Hang Saddam and hang him high, and mark the execution of this genocidal megalomaniac as important justice done, no matter if his Baathist followers agonize and fight back while hundreds of thousands of Shiites pour into the streets with shouts of joy. The Nazis agonized when Adolf Hitler’s day was done, too. No surprise there.
Don’t suppose, though, that these unrepentant Baathists and various other terror-wielding, children-killing, freedom-strangling groups won’t put a Saddam Hussein lookalike in power again some day if U.S. policy becomes unduly influenced by those who think extreme difficulties in the Iraqi war require inflexible evacuation schedules instead of strategic and tactical recalculation.
Some say the fight there is lost already, or that the price of leaving pales beside the cost of staying much longer. They forget the troubles and mistakes of former wars — the Union’s dark days during our Civil War or devastating setbacks in World War II — and they neglect all the expert views of how a terrorist victory in Iraq will embolden and solidify the forces that brought us 9/11.
There could very probably be another cost if the United States withdraws its forces before a legitimate Iraqi government is in reasonable control of the country — genocide on a scale even beyond the mass murders that brought Saddam to this first trial and may bring him to another. It is morally imperative that we do our best to prevent such a catastrophe, just as it was initially more than justifiable that we intervened.
That position is denied, of course, by people who forget the agreement of the world’s best intelligence agencies that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, his history of using them in the past against fellow Iraqis, his evasion of U.N. resolutions and the U.N.’s own Genocide Convention vowing to “prevent and punish” Saddam-like atrocities in a way the court has now said it will punish Saddam if an appeals panel does not rule otherwise. The same people are likewise inclined to forget his well-documented links with and support of terrorists (even if he did not collaborate with al-Qaida on 9/11) or that he was sufficiently reckless to defy the United States before the first Gulf War and plot the assassination of a U.S. president.
From the start, there have been well-considered arguments against this war — predictions, for instance, that we would encounter exactly the sort of mess in Iraq’s divided, largely undeveloped, often fanatical, tribal society that we have encountered — along with a host of wild exaggerations, unfounded accusations of vile motives and administration lies and, at still further reaches, an anti-Americanism that sees our country as a graver threat to world peace than is posed by terrorists. Those embracing some of the least defensible of these anti-war arguments have shouted them from rooftops, and some of them are now contending that the conviction and sentencing of Saddam is more risk than accomplishment.
No, it is indeed an accomplishment, a consequence of judicatory due process made possible by the United States and its partners heroically rescuing a nation from unspeakably cruel, dictatorial mayhem, while simultaneously laying the groundwork for something lastingly positive in the Middle East. The best possibilities could be laid to rest through terrorist efforts and a U.S. change of heart, but those possibilities are not yet undone. Watch the cheering in Iraqi streets at the news of the sentencing, and you know as much.