Sunday, December 14, 2003

We got him
Saddam was peacefully captured. He’s in custody. The Iraqis, who never quite believed he wouldn’t come back, will sleep better tonight. From the sounds of things, it was a thoroughly professional operation on the part of the US military (despite the dumb name: Operation Red Dawn?). All in all, a good thing.

And yet, it seems oddly anticlimactic. My own feeling is along the lines of, “that’s nice, but what next?” I’m glad the bastard is out of circulation, but I was already thinking of him in the past tense. I’m more concerned about what this means for the future. Here are some of the first questions that I thought of this morning:

What does this mean for the resistance? At one time, the official line was that the resistance was a centrally controlled, werewolf-like operation by Ba’athist bitter-enders. If we could just decapitate the movement it would collapse over night. Then we went to the thousands of foreign terrorists theory. Now we’re back to the Ba’athist bitter-enders theory. In his official announcement, Bush warned Baathist holdouts largely responsible for the current violence, [that] there will be no return to the corrupt power and privilege they once held.” Later he backed away from the decapitation theory by saying, “The capture of Saddam Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq.” Personally I never believed the resistance was centrally coordinated by anyone, let alone Saddam. I’m of the opinion that a lot of groups are attacking us for a lot of different reasons. Some of them were probably pining for a Saddam restoration. Whether his capture discourages them or angers them should be apparent in the next couple days. But I expect the rest of the violence to continue as before. Of course, if I’m wrong and it really was al the work of Saddam directed Ba’athist bitter-enders that too will be evident in a very short time.

Who gets to try him? The Iraqi Governing Council has already said he’s theirs. I have trouble believing the same guys who made up a new category of combatant to avoid observing international law, would let him out of their control. Although I personally prefer an international tribunal, I also can see how trying him at home would be a useful cathartic for the Iraqi people. Although, if the Bush administration is willing to recognize the legitimacy of the Governing Council in this case, they don’t have much ground denying them the authority to conduct a census or count their own dead. It will be interesting to see if the Governing Council decides that it is a government and gets more assertive after this.

What will this do to the election? My first thought when I saw the headline this morning was, “well, there’s an election stunt Rove can’t use next fall.” Today, Bush gets a bounce from this, but it will be gone by the time the primaries take our attention. Rove and the boys are going nuts today trying to figure out how to milk this for the most electoral value. Can they push the trial or at least the execution into next fall? How will the Democrats handle it? They have to approve of the good job the army did, approve of bring the bad man to justice, not give too much credit to the political leadership, and not look two-faced doing it. Lieberman is probably in the best position to pull it off honestly. If he does this right he could be back in the running. Dean has to be the most careful to say what must be said and not appear slippery. A risky but possibly profitable strategy might be for the Democrats to focus on pride in our military and aim a few slaps at the leaders who have cut their benefits and deprived them of the allies they need to continue their job. Actually, for both sides, there are a lot of ways for this to blow up in their faces.

What does Saddam know, what will he say, and what will we be allowed to hear? He has the potential to be very embarrassing to a lot of powerful people in a lot of countries. He might be evil, but he’s not stupid. He will negotiate for all he’s worth (literally). What kind of deal will he try for? What kind of deal will our leaders offer back? In the end, will we be able to believe anything he says?

What will Right Blogistan have to say about this? I suppose I could just go check, but what would be the point. It’s going to be ugly. First, the triumphalist gloating as if they personally were in on the collar. Next, the attempts to one up each other in bloodthirsty fantasies about what to do with him. Third, they turn on us. Naturally, since we’re all Saddam-loving traitors we must be heart broken. Have fun kids; actually, most of the Left pretty happy with this.

Who gets the movie rights? Let the bidding begin!

Update: One of my questions was answered even before I got to post this. My second thought after I read the headline this morning was, “whatever happened to all those Saddam look-alikes?” The army doctors took DNA and confirmed that we got the right Saddam before they made the announcement. Good move guys.

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