PBS NewsHour had an interesting interview with three Arab experts Wednesday night, the transcript of which is now online. They were reacting to news of the killing of Saddam’s sons.

Adeed Dawisha, a professor of political science at Miami University of Ohio, remarked,

In Iraq of course . . .there was a lot of elation at the death of these two. Because the Iraqis have suffered directly at the hand of these two monsters. It’s actually different in the Arab world because even though there is a recognition that these guys have had perpetrated a lot of suffering on the Iraqi people, nevertheless there is still a kind of underlying affection for the regime of Saddam Hussein because of its stand against America and indeed its stance on the Palestinian issues.

Murhaf Jouejati, a resident scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, agreed,

It certainly is a mixed picture. I don’t think Arab public opinion is a monolith like any public opinion around the world, so it is truly a mixed picture and you’re going to get many people that are elated and genuinely happy about the death of those two characters. And these are the people who have suffered the most under these two. So I think it is a function of how much repression those two have inflicted on people.

So outside of Iraq, they were not able to inflict any repression, and therefore here the picture is different. While there is genuine happiness, I think that Saddam Hussein is out of power, there is also a resentment — a resentment against America, that takes liberties, that brings down regimes, and that kills people under occupation.

Here I think there is a certain segment of Arab public opinion that is going to see the killing yesterday of Uday and Qusay as political assassinations. Why were these people not disarmed, why were they not taken alive, why were they not put before a tribunal? So again, I agree with Professor Dawisha, the picture is mixed.

Finally, Hisham Melhem, Washington correspondent for the Beirut newspaper As-Safir, remarked

There are many people in the Arab world who believe that the United States cannot do anything right, or correct, in the Arab world, given the traditional American support for Israel, the traditional American support for Arab autocratic regimes. At the same time, there is also a great deal of denial on the Arab side. Arabs don’t like the fact that the United States came to change an awful regime like the one ruled by Saddam Hussein in Iraq and because that exposed their weaknesses, because that exposed the failure of the whole Arab state system.

And until this moment there are Arabs in academia, among journalists, among the opinion makers of the Arab world who are still unwilling to denounce that regime and its atrocities. Recently, Arab parliamentarians met together and they refused to condemn the mass graves and the killings that were perpetrated by a falling regime. That gives you an idea. Many people in the Arab media also exaggerate the short comings of the American occupation, and there are many of them.

But many of them also still look with nostalgia to the man who ostensibly stood up to the United States. Many Arab journalists won’t even admit that yes, things are not great today in Iraq, but today there are more than 80 publications in Iraq, in a country that was under Saddam Hussein that had three major rags, and that’s the problem that you have in the Arab world.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dean Esmay says:

    I never expected them to love us.

    But what I’ve found most remarkable is how little violence there has been in reaction. I suspected it would be far worse than it has been so far. Which vindicates something many, many people have said:

    In that part of the world, it is power that garners the most respect. They may dislike us, but they must grudgingly give us their respect. They don’t like to say so, but it seems that most of them do.