Saddam: We Got Him - What Now?

By W. David Jenkins III

            Well, I never thought I'd be writing this one. I was up pretty late last night, and when I woke up too early this morning, I could've sworn C-SPAN was playing a cruel joke on my tired eyes. But the more I listened, the more it became apparent that what I was hearing was true. They actually caught Saddam Hussein! Even though I, like many others, was against Bush's illegal and reckless invasion, I had to admit this was good news. At least, I think it's good news.

            I'm listening to the people calling in, and I have a nagging feeling that many of those who are ecstatic over the news, are under the misconception that we can once again raise that tacky "Mission Accomplished" banner. I can't help but have a great deal of sympathy for these people, but it just shows how little is understood about what is happening over there. I keep hearing remarks like, "now the attacks will stop," and now we can "bring them all home soon." Anyone who has been following the fiasco over there should know better than to jump to such conclusions.

            The insurgence Americans face in Iraq is not exclusively due to pro-Saddam factions in fact, many of those who are attacking us would have loved to have gotten to Saddam first. They are not killing our soldiers because we conquered Hussein, they're killing our soldiers because they are westerners occupying their country; that fact does not end with Saddam in custody. There's a part of me that fears things could get worse. In fact, as I write this, an explosion just took place outside the Palestine Hotel. But let's not worry about that 'cause we have some serious celebrating to do!

            With the threat of Hussein returning to power erased, I think that the stage is set for a new surge by various Iraqi factions making a grab for power in an attempt to regain their country. His capture will probably create a vacuum where hostile forces will feel less inhibited against the Americans, which occupy their country, and we will be seen as the only remaining threat. As with the temporary defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan where the warlords gained strength in the territories outside Kabul, so shall the various tribes in Iraq begin to assert themselves to positions of power in the eyes of their own people - much to the frustration of Bremer and Co.

            The mistake that many Americans make, Bush and Co. included, is that, although, Iraqis view Hussein as a ruthless man; he also represents an Arab leader who was not afraid to stand up to the United States. As happy and relieved as some Iraqis may be at his capture, they are angry that it was done by western forces. If Bush and Bremer were serious about winning over the hearts of these occupied citizens, they would've allowed an Arab force to make the arrest. An article in The New York Times states that the Iraqis are afraid that Hussein's arrest by American G.I.s will strengthen Bush's chances to continue his reign as president, as the action will boost his popularity in the U.S. - which they see as a threat to their independence.

            So what do they do now that they have Hussein in custody? General Sanchez stated that they dont know right now, even though there are already loud cries by the Iraqis for a civil trial. If Bush doesn't want to screw up yet another opportunity, granting that wish to the Iraqi people would be a smart move. Of course, simply turning over Saddam to the Iraqis and turning a blind eye would be akin to murder.  But, if the proceedings were overseen by international representatives it could result in a positive outcome, thus allowing the occupied citizens a true sense of justice, while giving the coalition a desperately needed step ahead in the eyes of the Iraqi people. It would be a smart move, which explains why I'm not getting my hopes up. Bush and Bremer face a very delicate situation, which will require much thought and compromise in order to make the most of this fortunate turn of events, however, they're already thumping their chests and issuing sound bites, so chances are they're going to screw this one up too.

            While we should be proud of the accomplishment by the troops involved in Hussein's capture, it is imperative to remember that Saddam Hussein is little more than a bit player in the grand scheme, that is the Iraq Invasion. His capture should be more than a chance for political grandstanding and more than the reason George W. is being allowed to sit next to his Daddy at the dinner table again. On the one hand, we can all be relieved that the news channels will have something other than Michael Jackson to talk about, but on the other hand, Hussein's capture changes nothing concerning where we are, and how we got there. And the thing that bothers me the most, as someone who loves this country, is the fact that the only reason Hussein was captured in the first place, is that the president lied to the country in order to invade Iraq . And the only thing worse than that, is that there are self-proclaimed "patriots" who think that it's okay to be lied to - as long as it's Bush doing the lying. While it still remains to be seen just how the people of Iraq will actually benefit from all this, at least we can be rest assured that there are a couple of giddy neo-cons who feel that much closer to realizing their dream of geopolitical dominance. Then again, maybe not.

            Americans are well known for their short attention span, and it's quite possible that the Bush Gang peaked a little too early. As bad as they needed some good news out of Iraq for a change, Karl Rove, and the boys might have been better off waiting for a bit before announcing Saddam's arrest much like they did with the shoe-bomber, or dirty-bomber, or whatever they were. Now they need to get as much mileage out of Saddam as they can to distract everyone from the fact that we're still stuck over there, and Halliburton is still sticking it to the Pentagon over here.

            The attacks will continue, and if the phone calls coming in to C-SPAN are any indication, we will continue to become an even more polarized people, because there are those who defend the fact that Bush Inc. must first lie to the country, and the world in order, to achieve any perceived success. The planes bearing our dead will continue to come home shrouded in darkness, and yet, this administration will become even more emboldened to pursue their reckless agenda. America's coffers will continue to be bled to death, benefiting only those who put us into this mess in the first place, at the expense of everyone else -- including those soldiers who remain in that shooting gallery.

            We can be supportive and proud of our brave soldiers, and know that their actions in capturing Hussein did more for their morale than a plastic turkey photo-op. But we shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking that we've accomplished the mission. Today's news has closed just one door in the ordeal that is Bush's Invasion, however, it has opened several more. Now we are faced with walking a tightrope while being led by those who have proven that they are less than balanced.

            Go ahead and party up a storm if you like. But I have a feeling we're in for one hell of a hangover.

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Article Submission to M@RHAEN by writer: W. David Jenkins III - 15.12.2003

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