December 14, 2003

Excellent!

Excellent news! Saddam Hussein is captured!

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Saddam Hussein arrested in Iraq: Ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is in US custody following his dramatic capture by US forces in Iraq.... Video footage apparently showing a dishevelled-looking Saddam with a long black beard in custody receiving a medical check up was shown at the press conference. Saddam Hussein was found following intelligence indicating he was at one of two possible locations south of Tikrit, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq, said...

Posted by DeLong at December 14, 2003 07:35 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Wow... Saddam looks like Ted Kaczynski. I don't know if that was supposed to be a disguise or the effects of living in a freakin' hole for weeks.

Posted by: heet on December 14, 2003 07:47 AM

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Wonderful!

Posted by: lise on December 14, 2003 08:07 AM

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That's great!

Now where do I get my $76 billion and 8 million jobs back?

Posted by: UnemployedTechie on December 14, 2003 08:11 AM

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UnemployedTechie,

not tomorrow.

That should help a lot, at least in near term, since loyalists to Saddam probably will stop fighting for the most. However I expect that after a few months the violence will resurge back, unless, that is, the USA manage to win the hearts and minds of the remaining Iraquis.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on December 14, 2003 08:25 AM

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Good News for Iraqis. Good News for Bush.

And it is good news for at least one Democrat hopeful.

Joe Liberman looked very good this morning on _Meet The Press_. Hopefully this will help his candidacy. Personally, I think the Democrat Party will commit collective suicide if Dean is their nominee. I'd like to keep the two party system functioning in the Unite States. And the Libertarian Party isn't developed enough yet;)

QM

Posted by: Jody Dorsett on December 14, 2003 08:35 AM

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Great news

Now if we could only catch people who are a threat to the US. Anyone remember Osama?

Posted by: richard on December 14, 2003 08:58 AM

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Me thinks a US Presidential candidate ought to be a Governor in Office.

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 14, 2003 08:58 AM

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Richard,
Well said. While it's wonderful that an infamous criminal has been captured and will hopefully be tried by the Iraqis, he's been on the lam for almost 9 months, during which time nearly 500 American lives have been lost (a trend which will perhaps change now, but I'm not holding my breath). It sort of brings home the fact that Bush has basically taken a year-long vacation from fighting the terrorists who killed nearly 3000 Americans in order to overthrow a tin-horn dictator who wasn't a threat to us (why he did so was, of course, another issue).

Don't get me wrong -- likely no one except Hussein himself is sad he's been captured, and I for one am ecstatic about it. But he's only one of many brutal dictators out there, and I'd prefer that we had dealt with our real, pressing problems than gone off on some "feel-good" mission instead -- one on which the jury's still out as to how it will end up, for us and for the Iraqis.

Posted by: Jonathan on December 14, 2003 09:39 AM

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Indeed, this is excellent news for the Iraqis, no matter what the outcome of the occupation is.

"Video footage apparently showing a dishevelled-looking Saddam with a long black beard in custody receiving a medical check up was shown at the press conference."

I wonder if a guy in this kind of pathetic shape could be, as some of his ennemies and as well as supporters argued, behind the Iraqi insurgency. Few serious analysts believe Al Qaeda is behind that. So, who is it? Independent Saddam "loyalists", or an ad-hoc coalition of nationalist insurgents? Future will probably tell, but this is a crutial question in order to know what could be the effects of Saddam's capture on the insuregency.

Pardon me for staying sober but, over the horizon, the most important issue is not the capture of one man, however dangerous for the democratic future of Iraq. The one and only objective is making sure Iraq turns into a better place for Iraqis. It will take a lot more than fallen statues and a captured Saddam to achieve that. But this is material, I guess, for the day after tomorrow.

In the mean time, tis' is time for celebration! Let's hope that this helps to turn over those Iraqis who were uncooperative because they feared the return of Saddam.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe C. Stijns on December 14, 2003 09:50 AM

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Jean-Philippe,
You've also brought up a very good point, and one that makes the future rather cloudy. Could this be the mastermind behind the attacks? Or were the attacks pre-planned and carried out by a bunch of Iraqi nationalist/anti-American types who aren't about to stop just because Hussein's been captured?

From all indications, al Qaeda hasn't had a lot of involvement in the situation. Which gives me a sense of forboding for the future. On the other hand, maybe the capture of Hussein will be demoralizing. At the very least, his remaining free may have provided encouragement to the guerillas...

Posted by: Jonathan on December 14, 2003 09:56 AM

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When I got up this morning I was expecting a miserable day, it was cloudy, cold and it was beginning to rain. Then I checked the news on the internet and all of a sudden things started looking up. Smile, its going to be a sunny day.

Posted by: sam on December 14, 2003 10:07 AM

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>Pardon me for staying sober but, over the horizon, the most important
>issue is not the capture of one man, however dangerous for the
>democratic future of Iraq.

It's been pretty clear for a while now that the greatest impediment
to a democratic Iraq is the Bush Administration and the United
States. For example

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A61200-2003Dec12.html

"More importantly, Iraq's first free local elections were due to be
held in Najaf last June. The U.S. military had conducted a voter
registration drive and built ballot boxes, while 18 candidates had
festooned the streets with colorful posters declaring their
positions. Then Bremer overruled the local U.S. military commander
and abruptly canceled the election. Publicly, the occupation
authority said conditions were not suitable for a vote, although
U.S. officials privately said it had been canceled in part because
they were concerned about the outcome."

Posted by: Dan the Man on December 14, 2003 10:08 AM

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>You've also brought up a very good point, and one that makes the
>future rather cloudy. Could this be the mastermind behind the
>attacks?

Ha ha. Saddam behind the mastermind behind the attacks. That's so
funny. I rather liked the Washington Post reader who mocked the idea.

http://discuss.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/zforum/03/sp_world_kaiser121403.htm

"Washington, D.C.: Great news today! I have one question, though.
Exactly how was Saddam directing the resistance from a hole in the
ground? You know, Bremer's been having trouble running things in
Iraq with all of his palaces. Maybe we should just hand him a shovel.

Robert G. Kaiser: You'll have seen above that I agree with you. Hadn't
thought of giving Bremer a shovel, though..."

Posted by: Dan the Man on December 14, 2003 10:15 AM

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We will now see whether Saddam loyalists have been responsible for the attacks. My guess is that while Saddam was hiding in holes, various lieutenants and factional leaders started carving out power niches for themselves in anticipation of civil war. (The oppressed subjects of a despot don't necessarily pray for democracy; many of them just bide their time and scheme to take his place).

However, Saddam's intimidating mystique is no longer a factor, so people may be willing to come out more openly in various ways.

If Iraq quiets down, Bush will be re-elected. If not, Bush is vulnerable. We have almost a year to see which is the case -- it's possible that, like his father, Bush II peaked too soon in Iraq.

Call me Karl Rove, but the political effects of this are important, aren't they? Bush will certainly use any success he has in Iraq to gain support for his plans in various other completely-unrelated areas, many of which are of greater importance in the long run than the question of who governs Iraq.

We know that there are a lot of weapons out there. One thing I'm not sure about is whether any of the truckloads of U.S. dollars (billions by one count) are still in unknown hands. If they are financing the resistance it will be a long slog.

Put me down as a naysayer. Somebody's got to be the bad guy. I really make no apology for thinking of this partly in domestic political terms; it's not as if the Bush team hasn't been doing that from the beginning. The next month will tell us a tremendous amount -- if the Saddam capture didn't turn things around, it's hard to imagine what will.

Posted by: Zizka on December 14, 2003 10:50 AM

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For personal (and emotional) reasons, I don't want to concern myself in any depth or detail with politics pertaining to the general geography where Iraq is located. But since I am present here and every body here appears to be excited about capture of Mr. Hussein, I feel obliged to say a word or two:

It is a good sign, I think, for every body, that powers that be decided that it was time to take Mr. Hussein, for it means that powers that be have now decided to bring the matter of Iraq to a conclusion because it was no longer a good idea to spend billions of dollars every month on occupation of Iraq.

I hope I am not deluding myself.

If I am not deluding myself, then Howard Dean has a tougher job in front of him than I previously thought it to be.

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 14, 2003 10:59 AM

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Another cold headed thought for the road. We want to make sure that whatever the outcome of the occupation (recall that hope is still not plan), Saddam never returns to power. This poses the following apparent dilemma to the Administration. It can fly Saddam to the US, that's the safest option in that regard. Or it can let Irakis try and lock up Saddam themselves.

That's what they want apparently and what the officials have sais so far they are going to do. There is a strong argument for going that way, but again if things turns sour, we could be faced by the possibility that Saddam is freed and rules Irak again in some distant and uncertain future. Not something you want to take any risk about, in my view.

So, I think an interesting third solution would be to try him at the International Court of Justice in LaHaye. He and Milozevitch would certaionly make great cellmates ;-) And this would be a great opportunity to bring the US and the EU a little closer to each other, and to show their ennemies they can still work effectively together.

But I am probably day-dreaming...

"Put me down as a naysayer. Somebody's got to be the bad guy. I really make no apology for thinking of this partly in domestic political
terms;"

There is probably matter for this but I am a little too young to be this cynical. What I am genuinely worried about is excess euphoria that is going to further erode the American public's commercial length attention span, send US media in another self-sustaining image binge, and allow the Bushies to get away with non-policies, regarding Irak among other things... In this latest sense at least, the capture of Saddam may not be such an unconditionally good piece of news for Irakis.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe C. Stijns on December 14, 2003 01:30 PM

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Zizka,
I think it's very difficult to say how the politics will play out. A lot can happen in a year, and the political impact is tough to call in the first place.

On the surface, this is a PR gem for the Bush administration, and I think he's likely to get a temporary bump in the polls.

However, it took nine months to capture Saddam, when he was evidently hiding out pretty much where we thought he was. During that time, we've lost a lot of people, Iraq has fallen into chaos in many places, and we've spent quite a bit of money. Had we gotten Saddam early, it would have seemed much more glorious. In a way, by contrast, this capture almost seems to point to how long this saga has been going on and how ineffective the administration's post-war planning has been.

Further, much of the media is using this to ask whether Osama will now be caught. While I don't like seeing the two linked, the capture will do a bit of "clearing the air" as far as getting back to dealing with actual problems, and media remarks will remind people that Osama is still out there. It will make it easier to discuss the issue.

Essentially, a prime boogeyman has been eliminated, and the Administration now has one less person to blame for our troubles. This, combined with renewed focus on bin Laden still being at large could spell trouble for Bush (unless the situations rapidly improve, of course).

No wonder, then, that Bush is doing the usual "downplay the expectations" thing...

Posted by: Jonathan on December 14, 2003 01:31 PM

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Jean-Philippe, I think that in this moment Saddam is only an Iraq matter: he has been detained in Iraq and most accusations are for deeds against Iraquis. If the USA has any reason to incriminate him, they must ask for extradition. There might be demands from Kuwait and Iran, I don't expect them, which could imply recourse to an international tribunal like the one at The Hague.

Your point on where to maintain him detained is certainly important, maybe he could be deported to Rapa Nui or something similar.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on December 14, 2003 02:36 PM

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Arresting Saddam is an unqualified Good Thing by itself. That he gave up without a fight and looks so worn down is also a good thing since that will be the new image of Saddam to Arabs. He will make a great anti recruiting poster child for jihadi.

Posted by: Fred Boness on December 14, 2003 04:34 PM

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What happens if Sistani says "Good for you -- you've got your bogeman Now you have 30 days to leave our country. If you start now, you'll just about make it..."?

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on December 14, 2003 10:54 PM

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What happens if Sistani says "Good for you -- you've got your bogeyman. Now you have 30 days to leave our country. If you start now, you'll just about make it..."?

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on December 14, 2003 10:54 PM

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No one except a few Baathists will mourn Saddam's passing. And I'm sure his captors will be smart enough to create some petty public humiliations (a perp walk?) to degrade his image further. But, Fred, jihadis are not Baathists. Most jihadis will welcome his elimination - from their POV it makes the issues in Iraq less ambiguous.

This inability to tolerate moral complexity makes their worldview much closer to that of the fundamentalist Christian, Jewish and Hindu right than these groups will admit.

Those who dogmatically insist, against all evidence, that OBL and Saddam were best buddies display their blinkers - the world is much simpler to understand if all the baddies are in league against you. It's the same mindset we saw in the 1960s when evidence of the Russo-Chinese split was ignored because all right-thinking (sic) people 'knew' communism was monolithic.

Posted by: derrida derider on December 15, 2003 02:48 AM

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I wonder if a guy in this kind of pathetic shape could be, as some of his ennemies and as well as supporters argued, behind the Iraqi insurgency. Few serious analysts believe Al Qaeda is behind that. So, who is it? Independent Saddam "loyalists", or an ad-hoc coalition of nationalist insurgents? Future will probably tell, but this is a crutial question in order to know what could be the effects of Saddam's capture on the insuregency.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe C. Stijns on December 14, 2003 09:50 AM

Saddam wasn't in that hole for 9 months. There was no food or water in there. There was a taxi and apparently two body guards on the scene. Saddam likely was running at least some part of the Baathist resistance. That said, while there may be some demoralization, most of Saddam's guys aren't necessarily going to lay down their arms. Most are criminals who can expect pretty rough treatment if other Iraqis ever lay hands on them.

The largest problem still remains getting Iraq's Sunnis to want to be part of a democratic Iraq. (Though it may not be anything, the information leading to Saddam's capture could be positive in that sense.) Maybe capturing Saddam makes a democratic end game seem more inevitable to these people? Without the Sunnis actively opposing the former Baathists in their midst, it will remain hard for anybody to root them out.

Posted by: Stan on December 15, 2003 06:38 AM

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Dear Antoni Jaume

What makes you think the US can win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi citizens if they can't win your's here in the US? There is always going to be dissent, live with it.

Posted by: Gregg on December 15, 2003 06:47 AM

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Gregg, I do not live in the USA. And I am sceptical of such an issue (winning hearts and minds), but then maybe I am only misinformed, just like Rick in Casablanca :

Capt. Renault (Claude Rains) says to Rick (Humphrey Bogart): "What in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?"

"My health," Rick says. "I came for the waters."

"But we're in the desert," says Renault.

And Rick says: "I was misinformed."

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on December 15, 2003 09:00 AM

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What a short memory people have... The war with Iraq was justified by the US - against all multilateral organisations and against all international law - on the basis of finding and eliminating weapons of mass destruction! Well, WHERE ARE THESE WEAPONS??

Great, Saddam is captured, so what about the Great Leader Kim, the mullahs in Iran, dictators in Central Asia, paramilitaries in South America and a bounch of brutal "monarchs" in Africa?

What does the capture of Saddam change with respect to justifying another illegal war by the US? Dont you people understand that with these kind of policies, more resistance and hatred is created??

Posted by: Stefanos Michailides on December 17, 2003 03:40 AM

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