December 16, 2003

by Joe Sobran

     So Saddam Hussein, who hasn't broken any American 
laws, will stand trial under the supervision of President 
Bush, who has pretty much shelved the U.S. Constitution.

     Saddam -- we're all on first-name terms with him -- 
doesn't deserve a lot of pity. True, it's hard not to be 
touched at the thought of an old man suddenly going from 
a diet of lobster and caviar to baloney sandwiches every 
day; but he's probably in no position to gripe about 
prison conditions. Anyway, he'll always have Paris, so to 

     "Good riddance; the world is better off without 
you," said Bush, addressing Saddam rhetorically, and 
calling him a "murderer" and "torturer." And? And?

     What about those weapons of mass destruction?

     Not a word. That was Bush's obsessive rationale for 
the war -- the "gathering threat" Saddam's fearful 
arsenal posed to world peace. He talked of little else 
for months. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the UN 
Security Council about it in fearful detail.

     Down the Memory Hole! The "gathering threat," 
arrested like a street bum, looked pathetic, bearded, 
dirty, unkempt, haggard. He had no power, no followers, 
no more money than he could carry with him. And certainly 
no WMDs. He was taken without a struggle. What a threat.

     What will be the impact of his capture? "Throughout 
the Middle East," writes a usually sensible columnist, 
"terrorism has been dealt a psychological blow." Has the 
author of that sentence been living in a hole in the 
ground? It's quite clear that Saddam has been a fugitive 
and effective nonentity for months; the Iraqi resistance 
has flourished without regard to him, let alone direction 
or inspiration from him.

     He looks like a lonely derelict: completely out of 
it. The idea that his capture makes any real difference, 
or represents an American triumph, is ludicrous. If 
anything, it underlines how empty American war propaganda 
has been. Saddam had nothing to do with terrorism or 9/11 
or any danger to the West. He was just a handy bogeyman 
of the War Party, who must now, in their hearts, find him 
something of a disappointment.

     Now Saddam is a trophy prisoner. In a few months 
we'll learn who's going to try him and what the charges 
will be. At this point, all we know is the verdict: 

     And no doubt Saddam could be justly convicted of 
many crimes; the inevitable arbitrariness of his 
disposition doesn't make him innocent. But we may also 
wish that some other people could be brought to justice 
too. We recall that the Soviets sat in judgment on the 
Nazis at Nuremberg. The charges had to be carefully 
phrased to avoid embarrassing our allies.

     That's how it goes in this old world. With the 
saints otherwise occupied, thugs may have to get their 
just deserts from other thugs. If it weren't for revenge, 
there might be no justice at all.

     As for Bush, consistency isn't his long suit. Anyone 
who voted for him in 2000 probably expected a 
conservative president -- opposed to more Federal 
spending, believing in limited government, favoring 
strict construction of the Constitution, scornful of 
nation-building abroad.

     Bush has given us the opposite of all these things. 
And as with his switcheroo on WMDs, he doesn't seem the 
least bit embarrassed about reversing himself or 
abandoning what he had presented as his settled 
convictions. After all, he has speechwriters and 
spokesmen to explain these things, to the extent his 
pollsters and strategists deem explanation necessary.

     His assets include his Democratic opponents, who 
can't get their act together. He knocked them off balance 
with a huge increase in Medicare spending, weakening 
their political base; they are afraid to oppose his war 
unequivocally, because it's still fairly popular (though 
they hope that will change). The Democrats want to convey 
the impression that they strongly disapprove of Bush 
without really disagreeing with him.

     Like Mr. Micawber, the Democrats are reduced to 
hoping that something will turn up; and, in politics, 
something usually does. Over the next year the Iraq war 
and/or the American economy may go sour. But at the 
moment it appears that the 2004 presidential election 
will be a purely partisan affair; whatever divides 
George W. Bush and Howard Dean (or whoever), it won't be 


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