Foreign Policy

Saddam's Bogus Journey

What would Hussein do in exile?


The international drumbeat for exiling Saddam Hussein as a way to avoid war continues. The Washington Post, the BBC, The Boston Globe and others are reporting that top Bush administration officials would give peace a chance if the Butcher of Baghdad would just retire. Let's say that Hussein can bear to give up sovereign power and flee Iraq with his gold watch and his hefty offshore bank accounts largely intact. Where could he go?

First, Hussein would be far from alone in the retired despots club. Former president-for-life Idi Amin of Uganda, murderer of perhaps half a million of his fellow citizens, fled to Libya in 1979. He lives quietly on a monthly stipend of $1400 in Saudi Arabia today. Another former president-for-life, Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier of Haiti, who murdered around 60,000 of his citizens, fled to France in 1986. Apparently impoverished after his wife divorced him, Duvalier provides an expample for despots everywhere on the importance of properly arranging offshore finances.

If Hussein would like company, he might want to consider Panama. In the 1990s, Panama became the home for a number of small time tyrants including Jorge Serrano Elias from Guatemala, Ráoul Cedrás from Haiti, and Ecuador's Abdalá Bucaram. Panama also harbored Argentina's Juan Perón in 1955 and Reza Pahlevi, the shah of Iran, in 1979. Reza Pahlevi died as an exile in Egypt in 1980.

Although the idea of frightening despots into retirement has some merit, it still rankles that a guy who's responsible for the deaths of perhaps 1 million people might get to die in his sleep of old age. On the other hand, a war to oust him would certainly add to the total. Still, if the idea catches on, other tyrants might be eased out of power. I wonder where the 6,000 members of the Saudi royal family or Fidel Castro would choose to go? For the sake of our troops and the long-suffering people of Iraq, let's hope that Bush's apparent plan to scare Hussein into retirement works.