Washington Babylon — August 28, 2007, 3:09 pm

Laurie Mylroie’s Song of Saddam

It’s the dog days of summer and my colleague Scott Horton is all over the Fredo Gonzales story, and I’d prefer not to write much about the sordid bathroom antics of Larry Craig. (For those following Craig, make sure to read this item from the Minnesota Monitor, which points out that directions to the airport restroom where the senator was busted were available on the gay-cruising website Squirt.org, which rated the restroom as the best in all Minnesota. One poster said the restroom had “a constant flow and variety of hot guys” and another said it was “the best spot for anonymous action I’ve ever seen.”)

So what to do? On the advice of multiple readers, I ran down to the Georgetown University library to pick up a copy of an old article by Iraq war champion Laurie Mylroie. There’s been a lot written about Mylroie–the very best was a Washington Monthly story by Peter Bergen and several authors have alluded to the article in question—“The Baghdad Alternative,” published by Orbis in 1988. But I’d never seen a copy until now. After reading it, I feel confident in describing Mylroie’s piece as the single most embarrassing academic article I’ve ever read, and I would include here a high school essay I wrote on the meaning of Thanksgiving.

“Skirts shorter in Baghdad than in Boston”

Mylroie, of course, was one of the most enthusiastic advocates for overthrowing Saddam Hussein and over the years sought to tie his regime, unsuccessfully, to everything from the Oklahoma City bombing to the 9/11 attacks. But back in 1988, Mylroie loved Saddam almost as much as Larry Craig loves making friends in public restrooms. She lauded Saddam’s Baath regime for bringing Iraq “stability,” “unprecedented economic growth,” and for its magnificent efforts at “bringing modernity to Iraq.” Women, in particular, had benefited from Saddam’s rule, “with skirts shorter in Baghdad than in Boston.”

Iraq’s good fortune, said Mylroie, was due to the wisdom of Saddam, who was implementing an economic “perestroika” and political “glasnost.” Iraqi officials interviewed by Mylroie told her that Saddam was “much concerned about democracy . . . He thinks that is healthy,” and she wagered this was “not just idle chatter.” From an American perspective, Mylroie concluded, “the more Saddam Hussein exercises control over the Baath Party, including the ideologues, the better.”

The context for the Orbis article was Saddam’s ongoing war with Iran; Mylroie’s belief, which was shared by the U.S. government, was that America should side with Iraq. She proposed that the Bush (Senior) Administration should offer Saddam extensive economic and military aid. “Iraq and the United States,” she wrote, “need each other.”

husseinsmilie
Sure, Mylroie acknowledged, Saddam had employed poison gas against his own citizens, was guilty of “barbarism” against the Kurds, and his decision to fire off missiles at Iranian cities was rather cold. But it was illogical to “oppose closer relations with Baghdad on the basis of the regime’s atrocities.” After all, Syria and Iran “have no lack of apologists in this country ready to argue for appeasement.” Now Mylroie was making her bid to become apologist-in-chief for Saddam’s crimes.

On a lighter note, Saddam in 1987 had ordered that all government officials “above a certain rank” had to lose weight if they exceeded the standards of the height/weight charts. Some observers saw this decree as evidence that Saddam ruled the country with an iron grip. Mylroie wasn’t so sure, but either way the edict was “not entirely uncalled for” as many Iraqi bureaucrats “tend to an unhealthy girth.” And despite the Iraq-Iran war, things were swell in Baghdad: “There are no tanks or sandbags, no uniformed soldiers. There are no air raids nor public shelters, no bombed and burnt-out buildings . . . Crippled young men do not fill the streets, and there is no rationing. Baghdad to all appearances is a city at peace.”

In far better shape, it would seem, than following the 2003 invasion that Mylroie so confidently predicted would be a cakewalk.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

July 2015

One Day Less

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Dressed to Kill

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Wrong Prescription?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Travel Day

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Fugue State

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Avian Voices·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The mockingbird’s bath is an orgy of thrashing and writhing about. When he has finished, one of the innocents alights on the rim of the basin and looks with disbelief at the thimble of water remaining.”
Illustration by Eric Hanson
[Browsings]
Before the War·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I’m worried that what the Houthis did to push Yemen into a civil conflict in September 2014, the Saudis may end up doing again when they end their campaign by eliminating the Houthis.”
Photograph by Alex Potter
Article
The Speakeasy·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In order to understand how Marty’s could survive as an institution, I returned a year after my first visit to spend a week at what was sure to be the world’s bleakest comedy club.”
Photograph by Mike Slack
Post
The Lost Land·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I had first encountered some of these volumes—A Swiftly Tilting Planet, The Giver—as a child, and during adolescence, they registered as postcards from a homeland recently abandoned.”
Photograph by the author
Article
Wrong Prescription?·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Whatever the slogans suggested, the A.C.A. was never meant to include everyone.”
Illustration by Taylor Callery

Estimated cost of the environmental damage caused each year by the world’s 3,000 largest companies:

$2,200,000,000,000

Two thirds of U.S. teenagers experience uncontrollable rage.

Beekeepers began extracting 1 million honeybees living beneath the siding of a house in New York State.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today