Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

August 16, 2005

Is Howard Dean Pro-Rape, or just Pro-Saddam?

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:52 pm

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has been saying a lot of, um, interesting things lately, but this is surely the “interestingest” of them all:

Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation” yesterday, the fiery former Vermont governor said, “It looks like today, and this could change, as of today it looks like women will be worse off in Iraq than they were when Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq.”

Let’s take a look at what life was like for women in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was in control.

The anti-war, anti-Bush The Nation reports:

Far more women here have stories about husbands and sons who disappeared into mass graves and torture prisons under Saddam than tales of nieces and female neighbors who have gone missing since the war. And sexual violence was a hallmark of a regime that employed men to hold the job of “Violator of Women’s Honor,” who would videotape themselves raping the wives of men the regime perceived as suspect.

They probably heard that from a report from the British Foreign Office, described by Reuters:

A copy of a government personnel card shown in the report described one state employee, Aziz Salih Ahmed, as a “fighter in the popular army.” His activity was given as “violator of women’s honor,” or a professional rapist, the report said.

As a professional rapist, his job was to rape women who had been arrested because they — or their husband, father, or son — was suspected of opposing Saddam’s rule.

And, of course, some women attacted the attention of Saddam’s son Uday, which not only got them raped, but put their fathers or husbands in jeopardy of torture. As Time reports:

After months of recovering from an attempt on his life that put eight bullets in his left side, Uday Hussein, the eldest son of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, was ready to party. At his first outing in 1998, at the posh Jadriyah Equestrian Club, he used high-powered binoculars to survey the crowd of friends and family from a platform high above the guests. He saw something he liked, recalls his former aide Adib Shabaan, who helped arrange the party. Uday tightened the focus on a pretty 14-year-old girl in a bright yellow dress sitting with her father, a former provincial governor, her mother and her younger brother and sister.

Uday’s bodyguards picked up the signal and walked through the darkened room, flicking cigarette lighters as they approached the girl’s table. Uday, then 33, flipped on his too, confirming they had identified the right one. When the girl left the table for the powder room, Uday’s bodyguards approached her with a choice, says Shabaan, who was Uday’s business manager. She could ascend the platform now and congratulate Uday on his recovery, or she could call him on his private phone that night. Flustered, she apologized and said her parents would allow neither. One of the guards replied, “This is the chance of your life” and promised she would receive diamonds and a car. “All you have to do is go up there for 10 minutes,” he urged. When she demurred again, the bodyguards pursued Uday’s backup plan. They maneuvered the girl in the direction of the parking lot, picked her up and carried her to the backseat of Uday’s car, covering her mouth to muffle her screams.

After three days the girl was returned to her home, with a new dress, a new watch and a large sum of cash. Her parents had her tested for rape; the result was positive. According to Shabaan’s account, Uday heard she had been tested and sent aides to the clinic, where they warned doctors not to report a rape. Furious, the father demanded to see Saddam himself. Rebuffed, he kept complaining publicly about what Uday had done. After three months, the President’s son had had enough. He sent two guards to the man to insist that he drop the matter. Uday had another demand: that the ex-governor bring his daughter and her 12-year-old sister to his next party. “Your daughters will be my girlfriends, or I’ll wipe you off the face of the earth.” The man complied, surrendering both girls.

Of course, this was no isolated incident. Latif Yahia, who was forced to serve as Uday’s body double, described Uday’s activities to Irish reporter Lance Laytner:

Every day Uday Hussein and his bodyguards drove around the university and the girls’ schools until the president’s son saw a girl he fancied. He would stop her and ask her to spend the night with him. If she refused, his bodyguards would grab her and bring her back to the palace. There Uday would rape the girl. If she resisted, after he was done, he would give her to the whole team of bodyguards.Uday learned rape and murder from his father. Reveals Latif: “Saddam’s family, the Tikriti clan, were a bunch of criminals. When Saddam came to power it was like the mafia taking control of a country.”

“Hundreds of thousands had no way to feed their families. But Uday didn’t care. He continued to party openly, without shame.” Uday threw a multi-million dollar extravaganza on his birthday. A thousand people dined on lobster and delicacies. Hundreds of beautiful girls were invited. At one point Uday shouted, “Rip the whores’ clothes off!” His friends shredded the women’s clothing and the party turned into a massive orgy.

Now I know men are notorious for not knowing what women want, but I think Howard Dean is taking this to new heights if he believes that what women want is to be handed over to a rapist at the age of 12 or 14 by your own father who is under threat of torture and death.

4 Responses to “Is Howard Dean Pro-Rape, or just Pro-Saddam?”

  1. ollie Says:

    I have to admit that I have no statistics that talks about the incidence of rape in Iraq (beforeand after)
    As far as to the issue that you are addressing, I’ve seen no evidence that things have gotten
    better. Remember that illiberal democracy can still be very oppressive.

    As to what Dean actually said:

    DEAN: Well, one of the things I think is interesting is now, that after being castigated by both Democrats and Republicans for a while, now the majority of Americans agree with me. This was a mistake.

    I think that we still don’t know whether the Iraqi people are better off or not. I do think that having Saddam in custody is a good thing, and I do not think that we ought to turn Saddam over to the custody of Iraqis after the June 30th deadline. Should something go wrong, and should he escape, then the war would have been entirely in vain. So we need to keep control of Saddam Hussein.

    On the other hand, it’s very clear that we don’t know if the Iraqi people are better off or not. Women are certainly worse off in terms of their rights. We don’t know if a successful democracy will emerge or not. It’s too early to say.

    The president took an enormous risk. I believe that that risk was unwarranted. We still have yet to find out. We’re certainly no safer than we were. In fact, the majority of American people also agree with me that we’re no safer than we were because of the Iraq war.

    BLITZER: When you say women are worse off in terms of having limited or no rights right now in Iraq, isn’t it fair to say…

    DEAN: Fewer rights, I didn’t say no rights, fewer rights.

    BLITZER: Fewer rights. But isn’t it fair to say that under the Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party regime, no one had any rights, effectively, in Iraq?

    DEAN: Well, women were allowed to dress in western clothes if they chose. They were also allowed to go out. And there are areas now in Iraq where fundamentalist thugs are going through the street making sure that women aren’t allowed out in western clothes. They must cover their heads and wear more restrictive clothing. I don’t think our people fought a war over there to make sure women would become second class citizens.

  2. Different River Says:

    When I quote something Howard Dean said on August 14, 2005, it doesn’t do to respond by claim “here’s what he actually said” on June 27, 2004. He still said what I said he said, on August 14, 2005.

    As for the claim that women in Iraq are no longer permitted to wear western clothes — I’ve only heard that from Howard Dean, and with all due respect, that’s not enough for me to believe it — especially since I’ve seen pictures of women in Iraq wearing western clothes. And police uniforms — there were no women police under Saddam. So, I choose to believe my own eyes over Howard Dean.

    A regime with an official policy of raping women — either for the pleasure of the tyrant, or as “punishment” for their fathers’ or husbands’ thinking the wrong thoughts — has been overthrown. And you need “statistics” to know that women are now better off? Are we living on the same planet? Do we need statistics to know that Jews are better off with Hitler dead, or that American Blacks are better off not being slaves?

    I suggest you read an Iraqi’s “Message to Cindy Sheehan.”

  3. ollie Says:

    Again, I don’t know what life is like in Iraq at this time, but it is possible that
    one tyrant can indeed be replaced by a regime that is every bit as regressive.
    I do feel for those people however; the had a horrible tyrant and now they appear to
    be living in what is close to a civil war.

  4. Jordan Says:

    Different River, while I agree that the ruling party’s raping actions are horrible, you can’t just point to a couple people no longer being able to do things as an overall improvement to the nation. Callous as it seems, a dictator and his son can only rape so many women, and it would never be written as ‘official policy’.

    Now, Dean (whose quote seems to be somewhat minimalized, I’d like to see a greater section surrounding that comment for the context it was in) seems to be describing what women are allowed to do, in terms of rights. Rape is horrible, and it was actually illegal during Saddam’s Reign (men don’t like their ‘property’ abused) and the rapes you’re describing are the result of corrupt people in a system that is hardly accountable. This is a problem in many governments though, and I don’t see why it would no longer be a problem in Iraq’s new government. American soldiers and even UN soldiers have all raped women too. Heck, when the cameras are off, with the power they wield, who knows what even local politicians are doing…

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