There is another disturbing current in [Mario] Vargas Llosa's work that is less often discussed--mistreatment of women, ranging from disrespect to outright violencewrites Emily Parker in an interview with the Peruvian writer that seems to put the lie to the tale that in Saddam's Iraq, "at least" women were free and had rights.
The abuses are particularly horrifying in "The Feast of the Goat," a novel based on the life of Rafael Trujillo, the dictator who terrorized the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961. Mr. Vargas Llosa describes traveling to the Dominican Republic and being stunned to hear stories of peasants offering their own daughters as "gifts" to the lustful tyrant. Trujillo and his sons, he tells me, could abuse any woman of any social class with absolute impunity. The situation in the Dominican Republic, which he refers to as a "laboratory of horrors," may have tended toward the extreme, but it underscores a larger trend: "The woman is almost always the first victim of a dictatorship."
Mr. Vargas Llosa discovered that this phenomenon was hardly limited to Latin America. "I went to Iraq after the invasion," he tells me. "When I heard stories about the sons of Saddam Hussein, it seemed like I was in the Dominican Republic, hearing stories about the sons of Trujillo! That women would be taken from the street, put in automobiles and simply presented like objects. . . . The phenomenon was very similar, even with such different cultures and religions." He concludes: "Brutality takes the same form in dictatorial regimes."
Did this mean that Mr. Vargas Llosa supported the invasion of Iraq? "I was against it at the beginning," he says. But then he went to Iraq and heard accounts of life under Saddam Hussein. "Because there has been so much opposition to the war, already one forgets that this was one of the most monstrous dictatorships that humanity has ever seen, comparable to that of Hitler, or Stalin." He changed his mind about the invasion: "Iraq is better without Saddam Hussein than with Saddam Hussein. Without a doubt."