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Louis Untermeyer

The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events

April 11, 2003

Find Saddam and Kill Him   

With Baghdad now belonging to coalition forces and soon the Iraqi people, the worst of the fighting may be over. While there are still hostile elements alive and well, none pose any credible threat to the coalition's hold on Baghdad or other cities. Albeit dangerous to soldiers, these elements are little more than annoyances.

The British have slowly gained control of Basra, and southern Iraq is entirely in coalition hands. The north is still open, but the coalition troops already there and moving south, and forces from Baghdad heading north, any remaining organized Saddam troops will be squeezed and then destroyed. 

Supply lines are open and trucks are delivering food and medicine to the Iraqi people. Troops have found warehouses filled with moldering food, food that was going to Saddam's army to maintain their loyalty, rather than to his starving population. All those who claimed that sanctions were responsible for Iraqi malnutrition and death should acknowledge their mistake.

No terrorist attacks have occurred on American soil. Israel has not been bombed. Turkey has behaved. Iran and Syria have mostly stayed out of the way. Iraqi resistance was fiercer than expected but never much of an obstacle. The supposed quagmire dried up quickly (even if it ever existed) and has become a paved superhighway. Coalition casualties have been relatively light while enemy casualties have been heavy.

So all is going well, and with Baghdad captured, many no doubt think the war is largely won. That's correct in the sense that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power - not regime change, exactly, but regime elimination. A new civil government is still in the works, one that should oversee the transition to a representative republic. Hopefully, the result will be a new birth of freedom for the Iraqi people, and more importantly, one less threat to America.

All that being said, the war in Iraq should not be considered finished - much less won - until Saddam Hussein is accounted for.

The U.S. apparently did not get him in that first "strike of opportunity" that started this war less than a month ago. I'm not sure we even know how close we came to getting him. The U.S. thinks it got him with that bomb strike on the restaurant a couple days ago, but the British say he was seen leaving the restaurant just minutes before the bombs hit.

Let's assume Saddam is alive. What will he do?

I see him fleeing to a pre-arranged safe spot in Syria. It'll be a place hidden from the outside world. It will have ample funds that he's already sent there, safe from any sanctions or legal means to freeze accounts. Syria will deny having him. The rest of the world will not know he's there. 

So what does Saddam do in Syria? One of three things: He lays low, stays hidden, and uses his wealth and intimate knowledge of Iraq and its weapons of mass destructions to set up a network of terrorists. Maybe he joins forces with Hamas or Hezebollah. Maybe he creates his own terrorist group. He gives these terrorists keys to his weapons plants. It's now much safer for him to hand out such weapons to others, because he cannot be tracked or punished. He would no doubt take that opportunity. The terrorists would then use those weapons in Iraq, Israel, and the U.S.

He could also declare an Iraqi government in exile, with himself as its head, and a few key lackeys as his cabinet. This requires a bit more risk, because it's a more public role. But his ego and sense of honor may demand such a daring show of bravado, to show the Arab world that he was not defeated by the hated Americans. 

Or, Saddam could just quietly disappear and spend the rest of his life lounging by the pool. I don't see that happening.

The bottom line is this. As long as Saddam remains alive and unaccounted for, and retains access to wealth and weapons, he will always be a serious threat to America. That's why the U.S. must take him out, and make it public, to consider this war done and won. The great weapon of the terrorist is the unknown - what are they up to, what are they plotting, who will they strike next? The terrorists don't even need to do anything to sow their terror. Just the possibility of Saddam's existence creates uncertainty and fear. The specter of Saddam Hussein cannot linger over Iraq and the world, much like the Taliban's haunts Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden's haunts America.

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