U.S. forces capture Saddam Hussein. saddam.jpg Iraqis react: When videotape of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was shown at a coalition news conference Sunday, several Iraqi journalists jumped to their feet, waved their arms and shouted “Death to Saddam!” in Arabic. Iraqi officials hailed the news and promised to bring Saddam before a special war ...
When videotape of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was shown at a coalition news conference Sunday, several Iraqi journalists jumped to their feet, waved their arms and shouted “Death to Saddam!” in Arabic. Iraqi officials hailed the news and promised to bring Saddam before a special war crimes court. Shortly after word leaked out about the capture, hundreds of Iraqis flooded the streets of Baghdad, firing guns into the air, singing, dancing and throwing candy into the air — celebrating the apparent capture of the man who had ruled their lives with terror and repression for more than three decades. “I’m very happy for the Iraqi people. Life is going to be safer now,” said 35-year-old Yehya Hassan, a resident of Baghdad, told The Associated Press. “Now we can start a new beginning.” Earlier in the day, rumors of the capture sent people streaming into the streets of Kirkuk, a northern Iraqi city, firing guns in the air in celebration. “We are celebrating like it’s a wedding,” Kirkuk resident Mustapha Sheriff told AP. “We are finally rid of that criminal.” “This is the joy of a lifetime,” said Ali Al-Bashiri, another resident. “I am speaking on behalf of all the people that suffered under his rule.”
Congratulations to all those involved in the capture. More blogosphere reaction from Glenn Reynolds, the Command Post, and Indepundit. And Josh Chafetz links to this video of Iraqi reaction. One last thought: in dealing with the insurgency within Iraq, it’s much better that Saddam was captured in this fashion rather than killed. It goes to a point I made in March with regard to Al Qaeda:
In general, embarrassment is a much more effective method than decapitation to destroying terrorist networks. The key to destroying such groups is to eliminate recruitment by spreading the perception that the group is ineffective. Capturing terrorist leaders and publishing photos that make them look like death warmed over is the most effective way to do this.
Lee Harris makes a similar point:
As fallen dictators go, Saddam is lucky. He was not strung up and spat upon by the mob, as Mussolini was, but taken out of his squalid little hole, cleaned up and shaved, and is now, no doubt, sitting somewhere quite warm and safe, and most of all, alive. Thank God. I say this, not because I have a soft spot in my heart for ruthless tyrants, but because only a living, breathing Saddam Hussein has the power to destroy the illusionary Saddam Hussein that, like The Wizard of Oz, seemed so vastly greater than life size to those whom he had so long terrorized. Just as Dorothy and her friends needed to see the small and insignificant little man feverishly manipulating the switches and pulleys behind curtain, in order to free their minds once and for all of the image of the omnipotent and angry Oz, so the Iraqi people needed to see the small and insignificant little man who had haunted their collective psyche, and who would have continued to haunt it for as long as it was possible for the Iraqis to imagine that, one day, he would return. That fantasy is now dead, once and for all.
Too bad they shaved his beard. Well, this anecdote makes him look cowardly as well. UPDATE: Time is all over this story. Here’s their cover story package — with lots of detail about the capture. There is a follow-up report on the first day of interrogation. Some intriguing details:
Along with the $750,000 in cash, two AK 47 machine guns and pistol found with Saddam, the U.S. intelligence official confirmed that operatives found a briefcase with Saddam that contained a letter from a Baghdad resistance leader. Contained in the message, the official said, were the minutes from a meeting of a number of resistance leaders who came together in the capital. The official said the names found on this piece of paper will be valuable and could lead to the capture of insurgency leaders around the Sunni Triangle. The official said it may soon be clear how much command and control over the insurgency Saddam actually had while he was in hiding. “We can now determine,” he said, “if he is the mastermind of everything or not.” The official elaborated: “Have we actually cut the head of the snake or is he just an idiot hiding in a hole?”
Finally, President Bush gets the final words today, from his address to the nation:
I also have a message for all Americans. The capture of Saddam Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq. We still face terrorists who would rather go on killing the innocent than accept the rise of liberty in the heart of the Middle East. Such men are a direct threat to the American people, and they will be defeated. We’ve come to this moment through patience and resolve and focussed action. And that is our strategy moving forward. The war on terror is a different kind of war, waged capture by capture, cell by cell, and victory by victory. Our security is assured by our perseverance and by our sure belief in the success of liberty. And the United States of America will not relent until this war is won.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and the author of The Ideas Industry. Twitter: @dandrezner
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