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Is Saddam the key (repost)

December 14th, 2003

Here’s what I had to say about the possible capture of Saddam a month or so ago.

Back in early April, I observed that the Iraq campaign was a war of absences. Some of the mysteries posed by those absences have now been resolved. For example, everyone now knows that the Weapons of Mass Destruction did not exist. But the big remaining mystery is Saddam. It seems pretty clear that he got away from Baghdad safely, and likely that he’s still alive.

On thinking about it, I have the feeling that Saddam is, in a sense, the key to the entire situation. On the one hand, suppose Saddam is caught or (more likely) killed. Whether or not this led to a reduction in terror/resistance attacks, the pressure for a quick American withdrawal would, I think, quickly become irresistible. For most of the Americans who still support the war, this would, I think, count as “Mission Accomplished”, whatever happened in Iraq afterwards.

On the other hand, as long as Saddam is at large, and the security situation remains anything like it is at present, a US withdrawal will be seen as “cutting and running”, and will therefore be resisted with great vigour.

Now we’ll see if this analysis stands up.

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  1. WilliAM
    December 14th, 2003 at 23:22 | #1

    Maybe those weapons of mass destruction don’t exist because he used ‘em all up?

  2. December 14th, 2003 at 23:22 | #2

    Saddam is the key to GWB’s re-election hopes.

    He now holds aloft the scalp of his enemy, and, like Germanicus, has been acclaimed by his colonial garrison. No doubt the resemblance ends there.

    But GWB, like John Howard, is now certain of re-election, assuming the economy maintains it’s recovery.

    If the frequency of anti-coalition attacks continues at the same rate, then the insurgency will be proved structural not personal. US cutting and running would not appear to be an option.

    If the Iraqi defence force can maintain recruits, owing to the collapse of the shadow govenor, then a US exit strategy appears likely.

  3. December 14th, 2003 at 23:33 | #3

    It will be interesting to see what his interrogation turns up. Perhaps the WMDs will be found after all.

  4. Observa
    December 15th, 2003 at 00:19 | #4

    Some of us always believed the most dangerous WMD in Iraq were Uday, Qsay and the head of that nuclear family-Saddam. High Noon folks!

    Kinda makes you hope some of those other WMD like Mugabe and Kim Jongil are sleeping a bit rough out in the Badlands tonight.

  5. December 15th, 2003 at 07:38 | #5

    i never personally thought saddam was that important. although it is a big PR win.

    i doubt that he had much to do with the actual resistance either. although even in hiding he would have been able to motivate them if they were loyal to him. thus, this would be a huge blow to the iraqis who were fighting against the americans because they saw the invasion as their own leader being deposed.

  6. Dave Ricardo
    December 15th, 2003 at 08:27 | #6

    Little Johhny has already said that Saddam should be executed.

    You might think that Johnny would wait until Saddam was found guilty of the appropriate crimes before sentencing him. Not our John.

    And, of course, Little Johnny says there is no way he should be tried in The Hague, where there might be some due process.

    Even Eichmann got a fair trial.

  7. December 15th, 2003 at 09:32 | #7

    Sic Semper Tyrannis

    Eichmann is not exactly a good model for David Ricardo’s thesis of proper justice. He was (illegally) kidnapped on foreign soil, by Israeli security. Israeli-Jewish jurists sat in jusdgment of him. They wound up executing him anyway.

    Massive war criminals are much more dangerous alive, as they act as rallying points for the die-hards. Iraqis fear Hussein’s ability to escape and rule over them.

    Iraqis would be happier if they tried and executed Hussein victims justice is always sweeter even when served cold.

    I conclude that it would be more socially useful to have Hussein tried and executed in Iraq, by a jury of his peers.

  8. Dave Ricardo
    December 15th, 2003 at 09:41 | #8

    Why bother with a sham trial? Why not take him out the back and shoot him, like the Ceausescus?

    A sham trial would be the worst of all worlds. If there is any hope of building Iraq into a normal country, then it needs to have a normal criminal justice system. Putting on a sham trial would indelibly stain the “new” Iraqi justice system.

  9. gordon
    December 15th, 2003 at 09:41 | #9

    We will now find out to what extent Saddam was the moving force behind Iraqui resistance, which is much more interesting than the precise timetable of the US departure. In a sense, that departure will never occur, because they will always need to maintain control over the oil – either directly or through a controlled “Iraqui” government. Political observers will be interested in the effects on Syrian and Iranian attitudes – will they be more or less inclined to support the resistance? Will they find it easier to do business with a puppet “Iraqui” government which could try now to position itself as the legitimate successor to Saddam? It will be also interesting to see what the US will do with him. Will they arrange some kind of show trial? In what jurisdiction? For what crimes? I wonder if Tony Blair will offer St Helena as a proven useful long-term repository for defeated dictators.

  10. December 15th, 2003 at 09:54 | #10

    we wont find out how much saddam was the moving force behind the resistance, instead we will find out how much his capture does to defeat the motivation of the resistance.

    (btw, apologies for the incoherent post above.)

  11. December 15th, 2003 at 09:54 | #11

    I wonder what would follow if someone assassinated him while supposedly under US control. Or if he just died mysteriously.

  12. December 15th, 2003 at 11:46 | #12

    The loyalist insurgency ought to fizzle out, I should think. But I’m guessing that the bulk of the suicide attacks, particularly in the south, have little to do with Saddam loyalists; in fact, they might be emboldened a bit now that one of their enemies has been effectively deactivated as a threat.

    Anyway, it would be best if the Iraqis themselves dealt with him in some way; for US to lay claim here would do some amount of damage to the credibility their assertion that they did this for the Iraqi people.

    As for George Bush, if this happened the week before the election, yes, it would’ve be good for him, since what happens next wouldn’t matter. But – since the mission will have been seen to have been “accomplished” NOW, the warm fuzzy feeling from this won’t last, as the ructions continue in Iraq, the judicial process drags as it does, and the American voters will lose interest and stop worrying about foreigners and revert to form, concentrating on domestic issues again in the intervening eleven months, particularly the issue of a big hulking budget deficit – which, incidentally, gives Bush no room to move with pork-barrelling.

    It’s no surprise to hear that many would have preferred him found dead.

  13. December 15th, 2003 at 11:47 | #13

    Saddam, that is, not Bush.

  14. observa
    December 15th, 2003 at 11:52 | #14

    I’m sure the sherriff and his deputies were quite appreciative of all the advice from the deputation of concerned citizens, who weren’t in favour of a posse, on how best to deal with the threat of the Hussein gang. They apologise for not waiting for the federal marshalls to deal with the problem and will post this in their report to them in triplicate. The good citizens will not be called upon to do jury duty for the last of the Hussein gang as the sherriff has some appropriate out of town folks in mind for this. In the meantime the sherriff and his deputies will carry on discussions with the prisoner to collect any useful information about other bad guys who threaten the peace. Open wide Spider. Say ahh….rghh!

  15. December 15th, 2003 at 12:01 | #15

    why would a trial administered by the Coalition POlitical Authority or the Iraqi Governing Council be a sham?

    Is that an axiom of juriprudence or is there any evidence to support this?

    Are only multilateral administered courts legitimate?

    If so, then David appears to be endorsing the perverse theory that only non-states can do what states are in fact created to do ie administer justice.

    The CPA and the IGC both have UN authorisation to act as the legitimate interim political agencies of the Iraqi people.

    I would have thought that putting Saddam on trial would be the perfect chistening of the normal Iraqi criminal justice system.

  16. Blair S. Fairman
    December 15th, 2003 at 12:57 | #16

    One thing which I don’t think has been talked about much is the effect that fear of his return had on those who otherwise would have been supporting an islam republic. Now there is no chance that the Baathists can come back, they might now start objecting to the US and friends been there more heavily.

    I doubt that he would have been directly running the campaign of resistance as that would have required him to communicate with too many people who might give him up. In the end, the rumor has it that his wife was the one who gave him up.

  17. Homer Paxton
    December 15th, 2003 at 13:39 | #17

    The capture of Hussein is a good thing but will not reduce the fighting over there for two reasons.

    1) Even the US say Hussein was incapable of strategic insights. The people involved in the carnage in Iraq has this plus good intelligence of what trhe US is doing

    2) No Baathist believes in suicide bombing

    Anyone who advocates killing Hussein before a duly constitutes trial is adopting hussein’s morals.

  18. December 15th, 2003 at 13:46 | #18

    Am I the only one that thinks that the beneficial electoral effect on G. Bush by the capture of Saddam Hussain has been overstated?

    As Gary’s Public Opinion states Hussain can reveal some uncomfortable truths.

    Also the presidential election is in November. Ages to go and as many experts have said the Saddam loyalists were just one group of people targetting coalition forces. I believe that – unfortunately – the attacks will continue. This will bump the approval ratings but it will be over by February.

    No much joy for our own man of steel as well for much the same reasons. After all wasn’t him who said that Australians have ‘moved on’ from Iraq?

  19. Andrew
    December 15th, 2003 at 16:34 | #19

    Ah Observa, who needs the law when you have a gun? Who needs respect for law when you can torture a prisoner to extract information? What politician needs to take notice of dissent when they have the major media companies behind them?

    Why do we bother with this sham of elections and democracy and freedom of speech when we all know that a swift punch in the kidneys or electrodes on the testicles delivers truth instantly.

    Those of our predecessors who fought bitterly against power being entrenched in political elites, and against torture and against slavery were just blind fools. We, who have had to live our lives with only the slightest danger know that we have to throw everything away at the first hurdle because working under the rule of law is just too hard.

    Hey Mr Churchill! You think Hitler was scary? You think Hirohito was a threat? You had it easy compared to us.

    And to think all you WW2 guys came up with the UN and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Rights for Refugees! Boy if you’d faced threats like we have to, you’d have thrown in the towel so fast your head would have spun.

    (WARNING: this post may contain traces of peanuts or heavy sarcasm)

  20. observa
    December 15th, 2003 at 19:13 | #20

    No Andrew, I was thinking more along the lines of- ‘Well it’s like this Spider, we only have 24hrs to hold you for questioning, before letting you out on bail, which judging by the queue of bailposters outside shouldn’t be a problem. On the other hand if you are voluntarily helping us with our enquiries? What’s that, you are happy to open your mouth wide for us? Aahhh!’

    After an exhaustive and very cooperative period of mouth opening, the defendant is handed over to Iraqi authorities for a proper trial and what some may suspect, appropriate punishment…..rghh!

    Funnily enough Mr Churchill was never scared of tyrants like Hitler or Stalin. What he was scared of was good men, listening to the usual culprits, rolling over and going back to sleep, comfortable with peace in their time and war in yours.

  21. December 16th, 2003 at 18:13 | #21

    Saddam is hardly Hitler.

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