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If only Saddam had made more love—or something like that

January 15, 2007 ~ 10:11 a.m.

Perhaps it's the wrong time to talk of increasing troop levels in Iraq.

After all, the outpouring of sympathy for Saddam has only just died down. You see, Saddam Hussein wasn't such an ogre. We know this because his jail nurse told of how the former ruler of Iraq would plant flowers in the garden and feed the birds. He was a model prisoner who quietly read poetry, made small talk and cracked jokes.

I mean, bad enough that Hussein be made to atone for his ritualistic slaughter of Iraqis who dared not be Sunni in religion and Arabic in ethnicity. But, by gosh and by golly, his dignity was assaulted by the Shi'ite militants who hung him. Saddam's dignity, damnit! Conveniently forgetting how he was found cowering in a hole in the ground and immediately surrendered himself, of course. Very dignified indeed.

You see, after failing to find WMDs, the sole raison d'etre for being in Iraq was to preserve Saddam's precious dignity. The War in Iraq became a human-rights issue, Saddam's first and foremost.

For instance, the esteemable Tory Boris Johnson wrote in the January 4 edition of The Daily Telegraph:

"I can't believe you missed the manner in which they bumped off the former Iraqi leader, but in case you are one of the few on the planet who does not have access to a television or the internet, it was a hellish business.

The viewer was led by cameraphone into some dark dungeon full of hooded men. There was a rope and scaffold, and the only visible face was Saddam's, looking grim and dignified. You could see flash after flash from the cameras and hear them goading and taunting a man on the verge of his death ...

Then there was a yammering of 'Moqtada! Moqtada! Moqtada!', in honor of the fanatical Shia cleri, and a chanting of the name of the Prophet, and then—whoosh!—alomst in slow motion you saw him fall through the trap.

There was a great scuffling, and joyous shouts, and at last you had what they call the money shot: a man in death, his bloody neck at right angles.

Was this what we fought for? Is this really the lesson in human rights and Western values we hoped to deliver to the people of Iraq? This wasn't justice. This was a sectarian lynch mob. This was a snuff movie."

Johnson has a point about a sectarian lynch mob. No denying that. This was revenge on a grand scale. And, despite our common cause in seeing Saddam's exit not only from power but from this Earth, the Shia militants in Iraq can hardly be considered friends of ours. True enough. Point taken.

But could we please knock off the self-righteous garbage about "dignity" and "human rights" where Saddam's execution is concerned? Johnson called Saddam's hanging "disgusting." Apparently, Boris Johnson has not heard about what Saddam Hussein did to the Shi'ite community in 1982 and the brutal crackdown on them in the wake of the First Gulf War. And, if you want a definition of "disgusting" that is truly ionospheric in scope, you could hardly do better than Saddam's attack on the Kurds in 1988. Tapes played in court shortly after Saddam's execution confirmed the planning of this slaughter. In the wake of the Anfal Campaign, even Noam Chomsky condemed Saddam Hussein's Iraq as "perhaps the most violent and repressive state in the world."

On the same day that Johnson's commentary appeared in the Telegraph, the editorial board of The Times proved that they were far more in touch with reality when they wrote: "At least, thankfully, Nouri al-Maliki, the [Iraqi] Prime Minister, appears to have grasped the fiasco that has dangerously endowed Saddam with a reputation for courage and dignity as he went to a 'martyr's' death."

It's hardly a surprise that most Sunnis and the Palestinians—Saddam's favorite pet people—would talk of Saddam's courage. It's a shock to discover that supposedly educated Westerners who never had to worry about being dragged away and tortured for saying a word out-of-line would talk of his "courage" and—yes, there's that word again—"dignity" as well.

Happily, The Times confirmed that its staff avoided the KoolAid when they editorialized: "Outsiders should be wary of condemning Iraqi attitudes to Saddam's execution: the horrors they suffered during his long tyranny are unimaginable to most people in the West, and the indignities his victims endured far outweigh the mockery of his execution."

Saddam's execution was disappointing and it was a mockery. It's not at all what the U.S. or Britain wanted, and for good reason. It embodied all that is wrong with and the chaos reigning supreme in Iraq. But what's done is done. Learn lessons from it and move on.

* * *

Meanwhile, the civil war rages on, and President Bush's answer is to send another 21,500 troops to Iraq. Jeez, what a moron. Bush and the G.O.P. really have no clue, do they? As everyone knows, you cannot expect to fight a successful—or at least a noble—war by increasing troop levels. You send in only the toughest, elite units and hope for the best. You might even pray. After all, this strategy worked brilliantly in Haiti and Somalia last decade. Then you complain ceaselessly that it was an illegal war and doomed to fail and agonize that the U.N. wasn't involved so you could put American troops under their command.

But, alas, U.N. soldiers were too busy raping children in Congo and Sudan, as it turns out, to have been much use in Iraq.

As the AP's Ben Feller wrote, progress is overdue and patience is all but gone. We were promised a quick outcome and yet the war drags on. I wonder what the reason for this is. Hmmm, insufficient troop levels, perhaps? Well, golly gee, slap my ass and call me Rummy.

And "Democrats remain wary of appearing unsupportive of American troops?" I guess that explains why they oppose bolstering the American presence in Iraq and are looking into ways of cutting off the funds for it. Damnit, where's Donna Shalala when you need her? Imagine the impassioned speech she could give on behalf of anti-war Democrats:

"Fellow Americans, I had a working mother come up to me the other day, and she was really distraught. 'Ms. Shalala, is it true?' she asked me, tears running down her cheeks. 'Is the President really going to increase defense spending to try to win that awful, immoral and illegal war in Iraq?'

"'Donna,' she said, 'you must understand, I have a 18-year-old son who's just going into college. What's he going to do if the state can't provide him with condoms necessary to his educational experience?' Think about that, folks, think about the burden this young man will have to shoulder by learning personal responsibility by purchasing his own condoms. It just isn't right. They're taking condoms away from your babies!"

It's times like this when the Lady Speaker of the House may just be able to put those San Francisco values to fine use in order to rescue the country. Are you listening, Nancy? The yout's of America depend on you.

Just file under "Make Love, Not War."

– M.E.M.

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