Saturday, December 30, 2006

A last, ironic laugh?

Saddam Hussein is no more, as of a few hours ago. The Iraqi government carried out the hanging, with sinister-looking masked men hovering around the gallows so that a video of the proceedings could later confirm that the tyrant is dead.

The long-term consequences remain to be seen. I must say, though, that it had not occurred to me that Saddam may have had the last laugh in all of this. President Bush took him out on the grounds that he brutalized his nation. Bush even spoke in apocalyptic terms, branding Saddam the embodiment of "evil." if Saddam didn't exist, "evil" had no meaning. Some less theologically inclined observers wondered whether Iraq was how it was because of Saddam, or whether Saddam was the way HE was because of IRAQ. Saddam always maintained that only manipulation and violence could keep his hostile constituent groups in Iraq together.

In today's Boston Globe, Peter Cannelos, a very shrewd student of international and domestic politics, notes that immediately after Saddam was removed from power, the Kurds retreated and quietly began plotting independence and the Sunni insurgency began, which was answered by Shiite militias and then was invaded by Al Quaeda and jihadists from all over. In other words, the state broke apart and the various groups began murderous campaigns against one another.

Saddam always said he ruled the way he did because of the nature of Iraq. Bush said Saddam ruled the way he did because Saddam was the embodiment of evil. It sure looks as if Saddam's assessment was a lot closer to reality, which gives him the last, ironic laugh in this crucial difference of opinion. That's bad news for all of us, especially the families of the nearly 3,000 dead and many more thousands of wounded.


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