Saddam killed more people every year than the total insurgents in Iraq

In an even handed article in Foreign Affairs that does not spare the Bush administration, Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr., an expert on Vietnam among other things, explains some important facts about the enemy within Iraq:

The insurgency is dominated by two groups: Sunni Arab Baathists and foreign jihadists. Although it is difficult to measure their strength precisely, the former group is clearly larger, numbering perhaps 20,000, while the jihadists are estimated to number in the low hundreds. The Baathists — former members of Saddam’s ruling elite — hope to restore themselves to power. The jihadists want to inflict a defeat on the United States, deal a blow to its influence in the region, and establish a radical Islamist state in Iraq….

Compared with the United States’ opponents in Vietnam, they are a relatively small and isolated group; the Iraqi rebels number no more than a few tens of thousands, whereas the ranks of the Vietnamese Communists were composed of roughly ten times that number. Iraqi insurgents rarely fight in groups as large as 100; in Vietnam, U.S. forces often encountered well-coordinated enemy formations of far greater size. The Vietnamese Communists, veterans of over two decades of nearly continuous war against the Japanese, the French, and the South Vietnamese, were also far better trained and led than the Iraqi insurgents and enjoyed external backing from China and the Soviet Union. The support provided to the insurgents by Iran, Syria, and radical Islamists elsewhere pales in comparison.

The Iraqi insurgents are also relatively isolated from the Iraqi people. Sunni Arab Muslims comprise the overwhelming majority of insurgent forces but account for only 20 percent of Iraq’s population, and the jihadists are mostly foreigners. Neither insurgent movement has any chance of stimulating a broad-based uprising that involves Arab Shiites and Kurds. Indeed, despite the hardships endured by the Iraqi people, there has been nothing even approaching a mass revolt against the U.S.-led forces or the interim Iraqi government. This is not surprising, for the insurgents have no positive message with which to inspire popular support. A Baathist restoration would mean a return to the misery of Saddam’s rule, and the jihadists would do to Iraq what radical Islamists have done in Afghanistan and Iran: introduce a reign of terror and repression.

Perhaps we are just dense, but we fail to comprehend that there is a huge, intractable problem in Iraq. If Krepinevich is right there are 20,000 of the enemy among a population of 25,000,000; virtually all of them are Sunni Arabs, many with political or tribal ties to the Saddam regime. They are abetted by a small group — less than 1000 — of suicide fruitcakes despised by virtually the entire population. This is not a scenario for a conflict that lasts many years, let alone civil war.

Heck, in the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, the total enemy counts for less than an average year’s killing by the dictator. Estimates of annual killing under Saddam range from 20,000 – 40,000 (VDH) to as high as 50,000. Look at it this way: the only reason there is still any insurgency in Iraq is that we, and the Iraqis, have chosen not to deal with it as Saddam would have done. Do you doubt that if we returned Saddam to power tomorrow, he would not end any insurgency within a year?

One Response to “Saddam killed more people every year than the total insurgents in Iraq”

  1. Fabrizio Perotti Says:

    I have one question: why are the 20-40000 numbers referred to as killings by Saddam? I know you don’t actually say it but you’re sort of implying that. A lot of the killings also happened because of sanctions from the west. I know a lot of people say that because Saddam behaved the way he did the west had no alternative. Didn’t it? So, you have a bloody dictator, now we’re going to starve you to death. Come on!

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