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December 20, 2004

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I think much of Dowd's version is somewhat unrealistic, but this is crazy:

Once Hans Blix exposed the fact that Saddam had no weapons, the tyrant was a goner. No Arab dictator can afford to be humiliated by a Swedish disarmament lawyer.

In the Middle East after a Blix report showing no weapons (after much resistance to inspections from Saddam as seen by the Nov-Jan inspection period that he did allow) everyone--and especially the other Middle East tyrants--would assume that Saddam had just gamed the system yet again.

I agree about that being Dowd's weakest bit there. I was just delighted she had found some way to address Hussein. Without it, her version was easy to shoot down given that it's virtually tauntamont to treason to suggest that Hussein remaining in power was acceptable (despite other brutal dictators being acceptable for some reason).

The link to Dowd's piece is broken.

Hmmm..it just worked for me now...but here's the printable page.

Dowd's version is at least somewhat realistic; a Saddam without weapons (and knowing his conventional military strength was a hollow shell after Gulf War I) ceases to be a factor in the ME. He hasn't the capability to threaten his neighbors and his country remains the equivalent of a zoo animal.

Safire rehashes the old, tired GOP stereotypes: the UN is against us, all our allies are crooks or worse, Saddam and bin Laden are fraternity brothers, etc.

By the way, this isn't a hypothetical:

Having gloriously faced down the U.S. - and gaining greater financial and weaponry strength every day - Saddam becomes an iconic, heroic figure in the Arab and Muslim world. Through massive kickbacks and smuggling operations involving France, Russia and China, the murderous despot ensures U.N. protection from inspections.

This is pretty much what happened after the 1998 cruise missile attack.

OK, two can play that game, Sebastian, this too is pretty much undeniable: had we not invaded we'd find:

No American troops died or were maimed in Iraq. No American soldiers tortured Iraqis in Abu Ghraib. No Iraqi explosives fell into the hands of terrorists. ...We're not on the cusp of an Iraq run by Muslim clerics tied to Iran.

How 'bout if we consider MY counterfactual, where Bush invites Saddam over to Crawford in 2001, the two have a bonding experience, and Saddam becomes born-again and turns Iraq into a fundamentalist Christian theocracy?

If we didn't invade without good reason, we could never ever challenge Saddam in any way EVAR! Nurse! More applesauce! Damn the torpeodes!

Seb, it's a hypothetical that Bush would have had to come out of it looking like a coward. I mean, sure you could rely on the China spy plane debacle for precedent, but there's a world of options in between. As long as his country was crawling with inspectors, for example, he might not have looked like a conquering hero.

Clarence, to Rumsfeld: You weren't at that cabinet meeting the day after 9/11, so nobody suggested going after Saddam.

Except for George W. Bush.

This is pretty much what happened after the 1998 cruise missile attack.

You and Pat Buchanan agree. But not many others.

I read Dowd's as more lighthearted fantasy, and Safire's as more dark prediction. IOW, I think Safire takes his column more seriously than Dowd takes hers. I'm not sure if I had that reaction because of who they are, or who I am.

"As long as his country was crawling with inspectors, for example, he might not have looked like a conquering hero."

We don't need to talk about this as if it were a hypothetical. Saddam did in fact have his country crawling with inspectors, and he also in fact was celebrated as a hero throughout the Middle East for standing up to the US during the period from 1991 until the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

he also in fact was celebrated as a hero throughout the Middle East for standing up to the US during the period from 1991 until the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Cite?

I thought we chose Iraq to invade because Hussein was a pariah with no friends...who was "celebrating" his hero-hood?

and he also in fact was celebrated as a hero throughout the Middle East for standing up to the US during the period from 1991 until the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Why do I have the feeling this is going to be supported in much the same manner of an earlier claim the Sandinistas killed off their political opposition?

Here, I'll do the heavy lifting:

USIA World Reaction

Of all these op/eds, two portray Saddam as a "hero"--although the Kuwaiti paper calls Saddam "a filthy criminal."

Jadegold, what period did I suggest? 1991-2003. You are looking at a single moment in a single report? For years we heard about how much the Arab street lionized Saddam for standing up the the US.

Here is a retrospective look .

And another.

And a short paper

And a Pakistani article arguing that Saddam is no longer a hero to Muslims now that he has been captured (implying that he was before) here

BBC caption "Saddam's Hero-like image is destroyed"

According to the Times of India : "Describing former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's capture as the "blackest day for the Islamic world", the chief cleric of India's largest mosque said he would be remembered as the symbol of Islamic resistance."

According to USA Today:

Saddam was once applauded as a hero who stood up to the United States when no other Arab leader would. Today, Arabs increasingly portray him as a reckless despot who is not doing enough to save his people or his neighbors from a conflagration, and who has taken the region to war twice before.

Earlier this year, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi described Saddam as "insane" for invading Kuwait in 1990 and setting off the 1991 Gulf War.

Note that Arabs 'increasingly portray him as a reckless despot' when the US is about to invade, but before he was "applauded as a hero who stood up to the United States when no other Arab leader would." When was that? That would be the period after the 1991 Gulf War and before the 2003 invasion. It couldn't have been earlier. When did Saddam 'stand up to the United States' earlier?

A Reason article.

In the BBC:

Sanctions are crumbling, President Saddam says with confidence. And it is true, circumstances have worked to his advantage.

Popular hero

The current anti-Israeli and anti-American mood in the Arab world has revived memories of how the Iraqi leader challenged the West after his invasion of Kuwait and how he fired Scud missiles at Israel.

For this, he is a popular hero among disaffected Arabs everywhere, not least the Palestinians.

Sympathy for the plight of Iraq, which is seen in the Arab world as suffering at the hands of the West, is increasing.

He then tries to say that of course Saddam is a tyrant and what Palestinians really want is someone who will stand up from their rights, but not really Saddam. But doesn't really seem supported by the fact that many Palestinians seemed to like him just fine.

Jadegold, what period did I suggest? 1991-2003. You are looking at a single moment in a single report?

At 4:15, you suggested it was the 1998 attack that made him a hero. Later, you claimed it was 1991-2003.

I'd also note many of your cites counter the notion of Saddam as a hero in the ME. Most actually say he was reckless and/or a tyrant.

I'm sorry if I was unclear. Surviving the 1991 war made him a hero because he survived a direct clash with the US. 1998 confirmed again that he could win in a battle of wills against the US.

You use 'reckless' and 'tyrant' as if they were antonyms for 'hero'. Do you believe that is completely true in the Middle East?

This is an argument I heard a lot before the war:
"We have to go into the Middle East and punch someone in the mouth to show 'em all we mean business. That means getting Saddam, the most conspicuous rebel against U.S. authority."

This seems like a bizarre argument to use now. Punching the other guy in the mouth is only impressive if you don't break your hand in the process. Can anyone honestly say that our prestige in the Middle East has been increased by the debacle in Iraq? If I'm an Iranian mullah I'm thinking, "these guys can't even police a nation of 25 million and defeat a ragtag insurgency. No way they can handle us."

This is an argument I heard a lot before the war:

Cite?

If I'm an Iranian mullah I'm thinking,"these guys can't even police a nation of 25 million and defeat a ragtag insurgency. No way they can handle us."

Ofcourse that would only be plausible if the majority of Iranians were mullahs you speak of.

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