was exactly these measures of terror which Saddam himself employed with catastrophic effect on the Kurds in 1988. So it would appear that Iraq has been left with the same problems that required international intervention originally. The Iraqi government thwarted these attempts but it would appear that an incident involving such types of weapons would cause further breakdown and most likely result in an all-out civil war.

It would be reasonable to assume that the International forces have washed their hands of Iraq for the most part, and given the financial drain that the Iraq war had in times of a global economic meltdown, this move is not surprising. After all a failed state concerned with internal religious politics and tit for tat violence is unlikely to carry much political weight internationally, not least in the same way Saddam’s oppressed Iraq was able to provide.


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