Hussein, former employee of the American federal
government, was captured near a farmhouse in Tikrit
in a raid performed by other employees of the
American federal government. That sounds pretty
deranged, right? Perhaps, but it is also accurate.
The unifying thread binding together everyone
assembled at that Tikrit farmhouse is the simple
fact that all of them - the soldiers as well as
Hussein - have received pay from the United States
for services rendered.
It is no small irony that Hussein, the Butcher
of Baghdad, the monster under your bed lo these
last twelve years, was paid probably ten thousand
times more during his time as an American employee
than the soldiers who caught him on Saturday night.
The boys in the Reagan White House were generous
with your tax dollars, and Hussein was a recipient
of their largesse for the better part of a decade.
If this were a Tom Clancy movie, we would be watching
the dramatic capture of Hussein somewhere in the
last ten minutes of the tale. The bedraggled dictator
would be put on public trial for his crimes, sentenced
to several thousand concurrent life sentences,
and dragged off to prison in chains. The anti-American
insurgents in Iraq, seeing the sudden futility
of their fight to place Hussein back into power,
would lay down their arms and melt back into the
countryside. For dramatic effect, more than a
few would be cornered by SEAL teams in black facepaint
and discreetly shot in the back of the head. The
President would speak with eloquence as the martial
score swelled around him. Fade to black, roll
credits, get off my plane.
The real-world version is certainly not lacking
in drama. The streets of Baghdad were thronged
on Sunday with mobs of Iraqi people celebrating
the final removal of a despot who had haunted
their lives since 1979. Their joy was utterly
unfettered. Images on CNN of Hussein, looking
for all the world like a Muslim version of Charles
Manson while getting checked for head lice by
an American medic, were as surreal as anything
one might ever see on a television.
Unfortunately, the real-world script has a lot
of pages left to be turned. Former U.N. weapons
inspector Scott Ritter, reached at his home on
Sunday, said, "It's great that they caught
him. The man was a brutal dictator who committed
terrible crimes against his people. But now we
come to rest of story. We didn't go to war to
capture Saddam Hussein. We went to war to get
rid of weapons of mass destruction. Those weapons
have not been found." Ray McGovern, senior
analyst and 27-year veteran of the CIA, echoed
Ritter's perspective on Sunday. "It's wonderful
that he was captured, because now we'll find out
where the weapons of mass destruction are,"
said McGovern with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
"We killed his sons before they could tell
Indeed, reality intrudes. The push for war before
March was based upon Hussein's possession of 26,000
liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum
toxin, 1,000,000 pounds of sarin gas, mustard
gas, and VX nerve gas, along with 30,000 munitions
to deliver these agents, uranium from Niger to
be used in nuclear bombs, and let us not forget
the al Qaeda terrorists closely associated with
Hussein who would take this stuff and use it against
us on the main streets and back roads of the United
When they found Hussein hiding in that dirt hole
in the ground, none of this stuff was down there
with him. The full force of the American military
has been likewise unable to locate it anywhere
else. There is no evidence of al al Qaeda agents
working with Hussein, and Bush was forced some
weeks ago to publicly acknowledge that Hussein
had nothing to do with September 11. The Niger
uranium story was debunked last summer.
Conventional wisdom now holds that none of this
stuff was there to begin with, and all the clear
statements from virtually everyone in the Bush
administration squatting on the public record
describing the existence of this stuff looks now
like what it was then: A lot of overblown rhetoric
and outright lies, designed to terrify the American
people into supporting an unnecessary go-it-alone
war. Said war made a few Bush cronies rich beyond
the dreams of avarice while allowing some hawks
in the Defense Department to play at empire-building,
something they have been craving for more than
Of course, the rhetoric mutated as the weapons
stubbornly refused to be found. By the time Bush
did his little 'Mission Accomplished' strut across
the aircraft carrier, the occupation was about
the removal of Saddam Hussein and the liberation
of the Iraqi people. No longer were we informed
on a daily basis of the "sinister nexus between
Hussein and al Qaeda," as described by Colin
Powell before the United Nations in February.
No longer were we fed the insinuations that Hussein
was involved in the attacks of September 11. Certainly,
any and all mention of weapons of mass destruction
ceased completely. We were, instead, embarking
on some noble democratic experiment.
The capture of Saddam Hussein, and the Iraqis
dancing in the streets of Baghdad, feeds nicely
into these newly-minted explanations. Mr. Bush
and his people will use this as the propaganda
coup it is, and to great effect. But a poet once
said something about tomorrow, and tomorrow and
"We are not fighting for Saddam," said
an Iraqi named Kashid Ahmad Saleh in a New York
Times report from a week ago. "We are fighting
for freedom and because the Americans are Jews.
The Governing Council is a bunch of looters and
criminals and mercenaries. We cannot expect that
stability in this country will ever come from
them. The principle is based on religion and tribal
loyalties," continued Saleh. "The religious
principle is that we cannot accept to live with
infidels. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him,
said, `Hit the infidels wherever you find them.'
We are also a tribal people. We cannot allow strangers
to rule over us."
Welcome to the new Iraq. The theme that the 455
Americans killed there, and the thousands of others
who have been wounded, fell at the hands of pro-Hussein
loyalists is now gone. The Bush administration
celebrations over this capture will appear quite
silly and premature when the dying continues.
Whatever Hussein bitter-enders there are will
be joined by Iraqi nationalists who will now see
no good reason for American forces to remain.
After all, the new rhetoric highlighted the removal
of Hussein as the reason for this invasion, and
that task has been completed. Yet American forces
are not leaving, and will not leave. The killing
of our troops will continue because of people
like Kashid Ahmad Saleh. All Hussein's capture
did for Saleh was remove from the table the idea
that he was fighting for the dictator. He is free
now, and the war will begin in earnest.
The dying will continue because America's presence
in Iraq is a wonderful opportunity for a man named
Osama bin Laden, who was not captured on Saturday.
Bin Laden, it has been reported, is thrilled by
what is happening in Iraq, and plans to throw
as much violence as he can muster at American
forces there. The Bush administration spent hundreds
of billions of dollars on this Iraq invasion,
not one dime of which went towards the capture
or death of the fellow who brought down the Towers
a couple of years ago. For bin Laden and his devotees,
Iraq is better than Disneyland.
For all the pomp and circumstance that has surrounded
the extraction of the former Iraqi dictator from
a hole in the ground, the reality is that the
United States is not one bit safer now that the
man is in chains.
There will be no trial for Hussein, at least nothing
in public, because he might start shouting about
the back pay he is owed from his days as an employee
of the American government. Because another former
employee of the American government named Osama
is still alive and free, our troops are still
in mortal danger in Iraq.
Hussein was never a threat to the United States.
His capture means nothing to the safety and security
of the American people. The money we spent to
put the bag on him might have gone towards capturing
bin Laden, who is a threat, but that did not happen.
We can be happy for the people of Iraq, because
their Hussein problem is over. Here in America,
our Hussein problem is just beginning. The other
problem, that Osama fellow we should have been
trying to capture this whole time, remains perched
over our door like the raven.
William Rivers Pitt is the Managing Editor of
truthout.org. He is a New York Times and international
best-selling author of three books - "War
On Iraq," available from Context Books, "The
Greatest Sedition is Silence," available
from Pluto Press, and "Our Flag, Too: The
Paradox of Patriotism," available in August
from Context Books.
Posted: December 15, 2003