Here’s the thing.
Nobody disagrees that Saddam Hussein was a bad guy (well, maybe a few insurgents disagree, but for the moment we’ll pretend like we’re all on the same page). There might be a wee bit of contention over the notion that the Middle East or the world is in a better place because Saddam’s no longer in control (and, again, let’s set aside the question of should we have gone to Iraq in the first place instead of, you know, finishing up the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. By the way, if going into Iraq was anything more than finishing up what Daddy started or a grab for oil, something like the “he’s a threat, he’s mean to his people” rationale, then why aren’t we sending thousands of troops and millions in aid to the Sudan, where men, women and children –emphasis on women and children – are being tortured and murdered on a daily basis? And that’s just one of several other happy spots on the globe. Okay, Digression Controls initiated).
So, anyway, we capture him, make his homeboys put him on trial and execute him. And that’s good, right? Because when you’re our enemy, we vanquish you, baby. Scorched earth. It feels right.
Except when it doesn’t.
(Sigh. One more digression. Let’s also put on hold the debate over the death penalty. It’s a topic I’ve vacillated over since I was a teen. In theory it sounds good. In practice it eliminates bad guys, but only if we have the right bad guy. Time and again we’ve been shown that the wrong people get executed with alarming frequency. Not that Saddam was the wrong guy. He wasn’t.)
Just think about this: what works better for out purposes in Iraq – a dead Saddam around whom thousands of insurgents can rally and proclaim him a martyr for their cause, or locking Saddam up in prison for life and constantly providing updates of his incarceration – showing photos of him in the cafeteria line; doing laundry; sitting in the dimness of his cell, head hung in defeat? Essentially saying, “Look at this. This is what we did to the most powerful guy in this part of the world. You want some of this?”
In fact that last line could have come straight from the I-book of a Bush speech writer.
There’s no manual for this kind of stuff. Just conscience and a willingness to think it through, to weigh all the consequences of our actions
Have we made things better? The coming months will tell, but in the words of that great strategist and statesman Han Solo, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”