It would seem difficult to find a negative in the capture of Saddam Hussein. Yet, a number of commentators argue that Saddam’s capture, and particularly his disheveled, pathetic appearance at the hands of his captors—he looked like a wino who had been sleeping under bridges—will inflame the “Arab street” and create a backlash against the United States. This criticism is not just unfair and flawed, but shortsighted.
The U.S. military believed that for credibility’s sake it had no choice but to first show video of Saddam in his captured condition, before releasing footage of a cleaned up Saddam. And, of course, Saddam’s unkempt appearance was his own doing. Moreover, each time the United States nabs a terrorist there is worry that the Arab street will rise up, which it sometimes does. However, that hardly means that these people should not be apprehended. Tragically, many Arabs consider Saddam and Osama Bin Laden to be heroes. Of course, they are not heroes but murderers—Saddam is literally responsible for the deaths of more Muslims than any other man walking the face of the earth today.
Yet, those concerned about Arab reaction to Saddam’s capture need to consider a key factor—namely, how the capture may be impacting some of the world’s worst dictators. Indeed, his capture may be causing cowering and cooperation among the likes of hideous North Korean despot Kim Jong Il and Libyan dictator Moammar Kaddafi.
Kim Jong Il is a man whose economic policies led to the starvation of 15% of his country’s population (2 to 3 million people) from 1995 to 1998. His public schools teach North Korean children that he does not defecate and that a new star appeared in the sky the day he was born. In a sign of both utter insanity and cruelty, Kim removes triplets from North Korean moms and dads out of fear that one of those triplets will one day remove him. He directs the nation’s scarce resources into a nuclear weapons program that he promised not to develop—a program he partly funds with opium grown on precious farm acreage, partly from counterfeit U.S. currency, and partly from missile sales to the world’s worst regimes. And yet, he has not been seen since October. He is hiding somewhere with a supply of Hennessy Cognac (of which he is the world’s top purchaser) and a bevy of personal blondes. According to reports, he is afraid of unmanned U.S. drone aircraft, supposedly hovering silently in the North Korean night looking to kill him.
We all know Kaddafi’s story. He was the world’s most-wanted terrorist throughout the 1980s. The administration of Ronald Reagan ordered the bombing of his home in April 1986 in an attempt to assassinate him. In recent years, Kaddafi has tried to reinvent himself—a campaign for a sort of kinder, gentler Moammar. But Kaddafi’s friendlier machinations in recent times were nothing compared to the peace overture offered by the dictator last week. In a stunning move, Kaddafi announced on Friday that his nation would give up any weapons of mass destruction and related programs, even agreeing to full inspections of “nuclear activities” by the United Nations. The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a thrilled Mohammed El-Baradei, says inspections could begin as early as next week.
In other words, less than a week after Saddam was apprehended, Kaddafi offered to do what Saddam refused to do. For 20 years, using sanctions and negotiations, the international community tried to get Kaddafi to disarm. He refused. Alas, just five days after the announcement of Saddam’s capture, he is finally complying.
Did the pursuit of Saddam, and his ultimate capture, cause Kim and Moammar to cower and cooperate? Maybe, maybe not—though the timing is rather remarkable. One thing is certain: Saddam’s seizure has not caused these men to rush into the middle of the busiest street in their respective capitals, firing guns into the air and yelling “death to Bush.” Quite the contrary: One is hiding; the other is negotiating.
So, here’s the state of the world since September 11: The world’s worst dictator, Saddam, is under arrest. The world’s most misogynistic regime, the Taliban, is long gone. There are actually prospects for democracy in no less than Iraq and Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden is hiding in fear for his life, as is Kim Jong Il. Kaddafi is Mr. Let’s Talk. And, incredibly, there have been no major terrorist attacks in the United States. The world is a much better place. And in the utmost irony, who compelled George W. Bush to try to prompt some of these changes’ Osama Bin Laden. Imagine that. Merry Christmas.