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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Sunday, 14 December 2003

Topic: Iraq

Saddam Hussein captured alive: other voices

From the Left - "DhinMI" on the site Daily Kos:
It's one of the most ignominious ends to a tyrant's freedom, almost as humiliating an end to his reign as when the bodies of Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci were dangled from a pole in the Piazza Loreto in Milan, like deer carcasses being bled out in a hunting camp. Saddam's done, and the world is a better place for it.

Clearly there will be celebrating by many in Iraq. But what's next? The U.S. officials haven't indicated what will be done with Saddam, but Ahmed Chalabi is already making declarations that Saddam will go on public trial before the Iraqi people. Will there be a public trial? Will the U.S. chose to keep Saddam quiet?

What about weapons of mass destruction? Now we've got the guy in custody, and he's probably beaten and demoralized. Maybe he'll be like Milosevic and stay defiant, but the early pictures don't show a man with the energy to maintain resistance. So he may be inclined to tell the truth about WMD. But is the truth what the Bush administration wants Saddam to tell?

And what about the continued attacks on American troops? It's hard to imagine Saddam was exerting much operational leadership over the attackers from inside a "spider hole" in which he barely had room to move around. The people attacking coalition troops don't appear to need Saddam around to tell them what to do, and their actions don't appear to be necessarily directed at restoring Baathist control over Iraq as much as evicting the occupying forces from their country. The biggest positive from Saddam's capture will probably be in eliminating the fear that he will return to power. That's a huge relief for many common Iraqis who may now be more emboldened to assist U.S. forces with intelligence about the resistance forces attacking out troops. There may also be less acquiescence by the general population to having the resistance forces move as effortlessly through the country. But it's too early to tell.

Capturing Saddam is good news (although not as exciting or important as would be news of capturing the guy Bob Graham called "Osama Bin Forgotten"). But capturing him alive might not have been the best news for the Bush administration.

There are many questions to be answered over the next hours, days and months, and it's not clear that anyone has the answers.
From the Right - Glen Reynolds at InstaPundit:
THE LESSON: Saddam's capture also shows the importance of patience, and of ignoring the kvetching of the Coalition Of The Pissy. While people bitched, the military just kept gathering intelligence and keeping Saddam on the run until he slipped and they caught him. And looking at the TV images, he seems docile, exhausted, and ready to be caught. That's the fruit not just of a single lucky break, but of the sustained campaign of keeping him moving.

Those who, frankly, would just as soon see the entire war as a failure, are ready to call anything short of perfection a failure. But persistence pays off. It's worth keeping in mind on other subjects.

Interestingly, the American public seems to have gotten that all along, as a pre-capture Gallup poll showing support for the war was already actually climbing in recent months makes clear.

So, on the one hand, he's caught (I assume by now it's clearly not one of those doubles), and that's likely to be a rather major blow to the "insurgents" -- though I rather suspect that some of that has been supported by Syria, Iran, and Saudi elements in the hopes of keeping the United States busy. With Saddam gone, though, it'll be harder for them to escape responsibility, which is likely to cause them to reduce their exposure in this area. That's unalloyed good news, unless we're looking for an excuse to invade Syria.

On the other hand, we're confronted with the question of what to do with Saddam. I've thought about this before, and the options seemed to break down this way: (1) Shoot him out of hand. Appealing for a variety of reasons, but not really our style, and obviously we decided against it. (2) Try him for war crimes ourselves. Potentially messy, and perhaps looking a bit imperialistic to some. (3) Turn him over to the Iraqis and let them try him.

The last is the most appealing for a variety of reasons, as long as we make sure that the process isn't in the hands of covert Saddam loyalists, which shouldn't be hard. On the other hand, he's likely to have some value in terms of information and cooperation, which might encourage people to want to cut a deal with him. That's tricky: He's a dreadful guy who deserves to be executed, probably via a plastic-shredder or some similar method, in light of his crimes. (A Mussolini-style ending probably would have been best, in my opinion). But he may offer enough to make his cooperation worthwhile, though letting him live, or go into exile (where would he go?) seems troublesome too, and offers him the possibility for future mischief.

I imagine that this has been given a lot of thought at the highest levels.
Lots out there on the web....

Posted by Alan at 10:08 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 14 December 2003 10:15 PST home

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