Jewish World Review Dec. 16, 2003/ 21 Kislev 5763
Richard Z. Chesnoff
A changed ball game
The long-awaited capture of Saddam Hussein - dusty and disoriented, bearded
and bedraggled - will have profound effects in Iraq and the Middle East. Not
all of them will be positive.
For the vast majority of Iraqis, it's time to celebrate the ultimate defeat
of the haughty tyrant who once controlled their lives - and often brutally
took them - the man who left their once-thriving economy in shambles. But
even as thousands of joyful Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad and Basra
to fire guns in the air and distribute sweets in celebration, U.S. officials
warned that Saddam's seizure will not end terrorist attacks. Not against
coalition troops nor against Iraqi civilians.
No doubt, the capture of Saddam will help deflate some of the heavily armed
gangs of Saddam loyalists who American officials believe are partially
responsible for the deaths of 198 American troops since the major fighting in
Iraq was declared over in May. The capture may also relieve the anxieties of
ordinary Iraqis who have shied away from cooperating with U.S. forces or the
new Iraqi transitional government for fear Saddam and his goons would somehow
But in the short term, at least, some desperate Saddam loyalists may increase
their terror war in retaliation for the humiliation of seeing their master
cornered like a desert rat. No one should forget the mistaken prediction last
July that the killing of Saddam's two sons, Uday and Qusay, would diminish
terrorist attacks against U.S. troops and foreign organizations. Instead,
It is also clear that Saddam loyalists are only a part of the corps of
terrorist killers currently ravaging Iraq. Large areas of that oil-rich
country have begun to rebuild and now enjoy relative peace and stability, far
more than most media reports would indicate. But other areas - especially the
Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad - remain prey to the shadowy army of Iraqis
and foreign jihad fighters whose loathing for Saddam is matched only by their
hatred of America and the other coalition forces in Iraq.
To these brutal figures, the promise of Western-style democracy is of little
import. Their goal remains to oust all infidel troops from Iraq and establish
their own form of Islamic dictatorship, even if that means targeting many
Iraqis in the process.
One key to defeating these insurgent bands will be rebuilding Iraq's crippled
infrastructure and simultaneously building up the self-rule abilities of the
Just last week, the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council announced plans to
establish a special tribunal to try top members of Saddam's regime for a long
litany of war crimes, ranging from the murder of hundreds of thousands of
Iraqis to the mass slaughter of Kurds and Shiite Muslims by the army and air
On Wednesday, the council spoke of trying Saddam in absentia. Now it wants to
see him tried in an Iraqi court that, it swears, "will be fair and of the
highest standards of justice." All President Bush said yesterday on this
point was that Saddam "would face the justice he denied to millions," so
we'll have to see.
Saddam's capture also has sent predictable shock waves through the region.
There are those in the Arab world who will mourn the end of a man they still
perceive as a hero because he stood up to the hated Americans.
But the news that the man who was once the Arab world's most powerful and
feared figure was discovered cowering in a hole 6 feet under a mud hut will
have its own profound psychological effect in the Mideast's markets and
Equally telling is the fact that the once-swaggering Saddam surrendered
without a fight. Such capitulation sends a potent message in the macho-minded
In the bad old days, Saddam often compared himself to the biblical King
Nebuchadnezzar. I remember seeing giant billboards near the ancient city of
Babylon in 1998 with the two profiles side by side. Obviously, Saddam
overlooked what the Bible recounts: Nebuchadnezzar built an empire but then
went mad and ate grass.
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JWR contributor and veteran journalist
Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News
And World Report, a columnist at the NY Daily News and a senior fellow at
the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of
Demoracies. A two-time
winner of the Overseas Press Club Award and a recipient of the National Press
Club Award, he was formerly executive editor of Newsweek International. His latest book, recently updated, is Pack of Thieves: How Hitler & Europe
Plundered the Jews and Committed the Greatest Theft in History. (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR. )
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