Talk about going down in a blaze of glory.
Despite Saddam Hussein's stated intention to resist the U.S.-led coalition, the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division found him in a 6-foot by 8-foot "spider hole" just large enough for a man to lie down, 10 miles south of Tikrit, Saddam's ancestral home. Not only did he reportedly surrender meekly, though armed with a pistol, he identified himself as "president of Iraq" and stated that he wished to "negotiate."
The disheveled and unkempt image of Saddam flashed through the airwaves and, most importantly, throughout the Arab world. Imagine the reaction to the U.S. military surgeon examining Saddam's hair for lice, and then checking his teeth, the patient meekly subjecting himself to the humiliating inspection.
"How confident are you that the U.S. will capture or kill Saddam Hussein?" asked a recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll. Fifty percent of Americans said, "Not too confident," or "Not confident at all." Small wonder. Democratic presidential contender Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in a recent Rolling Stone article, tried to excuse his vote for the Iraq war resolution because, as he put it, he failed to realize how badly Bush would "f---" it up.
The Democratic presidential candidates bombarded Americans with the refrain, "We can't find Saddam Hussein. We can't find weapons of mass destruction."
Never mind the interim report by Bush's envoy, David Kay, whose investigation left no doubt that Saddam Hussein continued a clandestine program to develop chemical and biological weapons. This report also left no doubt that Saddam Hussein stood in violation of United Nations resolutions, including his attempt to purchase $10 million worth of military equipment from North Korea.
With the last quarter GDP growth higher than at any time in nearly 20 years, and with productivity up and jobs coming back, the Democratic candidates harped on Bush's failure to capture Saddam Hussein. They accused the president of ineptitude, incompetence, lack of focus, lack of follow-through and lack of success.
Presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark, in one recent debate, stated, "President Bush said he was going to get Osama bin Laden dead or alive. Instead, he went after Saddam Hussein. He doesn't have either one of them today." At a previous debate, "candidate" Reverend Al Sharpton intoned, "Mr. Bush will not be in a Sharpton administration the head of missing persons. He can't find bin Laden. We don't know if Hussein is living or dead, and we can't find the weapons of mass destruction."
Former Vice President Al Gore just endorsed anti-war candidate and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. Bad timing. But somehow, expect Gore to spin Saddam's capture his way. One can almost hear "Saturday Night Live" comedian Darrell Hammond imitating Gore: "Let me tell you about a friend of mine. They found him in a hole in Tikrit. He hadn't slept in the same bed in 10 months. Clearly in need of medical attention, he lived in soiled clothing, his hair covered with lice. As you can imagine, Saddam Hussein's prescription drug costs were sky-high. Under the Democratic plan, his medical care would be completely covered. Under the Republican plan, they'd arrest him and try him as a war criminal."
Dean recently urged a more "even-handed" approach in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Well, guess where the news of Hussein's capture produced some of the saddest faces -- Gaza and the West Bank. The capture of the dictator, who launched scud missiles at Israel, now cuts off the $25,000 payments to Palestinian families of "homicide" bombers.
Celebrity anti-war protestors like Mike Farrell supported President Clinton's war in Kosovo, waged for humanitarian purposes, despite Clinton's lack of a congressional or U.N. resolution. Clinton implied "tens of thousands" of lives lost, but later reports placed the number at less than 5,000. Meanwhile, murders under the Saddam Hussein regime range from 300,000 to perhaps a million! Yet the same military-for-humanitarian-purposes crowd denounces the Bush effort in Iraq. Consistency, anyone?
The War on Terror continues, for Iraq remains simply one of many fronts. Now, some Iraqis, previously reluctant to cooperate with the U.S.-led coalition for fear of a possible return of the Saddam regime, may now cooperate. The capture of Hussein also sends a message about our resolve to Osama bin Laden, and to terrorist-supporting governments like Syria and Iran.
We intend to stay in Iraq and assist in forming a representational government likely to produce stability and economic success for the Iraqi people. Such a government, amid a sea of repressive, unproductive totalitarianism, may well prove more infectious and threatening than any weapons of mass destruction. Democracy may be coming to a theater near you -- in the Middle East.