Iraq, better or worse

Forget the ‘reasons’ for going to Iraq, or pulling out, or any of the ‘American’ concerns; do you believe the situation in Iraq is better or worse than it was 3 years ago?

I just finished an article on that gives one perspective please read it and let’s discuss the situtation in Iraq, outside of the US concerns.

Of course this is entirely dependent on who you are and what your situation is. If the Americans mistakenly bombed your house and killed your children, you’re undoubtedly worse off now. On the other hand, if you were rotting in one of Saddam’s prisons, you’re better off now. And don’t forget how fluid the situation in Iraq is right now. If things go down the tube, the number of people who were better off under Saddam goes way up. It’ll never include everybody, but you worry if it includes any number greater than 1%.

I’m speaking to the general situation, as seen from outside (and thus limited view); even the article posted shows that the situation is viewed differently depending on who you ask.

But in general are you saying it is better or worse (assuming that you believe that ~1% were better off under Sadaam, or did you mean simply that any percentage over that is an unacceptible number)?

I agree with Sal. If you’re a Sunni, it probably sucks. If you’re a Shiite living in the south, it’s probably better. If you’re a Shiite living in a largely Sunni area, it probably sucks. If you’re a Kurd living in the North it’s probably marginally better than it was 1992 - 2003, but much better than it was pre-1992. And I’m sure there are many other combinations and permutations.

Frankly, though, the real question is how things will look 5 years from now. Even the most optimistic assessment of the currect situation has to acknowledge that the whole thing could go up in flames between now and then.

Regarding material conditions on the ground, see the following interview –

In the context of the interview, the above are minor complaints – compared to the number of Iraqis who have been arbitrarily arrested or simply disappeared since the invasion.

Is there a credible source to that? (if so please provide, I have not seen one to this point).

How does that number compare to those under Sadaam (any number is unacceptible; but for comparison sake).

I don’t see how anecdotes posted on left-leaning web sites add to obective debate.

Iraq electricity output hits bottom

Interesting part to pick out; you could have easily have pulled this part.

Those “anecdotes” – like those in the CNN article linked in the OP – are about the situation on the ground as viewed by actual residents of Iraq. They’re not statistical analyses, but they’re certainly not irrelevant. Regardless of the politics of the interviewer. Any reasonable person should be willing to place more confidence in such than in the numbers published by a U.S. government agency like USAID.

Are you saying the insurgents are really to blame for the electricity shortage? If that’s true, it does not deflect blame from the U.S. No invasion/occupation, no insurgency.

I don’t know about that, a single data point really says nothing; numbers (esp ones that can be tracked back to something), should give a stronger idea of what is going on in a larger scale.

We screwed up the power plant system. Early on, we installed a large number of natural gas fired trubines to run the power plants, ignoring the fact that Iraq lacked the infrastructure to deliver the gas to the plants. Later, the turbines were retrofitted to run on petroleum, but they are much less efficient that way.

BG: I simply made a statement about your cite. The arguments you have thrown up are strawmen since I didn’t make any claims about other sources. But if we’re going to use news sources, lets stick to mainstream media like the NYT or WashPo or CNN.

I’m not saying anything. If we are taking the article as fact (which I have no reason to question at this point); then both points are facts, though pulling one over the other definately gives different perspective.

Do I believe the insurgents are to blame for the power situation? I have no idea; though the article does say as much, to that end they also blame *inefficient production, criminal sabotage by extortionists, and other factors. *

The artcle also says that the US has brought the production power back to ~7,000 Megawatts; even though the system hasn’t topped ~5,400 Megawatts.

Not if USAID produces them. Do you still believe we can trust the word of any U.S. government agency operating in Iraq?!

If you’re talking about averaging the experiences of every Iraqi, it’s probably a wash. What you gain on the one hand – freedom of speech, freedom to vote – you lose on the other – personal insecurity, sectarianism, crime, infrastructure deterioration. But it’s definitely the case that if you have significant numbers of people believing life was better under Saddam – and this after three years of American occupation – then our policy has been not just a failure, but a fiasco. And it could get worse, too, very easily (I would say inevitably).


I believe that if we don’t we have no data, even HRW and Amnesty International are using them as a source of data. I also have a hard time believing that the entire US government (made up of Democrats as well as Republicans) is corrupt. I also believe that the citizens working inside those instututions have a history of ‘leaking’ and/or ‘whistle blowing’ when they see something they believe is ‘wrong’. I also believe that if such dishonesty (at all levels) were going on, that we would be hearing so nightly from those wishing to be the next president.

To continue in that vein: if you’re a woman outside the Kurdish north, it’s probably a lot worse. Under Saddam, women could get university educations, hold real jobs, and stuff like that. Now, neither the Shi’ite nor the Sunni fundamentalists are keen on women having lives of their own.

I was reading a piece the other day where the Iraqi being interviewed made the obvious point: Saddam was a ruthless thug, but if you weren’t political and didn’t take a stand against him, you were probably safe. Now, the danger comes from every which way.

Can’t argue with that. It’s also harder than ever to see by what miracle things will right themselves. Even during the fires of April 2004, when it seemed like both ends of the country were rising up against us, the anti-U.S. forces - al-Sadr’s troops and the Sunni insurgents in Fallujah - were united across sectarian lines, which was good for the country even if bad for us. And still ahead, supposedly, were the positive effects of our reconstruction efforts, and eventually elections.

Now reconstruction is pretty much over, with little to show for it. The elections have happened, but they are no panacea. The police that Condi spoke so highly of are mostly radical Shi’ites - participants, not referees, in Iraq’s internecine conflicts. And the ultimate driver of conflict is that the Sunni insurgents want to be back in power, and will do pretty much anything to either rule Iraq or make sure the other side can’t - but they aren’t strong enough to rule Iraq. How long will they fight before they admit to themselves that there’s no point in continuing to blow shit up? That day could be a bloody decade or more off.

Before the invasion, I was quite pessimistic about how things in Iraq would play out afterwards. In the main way that things are better than I expected (the civil war isn’t full-scale, out-in-the-open fighting, but only because we’re still there, which I didn’t expect) it won’t stay better indefinitely, and lots of things have gone wrong in ways I never anticipated. Unfortunately, gloom and doom still seems the way to bet.

Can we even predict 5 years into the future?

5 years after WWII Germany was sliced up with the West doing alright and the East suffering terribly. Japan was rebuilding and had a democratically elected government (for the first time in its history, if I remember correctly).

5 years after Korea, well it was pretty much like it is now (except that South Korea continued to grow into a powerhouse).

5 years after Vietnam not much had changed (they were still in the process of ‘purging’), today they are tending toword a Democratic Socalism.