Claim:Saddam was killing his subjects

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The Claim

The Claim: Saddam WAS killing hundreds of thousands of his subjects. The underlying message is that Bush's Iraq war is justified due to humanitarian reasons or If Saddam Hussein had not been deposed, the majority of Iraqis would have ended up in mass graves. Latika Padgaonkar The Poineer - New Delhi, India

One line rebuttal: You can't be humanitarian while killing thousands and violating the Geneva Conventions

Status: Mixed. While it is undoubtedly true that Saddam was killing his subjects how many did he kill? Let's look at individual claims:

  • The 2003 Iraq war is justifiable based on humanitarian concerns - The war killed more than Saddam did in the last 10 years and worse: A lot of those deaths could have been avoided, had the war been planned with humanitarian concerns in mind. For a detailed discussion and additional reasons see link.
  • Mass Graves & Rape rooms in Iraq - The war killed more than Saddam did in the last 10 years. The same can be said for rape: It increased after the war
  • Most importantly, the worst of Saddam Hussein's political violence happened a decade or more before the U.S. invasion of 2003. If concern about protecting human rights was actually the concern then there were more important regimes to change elsewhere in 2003.

Source: Several e-mails have been circulating describing Saddam's crimes and the mass graves found in Iraq. It is also a staple of the right wing pundit's when justifying this unjustifiable war. There is even a movie telling this tale

Snopes: No mention

Investigation: The tale builds on the 1988 "Anfal" Massacre of Kurds and the Shia massacre on 1991 shortly after the first Gulf War. This is the period that all but 50,000 of Saddam's alleged 400,000 victims were killed. Therefore Bush's war killed more than Saddam did in the last 10 years... Not surprisingly, the Human Rights Watch report of 2004 was titled War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention. See The 2003 Iraq war is justifiable based on humanitarian concerns for a summary of all the reasons that make that claim a false claim

Mass Graves: Is Bush Resurrecting the dead ?

While the mass graves were a chilling reminder of Saddam's cruelty, they were more than a decade old, according to Bush Administration's - and Tony Blair's - own account link. So what "humanitarian good" did Bush's war do ? Despite his alleged close relationship with God, so far Bush has not managed to resurrect the dead. So the 400,000 were and continue to be as they were in 2002: dead.

While returning the remains of a loved one to their families is per se a laudable act, it doesn't really justify killing 1,000 more to do it, let alone killing tens of thousands and destroying the homes and livelihoods of millions. Not surprisingly, the Human Rights Watch report of 2004 was titled War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention.

Saddam's little black book

So how many DID Saddam kill in the period between 1992 and 2002 ? How many died per year in Saddam's Iraq ?

After the Anfal and Shia massacres that occurred before 1992 we can only account for 50,000 Iraqis murdered, which averages out at just over 4,000 a year between 1991 and 2003 As Crooked Timber notes: given that many of these murders would have been committed early in the period 1991-2003, the death toll could have been as low as 2,000 a year during the period in which war was being seriously discussed'

Iraq war casualties

As of Feb 27 2005 the site iraqbodycount.net estimates civilian casualties of Bush's war to be between 16,123 and 18,395. Adding to that the coalition troops casualties of 1,668 we get As of February 2005 there are roughly 20,000 deaths due to Bush's war. It is important to point out that iraqbodycount.net only count victims that have been positively identified to date. The real total is likely much larger. An academic study estimated Iraq civilian deaths to be as high as 100,000.

Cold hearted math: Was it worth it ?

If one feels inclined to do some cold hearted math, we can see that at best Bush 's war killed the equivalent of 5 years under Saddam's rule and at worst Bush could have left Saddam in power for 10 years and still kill less people than his war did. The numbers simply don't add up to the claim that the Iraq war was waged on humanitarian reasons See The 2003 Iraq war is justifiable based on humanitarian concerns for a summary of all the reasons that make that claim a false claim


Deaths due to other wars

An estimated 2 million people (!!!) died during the Iran / Iraq war and the casualties of the first Iraq war were also quite high. They were not included in the rationale for 2003's war because as Crooked Timber reminds us: it isn’t credible to regard events which happened in 1991 (or before) to be part of the rationale for a war in 2003

Why not include Sanctions and previous wars to Saddam's tally ?

For a detailed account on the deaths that can be attributed to Saddam see Saddam was killing his subjects. It is important to note that although we can find evidence that Saddam's actions resulted in the death of over 3 million people, the bulk of this total (2.5 million) is composed by atrocities that predate Bush's march to war.

It is also important to note that for the sake of comparisson with other mass murderers we have to exclude them since those numbers are not usually considered when calculating Hitler, Stalin, Suharto and other mass murderers tally. For instance: We know that 2 million died in wars STARTED by Saddam and around 500,000 died due to economic sanctions. No such numbers were added to Hittler's tally or we would have to add at least 41 million deaths to Hitler's "official" 20 million tally just due to the World War II Fatalities. How many more died due to the experiments of Mengele ? North Korea's tally does NOT include the 2-3 million who died of hunger since 1995, even though the NK government uses access to food as a political weapon.

In fact, if STARTING A WAR was a criteria to attribute the war deaths to country leaders, Bush 43 would have at least 20,000 deaths in his "tally" and would be among the top 100 mass murderers of the last 100 years

Additional References

See Mass Graves & Rape rooms in Iraq for a description of the events were Saddam mass murders occured

See Saddam the Mass Murderer for a detailed comparisson between deaths attributed to Saddam to other 20th/ 21st century mass murderers

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