But hey, give the man credit -- how often do left-wingers ever admit that Saddam Hussein was a socialist?
In the last two decades, the number of times I've heard them acknowledge this comes in somewhere around less than hardly ever. If Saddam had been a right-winger, we'd all have heard that repeated ad infinitum and then some. But because he wasn't -- just the opposite, in fact -- Saddam's big-government political ethos has somehow remained under the radar in so much media discourse about him. (Audio after the jump)
So while I tip my hat to liberal radio host Thom Hartmann for this rare admission from the left, Hartmann does so in the context of an appalling claim about the actual nature of Saddam's regime (audio) --
So this was an experiment (referring to US oversight in Iraq after fall of Saddam's regime), this was an economic experiment. We can't do this in the United States, we can't get rid of that 20 percent government sector, we can't do away with Social Security and unemployment benefits and Medicare and Medicaid and, you know, government employees and free state-run schools. We can't do that in America, the Americans won't let us. So let's do it in Iraq. And this is what L. Paul Bremer did in 2003. He basically privatized the entire government and got the Ba'ath Party, the socialist party, which had been subsidizing food, subsidizing oil, paying, you know, a large sector of the, you know, controlling a large sector of the economy and paying people's paychecks, and maintaining peace and stability for decades, got them out of the way so that a 'free market' could emerge.
Which is true -- but only if one ignores, if one is so inclined, the war between Iraq and Iran from 1980 to 1988, one of the worst ever, even by the horrific standards of the 20th century. You remember, the conflict that began when Iraq invaded Iran little more than a year after Saddam gained full control of the Iraqi regime?
I'd venture a guess that the residents of Halabja -- make that, the surviving residents of Halabja -- the Kurdish town gassed by Saddam in March 1988, probably won't agree with Hartmann's sunny assessment.
Barely two years after the war with Iran ended, Saddam was at it again, doing his part to spread peace and stability through the region -- by invading Kuwait. This didn't go over well with a 34-nation coalition led by the US, which ousted Iraq by force the following year, thus restoring the tranquility that allegedly existed in Iraq before this latest inexplicable outbreak of violence.
True, Saddam was a huge fan of infrastructure, right up there with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow (don't get her started on that, I'm begging you) and he sank untold billions into roads and bridges and vast presidential palaces and countless statues of himself, few of which remain standing today.
It's also true that Saddam was a big advocate for state-run education, all the better for all Iraqi children to learn of his glorious achievements, much as successive generations of American students have been dutifully taught that Franklin D. Roosevelt ended the Great Depression caused by those odious Republicans.
Hartmann's comments help explain why so many liberals in the West were sympathetic to Saddam -- he was, after all, an ideological soulmate. Alas, Saddam had these troubling tendencies toward mass murder and torture of anyone who looked at him sideways, but heck, you can't really create the exquisite omelet of peace and stability without breaking lots of eggs. American liberals used to shrug off Joe Stalin's crimes for the same reason. Some things never change.
The stability Hartmann touts was that of a prison cell, the peace that of a mass grave.