Instant Reaction

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You'll have to forgive us for not rushing to post instant reactions to the capture of Saddam Hussein. It's clearly a chit for the American forces, and it's obviously a chance to deliver a little justice to one of the world's more brutal tyrants. Beyond that there's not much anyone can conclusively say, which helps explain why some bloggers are already obsessing over such peripheral-at-best matters as whether the media are secretly sad to see Saddam in custody.

But that should change over the next few weeks. For those of us who make our living trying to figure out what the hell is going on in the world, the most satisfying thing about the capture of Hussein might be that we'll soon learn the answers to some of the more vexing questions surrounding this war. This may require us pundit types to stop talking out of our asses and actually take some new data into account, but I figure that's a small price to pay.

I'm not talking about the possibility that he'll tell us something new about the alleged links between Iraq and Osama bin Laden, or the fate of those programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. (Anything Saddam might say on those topics will be too self-serving to take without salt, short of helpfully pointing the Pentagon to the exact point where those purported weapons were shipped or stored.) I'm talking about the measurable real-world consequences of his capture. Will the resistance start to fade with the realization that—in the words of one pro-war blogger—"Not even the Big Guy was safe; you're next"? Or will it actually gain strength, absorbing new support from Iraqis who bristle at the occupation but were worried that with the Americans gone Hussein might retake power? The answer depends on questions we could only speculate about before now—issues like How much control does Saddam wield over the insurgency? and How contingent is Iraqi support for, and opposition to, the occupation?

For whatever it's worth, today's description of Saddam's secret hideout does not sound like the control center for a war:

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was captured Saturday night near his hometown by U.S. soldiers who found him hiding, haggard and disheveled, in a hole in the ground in a small, rural compound…He appeared "disoriented" and "bewildered" when he was brought out of his hiding place, a hole that was covered by a styrofoam trap door and a rug.

But hey, looks can be deceiving—and initial reports can be grossly misleading. In this, as in so much else, we'll have to wait and see. The difference now is that the answers we're waiting for might actually be on their way.

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  1. Talk about a Big Lie. We have no proof this is the real Saddam, yet reason and every other blogger has already taken $hrub’s word for it. There are too many “coincidences” and strange details involved here, and I’m urging future-President Howard Dean to uncover the truth.

  2. Good job describing the likely course of events over the next few days and weeks, Jesse. Some answers could be in the offing, answers that will make one side or the other in the whole “Raimondo is a Small, Thin Idiot” debate uncomfortable.

    I’m surprised that you didn’t make note in this context of the Daily Telegraph reporting today on the possibility that Hussein had Abu Nidal train the lead 9/11 conspirator, Mohammed Atta. Even I, hawk, have to greet this report with some initial skepticism. It’s very convenient, coming from a single memo reportedly captured by the Iraqi provisional government and simultaneously establishing not just the Hussein link to 9/11 but also the regime’s attempt to obtain uranium for its nuclear-weapons program.

    Open minds on all these factual issues would be best, I think.

  3. “We have no proof this is the real Saddam…”

    Actually, I think the “big lie” was the pre-war claim that Saddam had an army of doubles.

  4. And Franklin, aren’t news reports saying Saddams identity has been confirmed by DNA tests?

  5. i can’t believe they didn’t kill him. now he can tell the world about the U.S. financing his rise to power and the war against Iran.

  6. “I’m surprised that you didn’t make note in this context of the Daily Telegraph reporting today on the possibility that Hussein had Abu Nidal train the lead 9/11 conspirator, Mohammed Atta.”

    Right after Nidal turned up dead in Baghdad, I read in Bild (or maybe Der Speigel) that Atta had initially been recruited by Abu Nidal’s organization. The source for that article was Atta’s uncle. It didn’t say anything about Nidal training him in Iraq, however. I’ll see if I can find a link.

  7. Every search I do runs into a story about Ziad Jarrah, another of the hijackers who’s uncle was an informer for the Stasi and also involved with Abu Nidal.

  8. First “Lonewacko” & “Jojo”, you are sick people.

    For Hit & Run, you have the very best balanced web site I read. Thank you.

    Saddam’s capture and trial will hit the nuts in the right place. You know where I mean.

  9. Jesse wrote:
    Anything Saddam might say on those topics will be too self-serving…short of helpfully pointing the Pentagon to the exact point where those purported weapons were shipped or stored.”

    Ok; let’s see how soon they ask the tyrant about WMD, since that was the pretext the US government gave for the necessity of the whole, bloody undertaking. That might be telling, as will the exchange if and when it happens.

    Bush made no mention of WMD in his reaction this morning. He said investigators were able to “track down Saddam’s foot prints in a vast country”…those WMD must be much more stealthy.

    And, if he actually had some, were they of the type were a real threat to us? Remember those two “drones” that the administration hyped up and then had to back off of, when their flimsy, non-lethal, nature became widely known.

    I’m thinking that there are some in the administration who are viewing the tyrant’s capture with mixed emotions.

  10. Rick Barton – No doubt where’s the WMD is on a long list of questions that Saddam’s either being asked or going to be asked. I suspect that the top of the list is information on the insurgency. If you find which sand dune the WMD are buried under today or next week it’s not much difference. If you can catch a few extra cell leaders today or next week, that can save lives.

    It’s clear that whoever has Iraq’s WND has decided not to use them. This puts resolving the mystery of that issue a little behind saving lives of coalition and Iraqi soldiers/police.

  11. Rick,

    Pull you’re skirt down, buddy, your disappointment is showing.

  12. “It’s clear that whoever has Iraq’s WMD has decided not to use them.”

    Or, it’s much less clear that they ever existed.

  13. “I suspect that the top of the list is information on the insurgency….”It’s clear that whoever has Iraq’s WMD has decided not to use them.”

    Don’t you think that if the government really thought there were WMD they might be a little concerned that the insurgency could use them?

  14. Whoa, there, Rick. They never existed? So Saddam never gassed any Kurds?

  15. Anything Saddam might say on those topics will be too self-serving to take without salt, short of helpfully pointing the Pentagon to the exact point where those purported weapons were shipped or stored

    But hey, looks can be deceiving — and initial reports can be grossly misleading. In this, as in so much else, we’ll have to wait and see.

    These are the two most insightful comments I’ve yet heard about the capture of Saddam Hussein. Anything he says will be self-serving, and although it might point our intelligence agencies in the right directions, all of it will need extensive scrutiny and confirmation.

  16. Steve in CA
    Thank you, I should have added, “never existed post the completion of the first UN inspection regime”.

    BTW, The US Army War College contends that it was Iran not Iraq that gassed the Kurds.
    http://informationclearinghouse.info/article5257.htm

    We also have to keep in mind that even if it were Iran in this one, that the worst of Saddam’s atrocities, including his massive persecution of fundamentalist Muslims occurred while on the US government dole. (However, Saddam’s war against fundamentalist Islamics in Iraq did continue, after the period of US aid)

  17. According to Time, they’re asking him about the WMD but he hasn’t said anything new:

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,561472,00.html

    Best line in the report:

    The official elaborated: ?Have we actually cut the head of the snake or is he just an idiot hiding in a hole??

  18. Oh, and John: I might post something about the Telegraph story tomorrow. For now I’ll just say that I’m pretty dubious about this one.

  19. For now I’ll just say that I’m pretty dubious about this one.

    Ditto, surprisingly.

  20. Agree that Jesse has given a measured assessment that we’re going to have to wait and see.
    We all, wanting to be first off the starting blocks, might see what US stocks and the dollar do tomorrow.
    Early speculation is that they’ll be strong, but let’s see how they close.
    Markets have always had an “Ask Swami” effect on me. Like best two out of three.

  21. Ruthless,
    Yeah; Just the start will be interesting. Will the stock market #1 Gap and pull back right away, then resume the climb to above the gap. or #2 Gap and keep going up or #3 Gap, pull back and not make it back to the gap high or #4 something else.

    I’m thinking probably #2, because many are expecting a “Santa Clause” rally any way so they will play it like it’s come a little early.

    Disclaimer: Although, Sometimes I think I’ve got some political stuff figured out pretty well. I know I will NEVER figure out the stock market.

  22. I think I’ll skip the Hit & Run the next few days if these posts are any indication of what I can expect. All the Bush-haters are already trying to put an asterisk next to this one like the sports assholes did with Roger Maris when he hit 61.

  23. Please explain. In the Vietnam Part Deux fantasy, does this mean we captured Uncle Ho?

  24. Rick Barton,
    I get no remuneration from plugging the Santa Fe Institute, but if any group of genii will figure out the stock market, it will be they… and an offshoot from there seems to be making big bucks doing just that, last I heard.
    Another thing to consider is whether the 10,000 level will be a long term ceiling as the 1,000 level was for about ten years.
    To Doug Fletcher, don’t leave our group therapy.

  25. Hey Douglas, it shoulda read “sports asshole(singular)”, reefering to then Commissioner Ford Frick who insisted on the asterisk for Maris’s feat. Said icon was removed in most reputable sports stat listings during the 80s, though some suggest it should be returned to symbolize the steroid enhanced Bonds 70 and Sosa 66.

  26. Attempting to humor A1 here:
    While there are similarities between Iraq and VN, Uncle Ho had no logarithm in Saddam.
    For some strange reason, North Vietnam was okay to bomb but verboten to set American foot upon.
    Ask McNamara.

  27. “Sometimes I think I’ve got some political stuff figured out pretty well.”

    That’s ADORABLE.

  28. …and TRUE!

  29. Ruthless,
    And just what might is this offshoot be?

  30. I wonder if they found him by tripping over the silk thread from the trap door, at which point he scrambled out and tried to bite them.

  31. Do not confuse the physical center with the moral center.

    It is quite possible that Saddam was a captive for the last month or so.

    That does not mean the dead enders were not fighting for him in the moral sense.

  32. Ruthless,
    I think DOW 10,000 will be a support level with in six months. (I’m more of a NAZ man though)
    Well, I guess It’s time to sharpen my horns 🙂

    See above disclaimer.

  33. “For some strange reason, North Vietnam was okay to bomb but verboten to set American foot upon.
    Ask McNamara.”

    A fear of involving the Soviets or commie Chinese, in a direct sense. Like what happened in Korea …

  34. Rick, how can you possibly say that the WMD never existed? How many photos of gassed and quite dead Kurds do you need to see? Also, Saddam used WMD in Gulf War I…..I’m not sure what most of you ‘how do we even know the WMD exist’ folks are expecting. Chemical weapons are stored in barrels, germ warfare is launched from small viles. When the U.N. appointed inspection team wanted to know where tons of chemical weapons were hidden most envision warehouses of missile heads…when in reality those tons of chemical weapons were stored in hundreds of drum barrels. Now, for fun have a friend fill 500 barrels of water and then hide them from you in California, maybe even bury the barrels to make them harder to find. Get about 100 people together and then try and find the hidden barrels. How long do you think it’s going to take you to uncover those? A couple of days? 8 months? Try dealing with the reality of what we are looking for…and while you are it, read the President’s SOTU address prior to the war and then tell me that WMD were the only reason we went after Saddam and his lunatic regime. Can’t do it, can ya?

  35. I’ll be interested to see how much of a bogeyman we have slain here. As M. Simon points out, there is much hay that can be made by a self interested internal security outfit like the Fedayeen (sp?) when they have a Vader of their very own to scare people with.

    That said, lets all raise a glass to that SOB sitting in a pile of his own filth for a couple of months before he was captured. Cheers!

  36. JL,

    All of the other reasons given – his atrocities, his aggression, his hositility to the US, his alleged missile and unmanned plane capability – were reasons why this dictator in particular could not be allowed to have WMDs, when so many others have them and we don’t say boo. “We cannot allow the world’s worst regimes to have the world’s most dangerous weapons.” But we have no problem with the world’s worse regimes having conventional arsenals.

    Also, your California analogy fails to include 1) there are thousands of people who have information about where the barrels are buried; 2) you are holding many hundreds of them in barbed wire pens guarded by the US army; and 3) you have specially trained CIA and DIA interrogators, who are allowed to use a great deal of force to get answers. You expect me to believe these professionals can get answers to “Where’s Saddam?” but not to “Where are the special mortar rounds?”

  37. >>Saddam Hussien got captured in a hole that must have been his dream of where he wanted to be caught by the U.S. officials.Is Saddam going to be excuted? If so is it in the United States?

  38. Joe, yes, there are those in Iraq that know where the WMD are…but given the well-documented history of torture for those that opposed Saddam, do you honestly think they would be willing to talk knowing that Saddam was still at large and there was the remote possibility that he could return to power? Remember, the U.S. cut and run short of Baghdad in the first Gulf War and Saddam executed thousands that took up arms against him. The capture of Saddam Hussein should allow our inspection team more open communication with those that worked on the weapons programs.

    Your first point is interesting. So, using your logic about other regimes having weapon aresenals and the U.S. not saying ‘boo’..should we empty our prisons since we can’t nail every thief and murderer on the streets, especially since some of them that haven’t been caught are worse than the ones we have?

  39. Rick, let’s step back a moment. Forget the WMD. The war with Iraq is simply because they are the most likely candidate to effectively “drain the swamp.” After Iraq, there is Iran and Syria. If we set an example of what we do to those who might bring harm to us, and possibly develop a democratic nation in the Mideast, then maybe Syria and Iran will change without direct involvement.
    Suppose your neighborhood had a bunch of rapists. One day 19 of the rapists raped a woman in your neighborhood. And you knew where these rapists hang out. Someone in your town said, “Hey, lets go get those rapists because they are rapists and may have guns and probably want to hurt others.” What would you do? Would you say, “Your argument to go after them is not justified because you haven’t proven they have guns and knives.” Or would you say, “Hey, I’d like to prevent other women from getting raped so let’s go get them and destroy them.” Why is it so hard for people to understand that maybe there are some decent people in the world (President George W. Bush) who want to do the right thing?

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