January 7, 2003
Exile Solve the Saddam Problem?
been getting all these trial balloons, so maybe there's a serious
effort underway. (Or maybe not.) A December 29 Associated
Press story that ran in numerous newspapers and Web sites around
the world, says that Arab leaders "are considering the possibility
of pressing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to step down and go into
exile. However, the unidentified "diplomats said the idea has
not yet coalesced, and it would be useless to make such an offer
until Saddam believes he has no other option."
Salman, who was Saddam's press secretary during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq
war and then defected after the 1991 Gulf War, says he doubts that
Saddam would ever bow out willingly. In 1982, he says, when a top
aide suggested that he accept a demand from the late Iranian Ayatollah
Khomeini to step down "for tactical reasons to test Khomeini's
seriousness," the minister was taken into the next room and
doesn't sound like somebody who would step down, even if offered
a villa on the French Riviera. On the other hand, it has been more
than 20 years and two long wars since 1982. And this is a person
who seems to value his personal hide; he is said, after all, to
sleep in a different place every night, to take numerous steps to
make sure his whereabouts at potentially vulnerable times are known
only to the most reliable guardians, and to have several body doubles
to confuse any would-be assassin.
that's mainly because he has convinced himself, as so many Maximum
Leaders have, that he personally is essential to the future of the
beloved country over which he exercises benevolent guardianship,
and he's only doing it for the country. But I suspect there's something
personal involved as well. This is not a person who anticipates
death with anything resembling pleasure or even resignation. If
he became convinced that his death was inevitable, there's just
a chance that he might accept exile.
THE FIRST TIME
interesting is that the Saddam-in-exile story seems to have a certain
amount of "legs." A Jan.
3 article in India's Mid-Day has State Department spokesman
Richard Boucher saying exile "is certainly an option he should
consider," while doubting that he would.
Africa's Sunday Times had a piece
on Sunday that went into more detail, mentioning possible feelers
put out to Russia, Belarus, Egypt, Libya and Mauritania as potential
havens. It also reported that on Friday Turkish foreign minister
Yasar Yakis described the idea of exile for Saddam as "viable."
have been other hints that exile for Saddam would be a way out of
this mess. Back in September USA Today ran a story
about an overture to Saddam in August, from the foreign minister
of Qatar, to Saddam on the possibility of exile, a suggestion Saddam
October, when presidential press secretary Ari Fleischer made his
possibly-a-gaffe comment about how cheap a bullet would be as a
way of dealing with Saddam, some of the follow-up
stories had him discussing exile as a possible option. And Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has mentioned exile as a possibility in
is there a chance that Saddam would go into exile? Would that satisfy
the U.S. desire for "regime-change?" That's far from a
certainty, although remotely possible. So far most of the "three-minute-hate"
propaganda has been focused on Saddam personally, the earlier Bushies
after 1991 hoped the military would take over and the current crop
might well be satisfied with any leadership group that was pliable
when it came to oil, for all its posturing about its pure-hearted
devotion to making Iraq a model democracy.
allowing Saddam to take whatever ill-gotten gains he might be able
to gather and head into exile without too much hassle, would be
contrary to official U.S. policy, according to an anonymous State
Department official quoted in the USA Today story. However,
the official did say "it's a scenario we have to come to terms
with." It would take some intellectual gyrations to accept
exile after having officially rejected it, but that's one mission
I suspect our State Department bureaucrats could accomplish.
finding a justification for a policy U-turn would not be the only
potential complication (beyond the obvious one that Saddam is enough
of a megalomaniac, enough identified with his current position of
power that he wouldn't go for it). There could be a problem finding
a suitable place for him to go. Presumably the countries mentioned
above were mentioned because there's at least a chance they would
consent and some feelers have been extended. But there can be a
chasm between preliminary feelers and a done deal.
could be serious security considerations. Even a Saddam without
formal power would have enemies who might love to knock him off.
Few countries would want to invite somebody who would be a target
of thugs and terrorists – and they might be even more concerned
if he brought along a coterie of thugs to provide enough security
that he might feel safe. A Saddam protected by ruthless-enough bodyguards
might well make the rest of the country – or at least people within
about a 20-mile radius of the Saddam compound – feel considerably
there's the question of whether Saddam could be immunized from possible
international of special tribunal court action – or even from zealous
local prosecutors, like some in Holland who seek to use their legal
systems to make bold and brash statements about enforcing respect
for human rights. Unless Saddam can be reasonably assured that he's
not going to face an inquisition and the possibility of life in
prison as a result of agreeing to exile, he might well dismiss the
idea out of hand.
might be virtually impossible for the United States or even the
United Nations to offer ironclad assurances on that account. The
International Criminal Court is open to actions demanded by individuals
or organizations, not just its own functionaries and official governments.
are local prosecutors who might seek to grandstand – or who sincerely
believe that justice will not be served until dictators like Saddam
Hussein face at least the possibility of some kind of judicial proceedings
for their crimes. Some of these people might not only be beyond
the control of the United States, they might take a certain delight
in embarrassing the United States, in demonstrating that its powers
are not infinite and its assurances are worth nothing.
who insisted on detaining Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet
on a trip to Britain, who insisted on bringing Serbia's Milosevic
before something remotely resembling a trial, or who believed that
an international criminal court would be just a dandy way to deal
with injustice that crosses or defies borders, may have done us
a disservice. Because of the precedents and examples they are setting
they just might have made it more difficult to get nasty dictators
out of power.
it requires a certain willingness to wink at strict legal standards,
and even to forego the kind of punishment many would view as indispensable
to justice being done, however, exiling dictators might well be
among the most practical way of getting nasty rulers away from the
kind of harm they can do with their hands on the levers of power.
The downside – that a thoroughly nasty ruler will be spared punishment
and might even live out his life in luxury – should be balanced
against the upside – that he won't be able to impose his nastiness
on the people he has misruled anymore. If you look at the sheer
human misery many of these monsters inflict, it shouldn't be too
difficult to swallow hard and calculate that less harm will be done
by letting these nasties retire.
recent times Idi Amin, reportedly responsible for 300,000 deaths
in Uganda, fled to Saudi Arabia, where he has lived large, in 1979.
It's disgusting – and it's difficult to argue that Uganda is especially
well ruled these days. But it's a less brutal place.
Haitian dictator "Baby Doc" Duvalier left for France in
1986. Again, the country has been misruled, though somewhat less
systematically brutalized, since his departure. And Duvalier has
been almost forgotten.
Habre of Chad has lived in Senegal since 1990, Mengistu Haile Mariam,
the former butcher of Ethiopia, fled to Zimbabwe (where he has survived
an assassination attempt) in 1991. The aging Alfredo Stroessner
of Paraguay fled to Brazil after a 1989 coup, and has lived there
relatively quietly ever since.
must acknowledge that there are reasons for a certain amount of
outrage or disgust at butchers of humans being able to live out
their days quietly. But the idea of exiling dictators, hardly a
new one, might just be the most effective way to get them out of
I were a super-rich philanthropist with an interest in international
affairs – someone like George Soros or Ted Turner – I might just
consider establishing a luxurious, hyper-secure Club Med for dictators
that would offer some of the world's political thugs a lifetime
of luxurious leisure, with plenty of educational and recreational
opportunities, in exchange for giving up power. Maybe a chain of
them. There are certainly plenty of rulers in the world whose capacity
to do harm might be minimized through such arrangements. Of course,
they would probably be replaced by other thugs, but there are degrees
of thuggery, terrorism and brutality – and an ongoing facility might
make it easier for the next bosses to be term-limited out a bit
that having been said, I think the chances that Saddam Hussein would
agree to exile, sparing his country and the rest of the world a
war that would undoubtedly kill a lot of people and destroy a lot
of valuable property and resources, are pretty slim. Even if he
did accept exile, the U.S. war machine might be so ready for action
that we would have a war anyway. But there's no law against hoping
– at least not yet.
520 South Murphy Avenue #202 Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Contribute Via our Secure Server Credit Card Donation Form
contributions are tax-deductible