'Tis the season not to gloat, but...

Posted: Dec 17, 2003 12:00 AM

If you happen to go by the name of George W. Bush, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

The Dow Jones is holding above the 10,000 mark for the first time in 18 months. Economic growth is rocking along, the highest in 20 years. Saddam Hussein is in the bag.

Regardless of how one celebrates the season - to whatever God one prays (or not) - Saddam's capture, distilled, confirms one of life's great mythic truths: Good ultimately triumphs over evil.

Few would question Saddam's evil. His history of torture and murder is legendary. Even those who opposed the war grudgingly admit that capturing Saddam wasn't a bad thing, though some nearly choked saying so.

My favorite quote, posted by Andrew Sullivan on his blog (andrewsullivan.com), came from a poster on Howard Dean's campaign blog: "I can't believe this," wrote Carrie B. "I'm crying here. I feel that we now don't have a chance in this election."

Never mind that the man who used children as mine sweeps - and whose instruments of torture and death included plastic shredders - is no longer a menace to his nation or neighbors. What's most important is how Saddam's fate affects Dean's campaign for the presidency?

Though Dean himself suggests no such thing - he congratulated the U.S. military, while standing firmly against the war - Carrie B. unfortunately is not a lone voice.

In the hours and days following Saddam's capture, Bush's foes and some of his political opponents have joined the "yes, but" chorus. Some of the more extreme Bush-haters, many of whom belong to the we-deserved-it school of self-loathing, continue to insist that Bush is every bit as evil as Saddam, and that we had no business in Iraq.

When a reporter asked Bush Monday whether in retrospect he thought he should have emphasized the goal of democratizing Iraq instead of the threat of weapons of mass destruction, Bush patiently walked him through post-9/11 history and our necessary attention to any gathering threat.

To recap: Saddam ignored 12 years of U.N. demands and 17 resolutions; he used chemical weapons against his own people; he invaded another country. He was, therefore, a threat of unknowable dimension.

Significantly, though Bush didn't mention it Monday, every Western country, including those that declined to participate in Saddam's overthrow - and nearly everyone, including most of the Democratic presidential candidates - believed that Saddam was pursuing a program of weapons of mass destruction.

Finally, Bush noted that when he went to the U.N. and secured passage of Resolution 1441 - disarm or face serious consequences - the U.N. clearly agreed that Saddam was a threat.

Saddam Hussein himself was a weapon of mass destruction.

Anyone who doubts America's rightful claim to goodness need look no further than the evil one himself. Saddam Hussein may be a tyrant, a murderer, a dictator, a torturer, a bully and a coward, but he's no fool. In captivity, face-to-face with his fellow countrymen, to whom does Saddam look for protection? Not to his own people, but to us.

In a Reuters story from Baghdad on Monday, an Iraqi official described Saddam as a broken man who sought the mercy of Americans.

"When we were asking him difficult questions and throwing accusations, reminding him of his crimes, he was looking at Ambassador (Paul) Bremer and General (Ricardo) Sanchez, as if he was asking the Americans to protect him," Muwaffaq al-Rubaiye, a member of Iraq's Governing Council, was quoted as saying.

"He felt safer with the Americans."

And why would that be? Because we're murdering, immoral, invading, occupying evildoers? Or because Americans are known to be decent, generous, fair-minded and trustworthy. Even the lowest slime seeks higher ground when his survival depends on it.

How ironic that Saddam sees what even some Americans can't or won't see, that we are the good guys. That in a contest of moral rectitude, even in war, we have few if any peers. This isn't just gratuitous chest beating, but a statement of fact as demonstrated repeatedly by our men and women in the armed forces, often to their own detriment.

What did the soldiers say when they pulled Saddam out of his rat hole? Just a few polite words: "Regards from President Bush."

What goes around comes around, they say, and history has proven the maxim true. As well as this: Evil begets evil, and good eventually comes to good. In other words, Merry Christmas, Iraq.

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