With Saddam's death not yet confirmed (as this column goes to print), where is Meinhardt Raabe when we need him? Mr. Raabe played the part of the Munchkin coroner in "The Wizard of Oz" <buy movie>, who, after observing the Wicked Witch of the East under Dorothy's house, famously sang: "As coroner, I must aver, I thoroughly examined her, And she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead." We need a statement like that for Saddam. But if, as was reported Monday night, Saddam et fils were vaporized into dust, I suppose we may never be able to prove them dead at all. Which brings us to the trickiest decision of the war now facing the president: Whether, when and how to declare victory. When I mentioned to a White House staffer a few days ago that I was looking forward to the victory parade down Constitution Avenue (as we had in 1991 after the first Persian Gulf War), he scrunched his nose, telling me that would offend the Arab world. I hope that is not the considered and final opinion of the Administration.
I don't want to offend the Arab world, and I understand why our soldiers were instructed not to display the American Flag on Iraqi soil and recognize the larger international political objectives for which the war fighting was merely the predicate. I can be as sophisticated, analytical, knowingly skeptical and as aware of the great dangers and challenges facing us in the Middle East as the next Washington commentator. But this is a human moment -- and we need to act like humans, not just calculating analysts. Something magnificent has been accomplished by the courage and skill of our military people. We need to make vivid and memorialize something beyond individual impressions and opinions. This is a moment of collective reality that should be described and understood. Importantly, there should be an act of catharsis: a purification that brings about spiritual renewal.
But, it seems as if the rolling start to the war will be mirrored by a rolling end -- the birth of a new government emerging, blade-by-blade, from the decaying corpse of the old. I suspect there may be genius in this plan. The absence of apparent historic discontinuities minimizes the psychological opportunities for resistance. Iraqis just keep going to bed and getting up as, seamlessly, democracy emerges. It is the obliteration of history -- even as we are making history. Brilliant. Bizarre. Disconcerting.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.