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Was Iraq Better Off Under Saddam?

Many Iraqis think conditions have gotten so bad in their country, they'd like to see Saddam Hussein back in power, according to some of the seven young Iraqi men who had a candid discussion with The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.

All are college-educated and speak English.

"When the Americans started this whole war issue," said one, who will be referred to as person No. 1, "we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we walked toward it. But when the war happened, that light was the American train coming the other way that ran us over."

He told of a recent day when he "saw a body on the sidewalk, and it was covered with cardboard, and people were still in their shops, saying hello to each other and inviting each other for tea, and I asked about him, and they said, 'He got killed this morning.' 'Oh, OK, yeah, see ya later.' "

"They are killing people for what they say, just like Saddam," said a young man who will be referred to as person No. 2. "They kill people because the people say, 'I don't like (this one or that one).' You get killed for that.

"They're using horrible ways to kill people. They're not just shooting them in the head. They suffocate them, strangle them, burn them. Horrible things, things we heard about only during Saddam's days are coming back now. It's an effort to terrorize people, not just to eliminate your enemy, but to force everyone to shut up and stay home.

"I think we had higher expectations of what the Americans can do. I hear it from many friends, who say, 'Do you really want me to believe that America cannot fix this?' "

So, asked Smith of the young men, "You know people who would like it better the old way?"

"Yes," responded No. 1. "It breaks my heart knowing that, because it was so bad, but now, they feel it's worse, and they just wish that Saddam's regime could come back."

A young man, who will be called No. 3, added: "A lot of people want, well, 'We just want Saddam come back. We don't want to live this life. OK, dictator? We don't care; doesn't matter anymore. We just want Saddam get back. We just want our life to get back to before.' "

"The American government made the right decision," commented No. 2, "probably weren't prepared very well and made so many mistakes. That's true, but I don't think they're here to hurt us or to use us or to take advantage of us, and I think it's in America's best interest to make things work in Iraq."

What's the most important thing they want people in the United States to understand about their lives?

"I personally want to thank America for what it did to Iraq," replied No. 2. "I want to thank every American who supported this war, and I know that even those who stood against it don't mean harm to us. But I want them to understand that what has been done is a good thing, indeed."

Asked if they would leave Iraq if they could, five of the seven said, "Yes, immediately. Can't get out of here fast enough," Smith reports.

But when asked if the United States should pull out now, says Smith, "Their voice was unanimous: 'No. America should finish what it started.' One even said, 'If you really want to see all-out civil war, America leaves, and that's what's gonna happen.' "

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