William F. Buckley

It is easy enough to dismiss the idea on the grounds that Saddam would never accept it. What does that matter? The value of an ultimatum does not rest solely on whether it is acceptable. It defines a position. The accommodationist forces are at high speed mobilizing opposition to a ground war conducted by the United States. One set of reasons against such a war is vivid and undeniable. There would be casualties, including civilian casualties. There would be reprisals, conceivably featuring Saddam's (to be sure, nonexistent) apocalyptic weapons.

So Saddam turns down the ultimatum. In reasonable moral arithmetic, it becomes Saddam who, by the single act of refusing to step down, brought on war.

Objections to the idea of a comfortable exile are not only those of people who are soft on Saddam. There is a substantial body of plaintiffs who bridle at the thought of Saddam and his retinue living out air-conditioned lives, immune from the consequences of the leader's long life of torture, terrorism and genocide. The point is respectable. We took some justified satisfaction from the hangings at Nuremberg. We are taking satisfaction, if interminably attenuated, from the ongoing trial of Milosevic.

And of course some satisfaction was taken, almost 200 years ago, from Napoleon's sheer removal from his cockpit of imperial power, and that kind of satisfaction could be had from moving Saddam away from his hundred castles, to a single castle, in whatever island or enclave. There he could move his head in distemper from compliant executioner to designated victim, having to choose not from 24 million people, but from the 100 courtiers who elected to accompany him to exile. After a while they would diminish in number, even as Napoleon's court dripped steadily away from St. Helena.

Perhaps the suggested terms of exit have been forwarded to Baghdad and are being perused. The offer, of course, must have put in place wiles and seducements, and here Mr. Bush could be inventive. There would be scant opposition. The United Nations would quickly grant amnesty, as requested, sparing the exiled Saddam from any interference from Spanish judges. The ultimatum must of course shrewdly opportunize on the matter of Saddam's entourage. Exile would not be appealing to those generals and janissaries in and around Baghdad. The ultimatum should therefore provide for segregated isolation, something of a kind that would induce the Brutuses in Baghdad to make their stand -- which, if boldly executed, would end the whole problem, even without having to air-condition St. Helena.


William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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