and Qusay Hussein are dead. There is a certain warm satisfaction that
comes when someone who has long deserved a brutal death actually ends up
receiving one. You did not have to look far to see broad smiles when
the news broke Thursday; they came from a basic understanding that sometimes
it is for the better of humanity that certain people are dead. The
firefight was just the sort of end they deserved, the hope being that they
fought mightily to live and suffered profoundly before finally giving way.
Over the weekend, we were again told everything we needed to know about the
Hussein boys, in the unlikely event we had forgotten. There were retellings
of the beatings inflicted on Olympic athletes (some were made to play soccer
with a concrete soccer ball), the feeding of women covered in honey to ravenous
dogs, the raping and killing of random women walking through the streets,
the gigantic porn collection (it was Uday’s, with a handwritten rating attached
to each video, an enjoyable thing for all you anal retentive mass murderers
out there), the mass consumption of American beer, et cetera. The only
amusing thing was that Uday was once thought so out of control, Qusay was
named Saddam’s successor, which answers the old question, Just how insane
must someone be in order to be seen as out of control by Saddam Hussein?
But you cannot please everyone. And to prove it, there are ongoing
discussions concerning 1) the reaction “on the Arab street,” 2) whether or
not the photos and videos of the bodies should have been released, and 3)
whether or not the killings go opposite the presidential order against assassination.
As to “the Arab street,” no one in their right mind would buy a share of
stock if the dividend was based on the potential for outrage coming from
“the Arab street.” It is one of those popular, catch-all phrases meant
to suggest the average Iraqi may be more upset about the deaths than we suspect.
Well look, there are positive things happening in Iraq – 38 of the 55 most
wanted have either been captured or killed, thousands and thousands of police
have been hired, a military force is being trained, electricity and water
levels are at pre-war levels (except in Baghdad, which obviously took more
damage to its infrastructure), all hospitals and clinics are open, 100 newspapers
are being published, et cetera. Those “average Iraqis” who cannot see,
or are refusing to see, these things as positives are not intellectually
prepared to consider the well being of the country, and are irrelevant to
the process. If they are mad, let them stay mad, the expectation being
they will eventually come around.
Whether or not the photos and video should have been released is a particularly
irritating debate, in that no matter what the Pentagon decided, it was going
to be wrong if critics wanted it to be wrong, with no exceptions. In
the end, the ultimate authority was a moral one: in order for some Iraqis
to be convinced forward progress was being made toward the complete end of
the old regime, it helps to use whatever means necessary, as the Iraqis are
a fearful and suspicious people (understandably so). If it means releasing
pictures and video, fine; if it means letting them stream into the air conditioned
tent a few at a time to see the corpses, why not?
The assassination argument is a non-starter. The eternally irksome
Charles Rangel made a point of saying that “We have a law on the books that
says the United States should not be assassinating anybody.” Actually
we have an executive order, first prepared by President Ford (later expanded
by Carter, embodied by Reagan), which says “No employee of the United States
Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.”
Stephen Lee explains that “[Executive Order 11905] does not define assassination,
which gives the United States some flexibility in its actions and allows
it to pursue overt military operations even against specific individuals.”
That flexibility necessarily includes those instances where one is given
an opportunity to surrender, only to respond to his opportunity by opening
fire on American forces, under which circumstance the battle that ended the
lives of the Hussein boys commenced. The equivalent would be a cop
yelling “Stop, or I’ll shoot!” to a thief running from a burglary, only to
be raked over the coals for shooting when the thief refuses to stop.
Brian Wise is the lead columnist for IntellectualConservative.com.