Today's Highlights

Saddam Capture Won't Mean Much
by Charley Reese
December 22, 2003

I don't believe the capture of Saddam Hussein will have any effect on the guerrilla war being conducted against Americans and their Iraqi allies.

Saddam's power was always his ability to command and control. The day he went on the run, he lost that power. He couldn't command or control anyone. On the contrary, he was at the mercy of those willing to hide him and those who might choose to betray him.

As his pictures show, he's a tired, worn-out old geezer. One has to give him credit for being much more slippery than the United States thought he would be (we've been trying to kill him since 1991), but the end was inevitable. It will also prove to be anti-climactic, after the initial celebrations are finished.

Guerrilla war is a young man's game, and the people behind the attacks are young buckaroos, some perhaps with the ambition to be a future Saddam. They were never fighting for Saddam, and I doubt any thoughtful Iraqi ever believed he would come back. He was finished the day the U.S. Army occupied Baghdad.

No Arab I've ever talked to had anything kind to say about Saddam. He was called a thug, and many added that he was stupid. Still, some in the Arab world admired him simply because he defied the United States. These people will be disappointed that he didn't put up a suicidal fight, but who knows what condition his mind is in now. It's been a long and bloody journey since he was a 10-year-old boy running in the streets of Tikrit. In the months before the war, it was said that he had taken to writing romance novels. It could be that he's been out of touch with reality for some time.

At any rate, except for the embarrassment of not being able to find him, he hasn't been our problem, and now that we have found him, it won't solve our problem. Iraq remains as it was. There are those who would like to drag Saddam through the streets, and there are those who would like to drag Americans through the street. We still have to restore services and security and do it fast, as the longer it takes, the more Iraqis will be inclined to join the resistance.

Personally, I have never thought it wise to spend $150 billion rebuilding Iraq when so much of America needs rebuilding. I guess there's something wrong with my psyche, but whether Iraq is a democracy or a dictatorship doesn't matter in the least to me. Call me a provincial. I'm only interested in the welfare of the American people. The war and occupation of Iraq strike me as a sideshow, a political stunt to distract Americans from the problems we face here at home.

Even if we are 100 percent successful, even if we restore Iraqi prosperity and install a Thomas Jefferson who speaks Arabic, all it will mean for the American people is that we will be poorer than we were before we spent all that blood and treasure. The Iraqi people might be better off, but we won't be.

And if doing something won't make things better for the American people, why the heck does the government do it? This war has been a bamboozle job from the start. Americans were conned into believing Saddam had something to do with the Sept. 11 attacks, that he amassed weapons of mass destruction, and that he had ties to international terrorists. None of that has proven to be true, and I suspect that the U.S. government knew it was not true from the get-go.

Go ahead and celebrate Saddam's capture, if that's your wish, but I personally don't think our washing somebody else's dirty laundry is anything to celebrate. If you will think about it, you will see that whether Saddam is dead, on the run or in jail has no effect on your life whatsoever. And I don't think aspiring to be the janitor of the world is a goal worthy of the United States. Let the people in every country clean up their own messes.

© 2003 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969-71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column three times a week for King Features, which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner.

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