December 14, 2003


Saddam Hussein has been captured alive.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at December 14, 2003 11:08 AM

Great. This means 4 more years of Shrub.

Posted by: CWD at December 14, 2003 12:41 PM

Yeah, four more years of removing Taliban-style theocracies and Ba'athist-style fascist dictatorships. Oh how you must yearn for the years of inaction against fascist Serbia and Nazi Hutu genocide against the peoples of the earth who shall never have the chance to be ignored by President Dean. It's alright, you can always seek employment in France. But be sure to get up early, it will be a long wait.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea at December 14, 2003 01:11 PM

Page 1 from the Republican Party Debating Manual:
"If someone expresses dislike/disdain for our Beloved Leader, tell them to move to France, Germany, Afghanistan, Russia, etc."

BTW--Saddam and Osama are creations of REPUBLICAN administrations. Clinton was not "inactive" against fascist Serbia (Kosovo in 1999 ring a bell?). It's also highly disingenous of you to suggest Repugs would have done anything to stop the bloodshed in Rwanda. After all, there's no oil there.

Page 2 of the Republican Party Debating Manual:
"When your opponent confronts you with irrefutable facts, call them a 'homo' a 'traitor' or ask them why they hate America."

See, that's what you were going to do next, weren't you? C'mon, admit it! You people are so predictable that you're pathetic.

Posted by: CWD at December 14, 2003 01:24 PM

Page one of the Moonbat Debating Manual is to blame this administration's actions on the failures of any previous administration. I would be astonished if you had supported belated military action against fascist Serbia seeing as you are so manifestly dismayed at successful military action against fascist Iraq. But I suppose the 250,000 killed before the Clinton administration took action do not matter any more than the millions murdered by Hussein in comparison with bemoaning the Bush administration.

Name calling and debating arguments I was "going to do next" must be somewhere on page two...

Seriously, you would love it France.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea at December 14, 2003 02:05 PM

Page 3 of the Republican Party Debating Manual:
"When all else fails, BLAME CLINTON."

I could have predicted that one, too. As for blaming previous administrations for the failures of current administrations, that seems to be the sole province of the Chickenhawk Brigade squatting in the White House (e.g., blaming intelligence failures before 9/11 on Clinton).

I noticed you didn't dispute the fact that Osama and Saddam were GOP-created monsters from the 80s. That's refreshing.

"Moonbat?" Ouch, that stings! Is that some sort of neocon code or in-joke? If so, please let the rest of us in on it.

"Successful military action in Iraq." Do you mean before or after the Chimp's top-gun photo-op on the aircraft carrier when he declared "mission accomplished," after which more U.S. troops started getting killed than before this stunt?

Just for the record, I was also opposed to Clinton's adventure in Kosovo for the same reason I opposed the Iraq invasion--both were "wag the dog" political stunts. But with Shrub's Iraq obsession there was the obvious added element of personal vendetta coupled with naked greed that made all the lies about WMDs, "liberation," and "democracy" all the more gag-inducing.

You're not going to change my mind, and I'm not going to change yours. So this discussion is really pointless (as all political arguments usually are). Let's just agree to disagree, and leave it at that.

Posted by: CWD at December 14, 2003 02:32 PM

Shrub -- I like that. You know it insults GWB, yet it can take a moment to figure out just how it is an insult. Further, it demonstrates the insulter's wittiness but doesn't make CWD look like an insensitive cretin.

This is largely a symbolic victory, since Hussein wasn't doing anything other than being a symbol, so I think the more important thing to note is not that it improves Bush's chances of re-election but that news of the capture has significantly improved morale already. I awoke this morning to a phone call from my little brother, who mentioned that people were happy that a major goal had been attained (soldiers were eagerly lined up and waiting to call home), even if it meant a short-term increase in personal danger.

Posted by: Aramis Martinez at December 14, 2003 03:09 PM

Shrub -- I like that. You know it insults GWB, yet it can take a moment to figure out just how it is an insult. Further, it demonstrates the insulter's wittiness but doesn't make CWD look like an insensitive cretin.

This is largely a symbolic victory, since Hussein wasn't doing anything other than being a symbol, so I think the more important thing to note is not that it improves Bush's chances of re-election but that news of the capture has significantly improved morale already. I awoke this morning to a phone call from my little brother, who mentioned that people were happy that a major goal had been attained (soldiers were eagerly lined up and waiting to call home), even if it meant a short-term increase in personal danger.

Posted by: Aramis Martinez at December 14, 2003 03:09 PM

Dang IE. Sorry for the double post.

Posted by: Aramis Martinez at December 14, 2003 03:09 PM

Saddam Hussein has killed somewhere between 300,000 and 1 million of his own citizens.

Did you not see row upon row of bones in warehouses and mass graves? Put politics aside. Today, the world is a better place for more than 20 million people.

Posted by: J.V.C. at December 14, 2003 03:56 PM

As JVC points out, there are hundreds of thousands of mass graves, all over Iraq. Seems to me that a person that does not feel a bit of a thrill about Saddam's capture is missing some key elements of their humanity.

Posted by: David Foster at December 14, 2003 04:16 PM

One of my favorite rules on the Internet is "don't feed the trolls" -- even though I'm about to do so.

As a knee-jerk liberal, I will of course feel ambivalent about anything that helps Bush, even as marginally as the capture of Saddam probably will. That's because living under Bush is much more real to me than the sufferings of those who are thousands of miles away (most of which sufferings took place decades ago). I'm not saying this is morally "okay," but I do think it's a natural human reaction, and if all our conservative brethren were going to be really, really honest, they'd have to admit that the sufferings of those who lived under the Taliban and under Saddam aren't very real to them either -- just like the even worse sufferings of millions around the world who won't receive U. S. help or any other kind of help.

I think that immediately moaning about how this will help Bush is no more or less obscene than using the sufferings of thousands as a rhetorical weapon in the attempt to defend Bush. In both cases, what's important is not the untold misery caused by Saddam, but the local political struggle in the United States. In this case, I think the knee-jerk liberals are more "honest," but I think that this very bizarre and serious situation in Iraq shows how very limited both of our mainstream American ideologies are.

Posted by: Adam Kotsko at December 14, 2003 04:34 PM

I think *most* people, both liberal and conservative, hold the political opinions they hold because they believe those opinions are in the best interests of most people, both American and non-American. Those who view everything in terms of "the local political struggle within the U.S." are power freaks who have decoupled their search for power from the *purpose* of that power.

Suppose that immediately after the victory in the Battle of Midway, some Republican wrote a letter to the editor saying: "Oh, great. Now FDR is going to win the election." Wouldn't you think there was something just a bit inappropriate about that comment?

Posted by: David Foster at December 14, 2003 05:00 PM

Yes, I do think there would be something inappropriate about that comment. I was trying to address the ways in which the "hardcore" conservative and liberal positions are both inappropriate: "Crap, getting Saddam will help Bush" or "See, we found Saddam -- Bush's policies are wonderful!" There are a lot of hardcore people on both sides on the Internet, particularly in comment sections.

Insofar as I shared the knee-jerk liberal response, my message was a criticism of myself.

Posted by: Adam Kotsko at December 14, 2003 05:07 PM

Aramis -- if you like "Shrub" you'll love Molly Ivins. I'm reasonably sure she used it first.

Originality, of course, is not highly prized in either insults or internet commentary.

I never cease to mirate at folks who say when America deposes a dictator "but you put him in power!" I'm all for geopolitical repentence -- next let's remove the house of Saud, who were installed by the British!

Posted by: Michael Tinkler at December 14, 2003 05:56 PM

For the record, folks, I am just as happy as everyone that Saddam has been captured. I just don't like the idea of this helping Bush one iota. But then again, the election is 11 months away and American voters have notoriously short attention spans. By then, Saddam will be a distant memory for most of the American sheeple.

Posted by: CWD at December 14, 2003 08:17 PM

Yeah, Karl Rove isn't thinking about the political consequences of this at all. So why should we?

As far as I am able to tell, the Afghans on the whole are not significantly better off since we liberated them. It is repeatedly stated as obvious fact that they are, but looking at the actual situation there doesn't make that clear. (The one Afghan group which is definitely better off is the opium growers.)

As for Iraq, we'll see. Civil war is the big danger there, as in Afghanistan.

Te comparison to the Battle of Midway is far-fetched in a dozen ways.

Yeah, it is a good thing that Saddam was caught, and it may lead to an improvement of the situation on the ground. On the other hand, living in his "spider-hole" it doesn't seem he could have been a significant opposition leader any more.

I've checked, and France and Germany seem to provide their own dilettante scholars. They do need ESL teachers, but preference is given to Brits and Irish (EU members).

Posted by: zizka at December 14, 2003 08:39 PM

Sheeple. Shrub.

Such respect for the Other we read here.

Is it much wonder the academy gets so much respect in return from the Sheeple and their legislatures come funding time?

Posted by: Michael Tinkler at December 14, 2003 08:52 PM

Oh, and I bet you're truly a man of the people. The salt of the earth. You spend your Saturdays at Walmart just to be around them, right? You, unlike the rest of us, don't live in an ivory tower, right? Gimme a break.

Posted by: CWD at December 14, 2003 09:06 PM

I work in academia and buy all my groceries at Wal-Mart. :-)

Seriously, Hussein was in power well before the 1980s.

Hussein studied law in Cairo while continuing party-affiliated activities. He returned to Baghdād in 1963, married, and rose to the post of assistant secretary general of the Baath Party. The party remained in opposition to the government until 1968, when it seized power in a coup. Years of underground work gave Hussein a small core of like-minded friends, many related to him by blood or marriage and most from Tikrīt. After the coup, this clique established itself as a Revolutionary Command Council with absolute authority in the country. Hussein became vice chairman of the council in 1969. He worked closely with General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, the councilís chairman and president of Iraq.

Encarta entry

So it hardly seems fair to lay blame for him on either party in the U.S. Evil is as evil does.

Posted by: Bryan at December 14, 2003 09:42 PM

You are right, but Saddam was actively supported by the Reagan/Bush I administrations until 1990. Who was photographed shaking hand with Saddam in Baghdad in 1983? Rumsfeld was. Who supplied the Sarin gas to him with which he killed thousands of Kurds in 1988? Reagan did. Who let him slide when his fighters "accidently" attacked the U.S.S. Stark in the Persian Gulf in 1987? Reagan did. Saddam was an S.O.B., but let's not forget he was OUR S.O.B. for at least 10 years.

Posted by: CWD at December 14, 2003 09:50 PM

As my undergraduate IR professor said, 'If Saddam Hussein is not the living incarnation of evil on the planet, he'll do." If the trade-off is me having to have Bush for four more years verses the Iraqis and that whole region getting rid of him, I'll take it. Though I don't think this will necessarily help him, except maybe costing the Democrats half a slogan that only caught on in the context of the resistance.

Posted by: Brian Ulrich at December 14, 2003 10:26 PM

I absolutely do not understand the idea that a war automatically trumps domestic policy. Perhaps Ulrich does not have problems with what Bush is doing, but he's really remaking the U.S. and the world, seemingly in a disastrous way. (The Economist and the Financial Times, both conservative publications, are appalled by his economic policies -- to say nothing of liberals, of course). We don't even know yet whether Iraq will get a better government; civil war seems much more likely.

People who are even minimally informed about Afghanistan today regard the victory there as rather a dubious one, and this causes us lots of problems when we try to argue with people whose information comes from TV, where everything in Afghanistan is wonderful now.

I've been aware of human rights issues for decades, and the indifference of the American foreign policy elite (both Republican and Democratic) to human rights considerations has become axiomatic to me. You hear the argument that "Well, when they finally do something right, shouldn't you praise them?" I just have trouble believing that that's really what's happening.

But yeah, we've got rid of a bad guy we saw all the time on TV, so let's pretend Iraq has been liberated.

Posted by: zizka at December 15, 2003 10:52 AM

I do have problems with much of what Bush is doing. I just think things are relative. You're right, I haven't thought through all the precise implications of Bush's policies and done a cost-benefit analysis of some kind, so my point was in some way rhetorical. But I do rank issues of war and peace and eliminating the absolute worst dictators - which as foreign policy tend to be where Presidents matter most - over issues like tax cuts and overtime pay which sometimes seem like they run in cycles anyway and where Congress is also a hige factor that needs to be considered.

The situation in Iraq remains in flux. And I basically agree with you about Afghanistan. In the latter case, though, while I can fault Bush for ignoring the situation altogether, I can't insist a Democrat would be a sure success, as fighting wars in that country is not an easy task.

Posted by: Brian Ulrich at December 15, 2003 12:31 PM

saddam became inconvenient to the regime(s) in power in the US, that's all. the US commerce department gave a licence for export of aflotoxin to iraq, then saddam gassed kurds and it was no biggie. there are horrible dictators all over the world and the US acts towards them in its own best interest, not in the interest of the oppressed. perspective, people!

Posted by: meanregression at December 15, 2003 12:38 PM

So we should wait until politicians have pure motives before we ever support them? The U.S. history survey here teaches that part of the reason the U.S. provided economic support to England and France before Pearl Harbor was for American companies. So was that wrong, too? Or to move away from war issues, if a politician crafts trade policies just to appeal to the business community or anti-trade forces, so people oppose the moves until convinced said politician is really a true believer?

I just don't think this is a test that normally works in judging individual political issues.

Posted by: Brian Ulrich at December 15, 2003 01:03 PM

I have serious problems accepting the moral highground that we hear anytime a Bush toadie answers criticism about the Iraq war. They lied to us about the reasons for starting this war; who knows where the WMD are, whether or not they existed, if they were already destroyed in 1998, or if Saddam even knew what Iraq really possessed? War against Iraq has damaged important alliances, won us few friends in the Middle East, created an expensive mess that certainly won't help the long-term health of our economy, and raised the threat of civil war in Iraq. Politically-connected buddies of the administration are doing quite well, profitting off the US taxpayer and the Iraqi people. There is at least one probable crook (Chalabi) in the new Iraqi governing council. From what I have heard, he was the one who fed us much of our faulty intelligence. Yet we like him.

Whenever one tries to discuss this with a supporter of the Bush administration, or listens to one of the ruling neo-cons respond to criticism, one is constantly told that Saddam killed hundreds of thousands of people while in charge, and is made to feel that all criticism of our war or the current state of the occupation is immoral and supportive of the monster who murdered all these people. I just can't accept that. Most of the atrocities we hear about happened when Saddam was our ally, or when he was allowed to suppress the 1991 uprising that we initially encouraged. When Saddam was useful, we looked the other way. When we were attacked by terrorists who had no connections with Hussein, we needed a satisfying war to make ourselves feel better. Hussein provided the most inviting opportunity. Morality had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Nonetheless I am very happy that Saddam is captured. I hope he receives the justice he deserves. I also hope that somehow our current leadership finds the wisdom and understanding necessary to make a Iraq a better place. We have an opportunity, however small it may be. Let's use it.

Posted by: DM at December 15, 2003 02:26 PM

Big deal. The guy was a has been. The ongoing debacle in Iraq will go on. That means things will get progressively worse for the miserable failure at 1600 pennsylvania ave. Who will they blame it on now?

Posted by: che at December 15, 2003 05:09 PM

CWD post #1: That was my first thought exactly when I saw that Saddam had been captured! However, I do think it will be a close election and it's still too early to tell.

Posted by: Cat at December 15, 2003 09:33 PM

Actually, the way things are going in the world today, the best thing anyone can do is find a copy of "Dr. Strangelove," sit back, and admire the prophetic talents of brilliant filmmaking.

Posted by: Cat at December 15, 2003 09:37 PM

Since we are still discussing the first post, I am curious about the response. It was very interesting.

"Yeah, four more years of removing Taliban-style theocracies and Ba'athist-style fascist dictatorships. Oh how you must yearn for the years of inaction against fascist Serbia and Nazi Hutu genocide against the peoples of the earth who shall never have the chance to be ignored by President Dean."

This is another example of the attempt to shame critics of the war into silence. Instead of typing the usual rhetoric about "Republican debate tactics" I think there is a simpler response. Which Taliban-style theocracies and Ba'athist style fascist dictatorships do we plan on removing, and how will we sell these military adventures to the American people? Syria? Since we all know that there would have been little popular support of the Iraq war had it been based upon our alleged concern for the Iraqi people, how would we justify attacking Syria? Will the WMD somehow appear in the cellars of Damascus? Will Syrian agents somehow appear in Niger, looking for yellow cake? Iran? They do have a nuclear program, but there is no evidence of a threat. Wouldn't we love to occupy them, if and when we can ever pull out significant forces from Iraq? North Korea? Here we have a horrible regime, that is probably worse than Saddam. Yet it appears to have moved back towards ignoreland, ever since the sabre rattling has calmed. Does anyone seriously believe the Bushies would conjure up some sort of imminent threat posed by NK, given the serious consequences our allies would face in a war with Pyongyang? Who else will we attack? Zimbabwe? I bet we would be welcomed there, if only for the attention and money that would go into that country. Anyone see this happening? I also hear horrible stories about Central Asia, without any speculation on the United States doing something about this in the near to immediate future.

All this shaming is so hollow because there is little evidence of any substance behind the attempts.

Posted by: DM at December 15, 2003 11:23 PM

Well put. All of this alleged concern for Iraqi lives and freedoms on the part of the neocons has been very cynical and disingenuous. You're right. Why not go after Robert Mugabe or the SLORC regime in Burma next if we are sincerely interested in spreading Jeffersonian democracy all over the globe? The real question is who do we go after now that Saddam has been captured?

Posted by: CWD at December 16, 2003 09:23 AM

Thanks. This morning my normally very liberal newspaper was full of praise for Bush because of the capture of Hussein. Some even argued that this vindicated Bush's decision to go to war. Does this mean they will believe the president the next time he wants us to invade a country that poses a "grave and imminent threat", even if the evidence is not there?

-- Fool me once, shame on you; fool me all the time, then I am a complete idiot --

Posted by: DM at December 16, 2003 11:30 AM

What is it, exactly, that we are looking to find in this war in Iraq?

This is the question that baffles me, that I have been asking myself for a year. The answers that I have read, that have been explained by the administration, or speculated by pundits, don't satisfy me:

  1. Iraq is an imminent threat to our national security because it is developing weapons of mass destruction and is ruled by a tyrant.
  2. Iraq has ties to terrorist groups.
  3. Overthrowing Sadaam will pave the way for democracy in the Middle East.
  4. Sadaam is guilty of human rights abuses and should be removed from power by force.

The problem with (1) was not only faulty inteligence - even supposing the inteligence had been correct, there was a good deal of doubt in the inteligence/military community that attacking Sadaam was the best way to deal with him. And it certainly didn't seem like a good time to deal with him, given that it would likely distract from the war on terror. Reason (2) has never been convincing - Sadaam is a secular leader despised by radical Islamic groups and there's no evidence linking him to 9/11. Reason (3) sounds more consistent with the war on terror, but the devil is in the details - why is Iraq a good choice for this experiment, and how exactly do we plan to bring democracy by force? Reason (4) has the problem that has been raised above - we were perfectly willing to accept Sadaam as our ally when our concern was the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, we now embrace equally sinister nationheads in the war on terror, so isn't it likely that we are using Sadaam's crimes against humanity to justify a war that we wish to fight for other reasons? And what reasons are those, exactly?

My own reading of the events of the last year leads me to believe that the ideology driving this war is actually (3), and that (1), (2), and (4) are being used to sell the war to the American people. And that (3) has proven harder than its planners anticipated. But I'm still not sure.

Either way, haven't we given up on the paradigm that removing Sadaam was the answer to the problem? He's an evil man, and I'm glad to see him brought to justice. But clearly the war is not over, and peace does not prevail. His capture now seems strangely anti-climatic.

Posted by: Matilde at December 16, 2003 11:48 AM

Er...that would be the Islamic Revolution in Iran, of course, above.

Posted by: Matilde at December 16, 2003 02:11 PM