Better Than Saddam, Again

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


I didn’t even get through the first page of this Weekly Standard article, so let me know if there’s anything I missed, but Christopher Hitchens takes to the ramparts defending the Iraq war, and the conduct of those who tortured prisoners, by noting… that at least things aren’t as bad as under Saddam Hussein! Yes, that old thing. By this standard, our soldiers could stick half as many people in human shredders as Saddam once did and still declare the mission a moral victory. By this standard, Saddam himself turned into a saint for murdering fewer people in 2003 than he did in, say, the mid-1990s. By this standard…

I could go on, but I won’t, because this is stupid. Human progress always relies on holding up some ideal—Americans don’t torture people; bombing cities into the ground is wrong—rather than saying “At least we’re better than our ancestors who brained each other with rocks and clubs.” Why anyone still takes Christopher Hitchens seriously is beyond me. At any rate, he’s probably wrong on the “better off” bit too: no, Iraq is not better off than it was four years ago, on account of all the dead people and torture squads, and it certainly won’t be better off if it descends into full-blown civil war. And yes, I’ve seen the news stories about all the painted schools.

UPDATE: Okay, so I read the whole thing. It gets worse: “As [the war opponents] cannot and do not deny, there was going to be another round with Saddam Hussein no matter what.” What? Incidentally, it’s not even clear that the United States needed to go a first round with Iraq back in 1991. Saddam wasn’t justified in invading Kuwait, but it wasn’t at all clear that the U.S. would actually intervene—even many within the administration, including Colin Powell, were shocked that Bush I went to war. It’s hard to rewrite history, but better deterrence might have prevented the whole thing. Whether that would have been positive or negative depends on other factors—what would have happened if Iraq went nuclear?—but wars are hardly as inevitable as Hitchens supposes.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate