I was surprised by her comment and I responded: "In general Iraq's Sunni Arabs lived better under Saddam. People who believe all Iraqis lived "better" under Saddam simply do not understand what Iraqi Shia went through for 24 miserable years. Iraqis had electricity and running water and all the basic needs under Saddam? Really? LOL! I guess the Sunni Arabs think so!"
I wanted to give her an example of how Iraqis in Basra were suffering in the 90s, so I transcribed a couple of paragraphs from Iraq Under Siege in which a Basrawi doctor was interviewed in 1996:
“Dr. Tarik Hasim Habeh, the young director of residents, had taken us through several children’s wards. Infant after infant lay wasting and skeletal in squalid conditions. We saw children suffering severe malnutrition, respiratory diseases, leukemia, and kidney disease. In one room, fourteen incubators were stacked against the wall, useless because of the lack of repair parts. The blood bank consisted of one miniature refrigerator and an ancient centrifuge.
Dr. Habeh explains that the hospital is chronically short-staffed. Doctors can’t earn enough to feed their families, sometimes making no more than $3 per month, so some work instead as taxi drivers, street vendors, or waiters. Many nurses also find it impossible to continue the work for which they were trained.”
She liked that comment and was friendly. She said she based her comment (the one about Iraqis living better under Saddam) on what her Iraqi Shia friends from college told her. Interesting. So Iraqi Shia have misinformed this woman, I thought. But most likely they were telling her that Iraqis had electricity and potable water in Baghdad before 2003. The fact is that "In the 1980s Iraq was producing around 9,000-9,500 megawatts. By 2002 it was only producing 4,075 megawatts."
The south was neglected during sanctions, and most Arabs don't understand this. They have the impression that all Iraqis lived better under Saddam. In the Arab mind, if Iraqis suffered in the 90s, it was because of US-imposed sanctions, not because of Saddam. I find this frustrating, and wanted to document a perspective that is probably shared by a majority of Arabs.