I’ve haven’t been doing much political thinking here, but I confess that I’ve been struggling with how to respond to the capture of Sadaam Hussein yessterday.
When I awoke, I turned on the TV to check the weather, only to find myself at the beginning of the news conference in Iraq. I was surprised at the news — frankly I wasn’t sure that Sadaam was alive, and I figured he had left the country long ago. Yet, I was also struck by the exuberance of the Iraqi press members who were overjoyed by the capture.
Clearly, Hussein was a tyrant. There is not argument over that. His capture brings closure to many years of torture and oppression.
Yet, I find myself uneasy about what will happen now. Part of my concern I think comes with a fear that somehow the Bush administration will screw this up. The administration has not been particularly savvy about symbols, appearances, and impressions in the world arena. The unilateral, cowboy swagger may play well in Peoria, but I don’t think it’s especially helpful in coalition building. And I believe the only way that a lasting peace will be built in the Middle East (the entire regaion) is through a common international will. So, if the administration decides to classify Hussein as an “enemy combatant,” and have him tried in a U.S. military tribunal, I believe the consequences will be severe. All indications point to the notion that they are not making their usual mistakes, but I have little trust in the administrations ability to overcome their cockiness and work in a reasonable fashion.
The other worst-case scenario would be for Hussein to die in U.S. custody. I fear that Arabs throughout the world (even though they dislike Hussein) might turn him into a martyr is they have any belief that justice has not be accomplished. With that in mind, I think the U.S. might be wise to turn Hussein over to the custody of a neutral power for safe keeping until his trial. This would insulate the U.S. from the possibility that Hussein’s death (he is, after all, an older man who is depressed) was somehow inappropriate.
Of course, I am ultimately uneasy because I’m not fully trusting of this administration. Living in the time of Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Monica, I am cynical about national politics. And the cynic in me leads me to somehow imagine all sorts of scenarios as to how the Bush administration is stage managing this event. As I said earlier, by all indications they appear to be doing this right. But the dark part of my soul continues to nag that the timing of the capture is awfully convenient. It’s not rational per se, but it’s there.