The newest Dem meme: Women had it better under Saddam Hussein than they will in Iraq’s nascent democracy.

Two of the latest to lip the meme are Eve “Vagina Monologues” Ensler (see the Mailbag for Aug. 16) and–natch–Howard “Mouth Monologues” Dean, the Dem party chairman. As syndicated columnist Robert Novak points out today, Dean, appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, voiced his opinion that Iraqi women were better off under Saddam not once but  three times. Writes Novak:

“‘That’s a terrible thing to say,’ one old-line Democratic loyalist told me. ‘But what are we going to do about him? We’re stuck with him.'”

Of course New York Dem Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said exactly the same thing last year in a speech at the Brookings Institution. As Novak writes:

“She quoted Iraqi women leaders as ‘starting to express concerns about some of the pullbacks in the rights they were given under Saddam Hussein. He was an equal opportunity oppressor, but on paper, women had rights.’ She contended that ‘as long as they stayed out of his way, they had considerable freedom of movement.”’

In other words, if Iraqi women living under Saddam shut up and hid in their homes, they had plenty of rights “on paper.”

As Novak points out, Nina Shea of Freedom House had plenty to say to Hillary on this topic:

“‘Women’s rights [under Saddam] were largely an illusion.’ In 1989 when the dictator was at full power, Iraqi dissident and intellectual Kanan Makiya said: ‘Male domination has not been done away with. It has found a substitute in the all-male Revolutionary Command Council, the higher army command and the ever-so-male person of Saddam Hussein.'”

And as Shea further pointed out about the Saddam regime:

“As we all now know, its chamber of horrors included a children’s prison, torture and rape rooms, nationwide dungeons, and hundreds of thousands of mass graves.”

Yes, you’re being raped in a rape room, while your kids are starved and chained in a children’s prison–but you’ve got plenty of rights “on paper.”

In fact, as Shea notes, the Iraqi draft constitution, while it does make Islam the official religion, contains strong language explicitly protecting women, especially women who belong to religious minorities, from the radical-Islamic law that prevails in many a Muslim country: It “[p]rotects women from having their legal rights — such as matters of inheritance, marriage, dress, or even the extent of their participation in public life — determined by religious clergy.”

As Novak points out:

“Howard Dean is not the first politician to distort facts in his own interests. But many activists in the party he now leads are puzzled over what he thinks he is accomplishing politically. Is it good politics to contend that Iraq was better off under Saddam Hussein than even a flawed Islamic republic? Does it make sense politically to tell Americans that more than 1,800 troops have died to make life worse for half of Iraq’s population?”