the end of his long war against the Roman Empire, the rebel
chieftain of ancient Gaul, Vercingetorix,
was captured and brought in chains to Rome, where he was dragged
along the cobblestones of the Appian Way behind a chariot
to the "ooohs" and "aaaahs" of the Roman public. And while
Saddam, a petty tyrant, is no Vercingetorix – who had at least
a few victories to his credit – and Bush is no Julius Caesar,
a similar fate awaits the former Iraqi dictator.
dancing in the streets that never quite materialized in Iraq
on the occasion of our great "victory" is being broadcast,
as I write [Sunday morning] – although the profusion
of red flags emblazoned with the hammer-and-sickle
is no doubt a bit embarrassing to the administration.
suppose the Iraqi Communist Party has every right to dance
in the streets, right alongside noted laptop bombardier Andrew
Sullivan, Field Marshall Glenn Reynolds, and
the general staff of the Weekly Standard – after all,
Saddam did kill thousands of Iraqi Commies even after they
endorsed the Ba'athist dictatorship. Revenge
– for the loss of land, prestige, preeminence – is a
major feature of Middle Eastern political
culture, and the planting of a booted heel on an opponent's
neck is part of the ritual.
same forced triumphalism that accompanied our quick "victory"
in Iraq is now being bloviated all across creation: it will
prove just as ephemeral. Saddam was hiding in his "spider
hole," we are told, he had a gun but chose not to "go down
fighting." The emphasis on Saddam's personal cowardice is
meant to rub in the weakness of Arab resistance to the American
conquerors, and demonstrate to the Iraqis that they have no
choice but to give up their old mindset, become Jeffersonian
democrats, and start shopping at Wal-Mart.
capture and utterly
revolting public display of Saddam will not matter
one whit to the growth and development of the insurgency in
Iraq. Its significance is all about American politics, and
that is just how it is being played in the American media.
Immediately, each and every
Democratic candidate was somehow obligated to make
a statement, and Tom Brokaw approvingly noted that today was
not such a good day for Howard Dean, who was somehow – we
aren't told how – diminished by the news of Saddam's capture.
Narcissism is as much a part of American political culture
as the centrality of revenge is Mesopotamian, and the correct
perception that this is a personal triumph
for George W. Bush has crowded out what this means on
the ground in Iraq. The capture of Saddam, Americans are convinced,
is all about them.
idea that the insurgents are all or mostly Ba'athist remnants,
or "dead-enders," as administration spokesmen like to put
it, was always highly dubious: contrary to what in-the-know
analysts have said, and the exact opposite of what's
being reported. Saddam's capture will make this "dead-enders"
caricature even less convincing.
to the American occupation is now shifting from the
infamous "Sunni triangle," to the Shi'ite south, where Iranian
influence is spreading. This is the domain of the Supreme
Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and their
party militia, the Badr
Brigade. In the run up to war, SCIRI was the only Iraqi
opposition group that refused U.S. funding. (This
may be the only known instance of such a refusal.) SCIRI was
hosted, armed, and trained, during the Saddam era, by Iran:
their goal is to set up an Islamic "republic," modeled on
the one in Tehran. Their leader, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim,
was mysteriously assassinated
as he visited a Shi'ite shrine in Najaf. Before the invasion,
SCIRI officials predicted
that they might one day fight the Americans just as they fought
Saddam, and the hour may be fast approaching.
recent pronouncement by the Grand Ayatollah Sistani, a powerful
Shi'ite cleric, condemning the American
plan to rig the upcoming elections in favor of Washington's
handpicked candidates was a shot fired across the bow. American
viceroy Paul Bremer and his sock puppets on the Iraqi
"Governing Council" were quick to fire back with an outright
rejection of the
Ayatollah's fatwa. That the occupiers are headed for a
collision with the majority Shi'ites is bad news
for the War Party, and an unbelievably stupid blunder on Bremer's
part. If his days at the head of the occupation aren't numbered,
then this administration really is headed for a cataclysm
of historic proportions.
hailing the capture, the President said:
also have a message for all Americans. The capture of Saddam
Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq. We still
face terrorists who would rather go on killing the innocent
than accept the rise of liberty in the heart of the Middle
East. Such men are a direct threat to the American people,
and they will be defeated."
rise of liberty"? Not when we're opposing direct elections
in Iraq, and holding up some "caucus" system that gives
all power to our Iraqi surrogates.
direct threat to the American people"? Yeah, just like those Iraqi drones
that – according
to the President were supposedly
armed with weapons of mass destruction and programmed to rain
destruction on the streets of Brooklyn.
President was right, however, to warn us that the capture
of Saddam doesn't
mean an end to the insurgency. If anything, this will
merely intensify the violence, and not solely on account of
Sunni resentment at the ignominious fate of their deposed
champion. The elimination of the Saddam factor will pave the
way for anti-Saddam Ba'athists (whose hatred of the old regime
is rooted in clan politics), Arab nationalists, and neo-communist
militants to push their way to the front of the growing resistance.
capture of Saddam alive has the potential of becoming the
biggest circus since the arrest
of pop-singer and alleged pedophile Michael Jackson. The two
media carnivals, I fear, will prove alike in ways that are
just as obvious as they are disturbing. Both Whacko Jacko
and Saddam Insane have popular nicknames that are less than
flattering, and not without reason. Both lived in palaces,
and now face the prospect of life in a jail cell. Their faces
are instantly recognizable to millions, their alleged crimes
are infamous (if not
equally so), and their respective trials will be the focus
of international attention, morality plays in which the values
and conceits of the judges and the judged will be enacted
on the world stage.
may be stretching an analogy to the breaking point – after
all, we're talking about a ruthless tyrant and an eccentric
pop star here! but if Saddam's prosecutors have more on
Saddam than Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon has on Jacko, they
have yet to show their hand. Time magazine has a bit
of a scoop, with an early report of Saddam's interrogation
in which he confirms that the "weapons of mass destruction"
he supposedly had existed only in the collective imagination
of the Office of Special
Plans and in Dick Cheney's dreams.
was also asked whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
'No, of course not,' he replied, according to the official,
'the U.S. dreamed them up itself to have a reason to go to
war with us.' The interrogator continued along this line,
said the official, asking: 'if you had no weapons of mass
destruction then why not let the U.N. inspectors into your
facilities?' Saddam's reply: 'We didn't want them to go into
the presidential areas and intrude on our privacy.'"
Arabs just don't get modernity, do they? There is no
privacy, anymore – especially for celebrities in the Saddam-Jacko
mould. But this could prove just as problematic for the U.S.
government as for the celebrity tyrant. He may prove more
of a rallying point for Iraq's Sunnis in prison than he ever
was hiding in a hole in the ground. Having a talkative
Saddam around creates a whole lot of problems for the U.S.
that will no doubt make more than one official wish the Iraqi
leader had put up a fight so they could have offed him when
they had the chance. Among the embarrassing tales he might
most intriguingly, the inside story on why the U.S. turned
against a sometime ally.
bidding war for his memoirs, if it hasn't started already,
is going to be hot and heavy. It's sure to help defray his
legal expenses, although the trial, if it ever comes, is bound
to be delayed. There is the question of jurisdiction: will
the U.S. try him, in an American court? As an "enemy combatant,"
if ever there was one, he may just be delivered over to a
military tribunal. The cry has already gone up to hand him
over to the International Tribunal at The Hague, but this
will doubtless cause
an outcry from the unilateralists, and the anti-UN crowd,
and the controversy will be grist for nearly everyone's mill.
what a brouhaha it all promises to be, what a spectacle! With
the economy up, for the moment, and the entertainment about
to begin, Americans can rest content, this Christmas, in the
knowledge that they are possessed of the two essential ingredients
necessary to the happiness of an Imperial people: bread and
IN THE MARGIN
Just in time for Christmas
To those of you wondering when you can buy my latest book,
The Terror Enigma: 9/11 and the Israeli Connection,
on Amazon.com, the answer is: right
now. I've received a number of letters complaining about
the cumbersome registration process that buyers of my book
have to go through on the iUniverse
site, but now you have another option: Amazon.com.
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