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  The War Is Over But Where Is Saddam?
by Steven D. Laib, J.D. M.S.
April 2003 

While an excellent case can be made that Saddam’s government was as brutal as Hitler’s, Saddam gets far more sympathy than Hitler ever did.  When critics of his removal compare President Bush to Hitler, we can see how far this swing in attitude has gone. All things considered, it is probably best that he is not captured.

It seems that the second Persian Gulf War, or whatever we end up calling the recent conquest of Iraq by Anglo-American coalition forces, and the accompanying liberation of the Iraqi people from madness of Saddam Hussein is now over.  Many residents of Baghdad have done everything to celebrate except dance in the streets to “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”  Of course, there aren’t any Munchkins in Iraq and that may by why.  Still, while several high-ranking officials have been captured and a few including “Chemical Ali” confirmed killed, the main focus of this military mission has somehow escaped or perhaps his body has escaped being found.  Memories are stirred, by this fact, of the old stories of how Hitler had escaped to Argentina, later “documented” by means of blurry photographs on the cover of supermarket tabloids.  We can be sure that if there is no sure confirmation of his death that some day we will see another blurry picture on the cover of one of these publications touting that Saddam is living somewhere, but probably not Argentina.  

The truth, at least as of this writing, is unknown.  We have heard of the capture of Achille Lauro mastermind Abu Abbas, which is welcome news.  But would we really want to capture Saddam?  In 1945 numerous members of the Nazi ruling clique and their henchmen were captured and then tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Essentially all members of the news media were in support of this action.  The deaths of these men were welcomed by much of the world, but the world has changed since then and while an excellent case can be made that Saddam’s government was equally brutal as Hitler’s, Saddam gets far more sympathy than Hitler ever did.  When critics of his removal compare President Bush to Hitler, we can see how far this swing in attitude has gone.  Facts be damned; it is better to leave a brutal dictator alone than to free his people to live as we do.

So, what if Saddam were captured.  First there would be a verbal dust up over who should hold him in custody.  Certainly American leadership would want to keep under tight security while a vocal opposition creates a verbal dust up over why he should be immediately released to the new Iraqi government.  Of course that government is still in the process of formation, but lets not concentrate on too many details.   Next, there would be many who would push for him to be tried.  Others would contest that by asserting that he was illegally kicked out of office, and should be set free.  Of course, his release would be very unlikely, leading to the question of qualified judges and/or a jury.  A jury trial would be very unlikely.  Still, it would be interesting to see how a jury of Iraqi citizens who had lost friends and relatives to Saddam’s brutality would react if given the chance to decide on his guilt or innocence, not to mention his punishment.  But we must also consider that no matter how the court is comprised, unless Saddam is found “not guilty” accusations will immediately arise of a kangaroo court.  Can we afford that? Probably yes, but would we want to?  Another possibility is that extremists will seize upon his expected execution as a reason to elevate him to martyr status, touching off another potential round of terrorist acts; another not so desirable development, but one which may happen anyway, so perhaps speculation about it is irrelevant.  

Of course, as long as Saddam remains missing, no one can really be sure how Middle Eastern extremists will take it.  Some will probably assert that he is still alive and use it as a sign of Divine favor.  This can lead to more attempts at terrorism.  Others will seem him as loser and accept, for now, that their dreams of military conquest are not possible.  The certainty here is that if Saddam is never found alive, there will be no trial and no three-ring circus to attend it.  NPR will not be privileged to interview “experts” on whether or not he is getting a fair hearing.  And there will be no Court TV coverage, which is probably a very good thing after the fiasco of the O.J. Simpson criminal trial.  

Many years ago the founder and top man at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation organization, which had developed some internal problems, found himself arrested on criminal charges.  When officers found him he was purportedly quite drunk on Chivas Regal scotch, and not totally in control of his faculties.  Not a great position for a man who professed to be engaged in helping others kick the habit.  Somehow it seems just or perhaps proper for Saddam to be found in a similar state.  Maybe cowering in a basement and taking cyanide at the moment he is caught instead of facing punishment like a man.  Perhaps in a luxury bunker somewhere complete with shag carpeting and other playboy paraphernalia.  Maybe he could end up in an Arabic version of a bowery flophouse as did Edward G. Robinson in “Little Caesar.”  Last, but not least, he could hide out in the mountain caves of Afghanistan while running from the law.  It would be poetic justice if he and Osama were to end up as rivals fighting with each other over who was responsible for ruining the plans for jihad.  

All things considered, however, it is probably best that he is not captured.  Maybe the FBI crime lab can rig up a DNA test to “prove” that parts of a dismembered body from the wreckage of a bombed out building were his.  Of course, if Saddam were still alive, but believed dead this might give him opportunities for trouble making.  We can’t be sure that he has learned his lesson.  But if he does try to return to his old ways if the powers that be know where he is and how to find him someone could probably be found to finish him off.  Quietly, I hope.  After all, those tabloids can always use more cover story material.

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