The Iraq War Wasn’t All Bad

IRQ: Odai Hussein's Torture Devices On Display In Baghdad

Dexter Filkins recalls touring Iraq’s torture chambers with a former torture victim named Al-Musawi:

Today, in 2013—a decade later—it’s not fashionable to suggest that the American invasion of Iraq served any useful purpose. It was a catastrophe, born of original sin—of lies and exaggeration and trumped-up intelligence. How many times have you heard that this week? There are a hundred thousand dead Iraqis, more than four thousand Americans killed, and a bill for a trillion dollars. Indeed, the near-universal certainty that America’s war in Iraq was nothing but bad is as widespread and unbreachable as the notion, in 2003, that Saddam had to go.

But what are we to make of Iraqis like Al-Musawi? Or of torture chambers like Al Hakemiya? Where do we place them in our memories? And, more important, how should they shape our judgment of the war we waged?

They must be part of what shapes our judgment. Saddam was a sociopath mass murderer. But what shapes my judgment is that in deciding to depose a dictator because he was a torturer, the United States tortured countless prisoners, many of them tortured to death. We ended his torture by embracing our own.

(Photo: Iraqi security guard, Ayad Mutashar, shows off a mask that was one of the tools of torture that Saddam Hussein’s slain son, Odai, is believed to have used to punish under-performing Iraqi athletes July 29, 2004 in Baghdad, Iraq. Odai ran the Olympic committee while his father ruled Iraq and it is said that he used the devices to instill fear in the athletes to perform. By Joe Raedle/Getty Images)