That is how Roger Cohen described the situation in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, to contrast it with the current situation which, according to Cohen, is an "Iraqi hell with hope." Ok, if Cohen wants to discuss the state of Iraq, let's talk about the situation for women.
As far as I can tell the usual discussion of Iraqi women goes something like this: Of course the educated and professional women in Iraq are worse off than they used to be under Saddam, what with the fundamentalists gaining power and noticing all those unveiled and employed and car-driving women who need to be controlled, and of course women are now in danger of being kidnapped or raped if they go out alone, but the majority of Iraqi women never had many rights to begin with, and they're not really clamoring for them, so why should we? Besides, there are more important problems in that country than women's rights.
Sadly, this way of telling the tale clashes with the human rights argument. Unless one is willing to assume that women's human rights don't matter, even when discussing human rights.