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Hussein's fate doesn't justify the war in Iraq
by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Miami Herald
December 19, 2003

It was, make no mistake, a very satisfying image.

Saddam Hussein, the erstwhile butcher of Baghdad, looking grizzled, frazzled and not unlike a homeless transient -- which, come to think of it, he was -- as he submitted to a medical examination, courtesy of his captors, the United States Army.

Iraq's former Fearless Leader was, we are told, plucked from a vermin-infested hole in the ground, an image that makes analogy superfluous. Though he was armed, this fellow who urged his followers to go out with guns blazing and whose sons died in just that manner, chose not to make a stand. Instead, he meekly surrendered, saying, incredibly, that he wished to negotiate.


Thus, the mighty fall. Thus, the grandiose become small.

As I said: a satisfying image.

The question of the week, however, seems to be whether it is satisfying enough to invalidate opposition to the war. Some pundits have suggested that it is. Indeed, Howard Dean made headlines simply for affirming that he still thinks invading Iraq was a bad idea -- a statement his fellow Democratic contenders for the presidency jumped on as a starving man does an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, for instance, suggested that Dean had ``climbed into his own spider hold of denial.''

But it's Lieberman -- and anyone else who thinks Hussein's humiliation validates the Iraq war -- who's in denial.

You feel like an ant at a picnic for pointing this out. Indeed, the only thing that might feel more awkward than standing aside from the celebratory conga line would be to join it. Because joining it requires one to conveniently forget that the reason we went to war was not to find Hussein, but to find weapons of mass destruction, which, we were told, represented a clear and present danger to our security. Those weapons are yet to be found, and the suspicion is strong that they simply do not exist, that calamitous failures of intelligence led the nation to spend time, treasure and lives on a war that did not need to be fought.


Whenever you make that point, people invariably respond that the world is a better place without Hussein in power. This is true.

It's also true that the world would be a better place without Kim Jong Il, Fidel Castro and Moammar Gadhafi in power.

So unless one is arguing for war with North Korea, Cuba and Libya, the caveat about Iraq is beside the point. Moreover, it's an after-the-fact obfuscation that fuels suspicion the president was disingenuous or misinformed when he made the case for war.

You think I'm wrong? I hope you're right.

Seriously. On this subject at least, nobody would eat crow more enthusiastically than I. Because from where I sit, this war looks like a bigger and bloodier mistake every day. We have grabbed the proverbial wolf by the ears and can't let go. Meanwhile, our stated goal in doing so is unrealized and largely forgotten.

History being written by the winners, maybe that won't matter much 10 years from now. Maybe it will be accepted as fact that we went to war primarily to liberate the Iraqi people.


Forgive me if I find that possibility disturbing. This whole business of attack now, pick a justification later, squanders American prestige and undermines American moral authority. As does the tendency on the part of the nation and its leaders to claim Iraq as part of the ''War on Terrorism,'' though there is, as of yet, no proven connection between Saddam Hussein and the events of Sept. 11.

Yes, it does the heart good to know one of the most brutal tyrants of modern times was found hiding in a hole with other rats. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

We ought not pretend, though, that it means more than it does.

The image satisfies. It does not justify.

Posted: December 20, 2003


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