December 16, 2003
Saddam Hussein, who hasnt broken any American laws, will
stand trial under the supervision of President Bush, who has pretty much
shelved the U.S. Constitution.
Saddam were all
on first-name terms with him doesnt deserve a lot of pity.
True, its 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 hes probably in no position to gripe about prison
conditions. Anyway, hell always have Paris, so to speak.
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
Not a word. That was
Bushs obsessive rationale for the war the gathering
threat Saddams 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.
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? Its 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
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 well learn whos going to try him and what
the charges will be. At this point, all we know is the verdict: guilty.
And no doubt Saddam could be
justly convicted of many crimes; the inevitable arbitrariness of his
disposition doesnt 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.
Thats 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 werent for revenge, there
might be no justice at all.
As for Bush, consistency
isnt 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 doesnt
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 cant 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 its 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 wont be