The Dartmouth Observer
Thursday, April 03, 2003
Today marks the fifteenth day of Saddam Hussein's conspicuous absence. The dictator has not been spotted since the war started with a missile attack on a command site where (and the Pentagon seems uniquely confident in this intelligence) Hussein and his cronies were meeting. Some speeches by Saddam have been shown on Iraqi TV, but none that could not have been pre-recorded. Even more noticably, Iraqi TV reneged earlier this week on a promise to televise a live address by Saddam; a minister gave the speech instead, claiming that Saddam wrote it (though this too is doubtful, since veteran Hussein observers noted that this diatribe was better-written than Saddam's typical ravings).
With each day that passes, it seems more and more likely that Hussein was either killed or incapacitated by the coalition strike. After all, the only force holding many Iraqi fighters in the ranks is their mortal fear of Saddam. Knowing this, if I was Saddam [shudders...], I would want my ugly mug on Iraqi TV 24/7 - just to make sure that everyone knew Big Brother was still watching. The fact that Hussein hasn't once tried to demonstrate that he is, in fact, alive seems to suggest that the contrary may be true. Even Iraq's ambassador to the U.N. was cornered by reporters into admitting that he himself had neither spoken with Saddam since the attack nor been told that Hussein lived through it.
The ethics of targeting the Iraqi leadership (read: assassination) aside - that subject would fill books - killing Saddam would be a major blow against the Republican Guard, and might be enough to bring about a surrender. Iraq's newly-conscripted irregulars certainly have no desire to give their lives for a dead leader, who will hardly be seen as a martyr. Saddam's death would strike at the apparatus of terror that currently props up the Iraqi resistance: here's a kalashnikov with no bullets, now go stand on the front lines or we kill your family. Perhaps most importantly, it would allow ordinary Iraqis to cooperate with our troops without fear of reprisal - even in towns controlled by the coalition, reporters note again and again that the citizens are afraid even to be seen talking with Western soldiers, lest the Butcher somehow survive and execute the invasion sympathizers. (The fact that this fear is rooted in the purges that occured after coalition forces withdrew from Iraq after the first Gulf War - with Saddam still holding power - should be a point of shame for America. Now more than ever it seems we should have ended Saddam's regime the first time around, rather than comdemning Iraq to another decade of murder and our own nation to another costly war.)
If Saddam will not (or perhaps cannot) show he is alive, we ought to trumpet that fact and use it to our fullest advantage. Iraqis ought to know that there is no one at the helm of the terror state, and that knowledge just might accelerate the conclusion of this war.