hanging by a moment

Having reached my 7th year more or less in St. Louis, an event has occurred (a Special Report at CNN) which causes me to reflect upon a rather memorable event from one of my first visits to St. Louis. Now, it is related with Iraq and Saddam Hussein and the Bush family and so forth, but this isn't a post on our current Iraq policy. That can be summed up pretty simply by stating it's an unmitigated disaster whose perpetrators should be impeached and investigated for violating several criminal statutes.

No, the hanging of Saddam Hussein actually brings back a rather fun, almost jovial feeling of a long-lasting discussion that my old debate partner and I started on a trip to St. Louis in high school the first time we qualified to nationals.

You see, Brian made some offhand claim about how Bush won the Gulf War, and me, largely just being smart, said not so fast, he really didn't win anything. We having nothing but a car ride ahead of us (like my school would fly us anywhere we could drive to), and Brian having already read the Cosmo quizzes from Mrs. Hale's magazines, fleshed this out a bit over the next hour or so, and as is the tendency, one starts to grow an affection for the merits of a position sustained for so long.

On the surface obviously, Saddam lost. His military was destroyed, sovereignty overran by years of US fighter jet sorties, and crippling sanctions enacted (well, crippling for poor Iraqis, at least). But scratch that surface, and look what happened. Bush lost the presidency. A generation of operatives ready for complete conservative dominance of governance was swept aside. Meanwhile, Hussein, while having lost offensive military capabilities, gained other forms of respect and power in the Arab world. His became the country that suffered at the hands of US-led sanctions. He became an important wedge between countries that wanted trade, like France and Russia, and those that wanted regime change, like the United States. And, absent massive disenfranchisement of huge numbers of black people, very shady post-election maneuvering in a state controlled by a Bush, and a remarkable, coincidental party-line vote, he would have seen the thwarting of the next generation of Bushies.

With another Bush in the White House, and lots of Reagan/Bush personnel in key positions, Saddam was due for another obvious setback. It's hard to argue that being executed is kind of the ultimate loss. And yet, scratch that surface, and Bush managed to end Hussein in a way that just about elevated his legacy as high as possible considering that he was, in fact, a hated dictator and perpetrator of war crimes. My goodness, Saddam is going to be remembered not for looking hollow and defeated in a legitimate court of law for his most serious crimes against humanity, but rather for valiantly fighting for his country against a hated invasion force. He wasn't kept from a trial because he got old and decrepit and developed serious health problems. He was denied justice under the law in a state able to not only claim injustices against him but even press his case in the very moments before his execution. And of course, it's all caught on camera. The grainy, cell-phone variety that adds that bit of legitimacy you just don't get on the fancy expensive equipment.

Meanwhile, he has ensured that the Bush legacy, at best, will be a remarkable combination of hubris and ignorance, and more likely, one of the worst presidencies in the history of the republic. He quite possibly has prevented Jeb from getting a nomination any time soon, if ever. Even if the opinion doesn't gain widespread adoption, certainly a significant minority of Americans will view the Bush/Cheney Administration as the greatest traitors to the Constitution and war criminals in recent US history, perhaps ever. Conservative governance has been completely discredited, to the point that even massive vote tampering, fraud, and shady tactics couldn't stop a landslide Democratic victory in 2006. In the Arab world, meanwhile (and much of Europe and Asia, for that matter), Saddam Hussein has managed to make himself look like the victim here. He will be martyred and glorified by a not insignificant number of Arabs. How does a man responsible for tremendous human rights abuses and (at least) two strategically challenged military engagements pull that off, particularly when he was so close with the Reagan/Bush "infidels" in the first place?

Just throw in a little Bush. The family helped create an evil dictator (or two or three). And then they replaced him with a hero. Bravo, our fearless replace-the-Kennedys family. Bravo.

And Brian, you still think Bush won the Gulf War?

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At 1/03/2007 8:00 PM, Blogger Charles said...


I'd forgotten what a rabid anti-Bushie you are! As always, you are the master of super shortsightedness--like the rest of today and even into tomorrow. What is your plan for Islamists in 5 years? 10 Years? 25? 50? Just let them be? Perhaps if you want your grandchildren named Ali and Muhammed and your daughters wearing burkhas this whistling past the graveyard might be okay.

If not, buck up, and hang a bunch more.


At 1/04/2007 8:24 AM, Blogger Nathaniel said...

Excellent question. I would point out first, my post was largely about the past, not the future. The connections between the main Reagan/Bush people and autocrats in the Middle East is fact; it is a big part of problems we face even today. And this wasn't a policy post, but rather the natural end of a fun, long-standing debate between by debate partner and me. After all, we were discussing terrorism in the 1990s back when the Republicans were making fun of Clinton for starting to take the threats of foreign terrorism seriously; we were running disadvantages about Islamic terrorists stealing fissile material from Russia and finishing up the job they started in 1993. I would love to see evidence that the Bush team took terrorism seriously when they took over in 2001.

But for the future:

1) Stop shipping arms around the world. The Reagan/Bush Administration in particular (though certainly not uniquely) added massively to the supply of arms in the hands of violent groups, many of which happen to be in majority Islamic countries.

2) Cooperate with the rest of the world. Law enforcement and diplomacy, not military occupation, is how you stop criminal organizations (not to mention extend our prosperity through trade with other countries).

3) Don't interfere in intra-religious conflicts. Saddam Hussein, whatever his other drawbacks, was arguably our single biggest roadblock in the Middle East to the rise of violent Sunni groups like Al-Qaeda. They were enemies, Saddam being a secular dictator who, among other things, saw the value of individualism and equal opportunities for women. Between the Gulf War and the sanctions that followed, we drove Saddam to advance a more public religious posture. Even so, up to the very end, Iraq was a great buffer between the Islamists you seem so worried about. Invading Iraq has caused radical Islam to grow, not shrink.

4) Stop preaching fear. Americans are not being presented with honest policy options. We are being hyped up into such a frenzy that we can't think straight.

5) Reduce, not expand, the US footprint. We do not need many of the bases we have built around the world.

6) End the drug war. This is doing terrible things to our efforts to stop crime around the world.

7) End the shroud of secrecy that surrounds our government. Democracies require information. It is extremely dangerous the extent to which the current Administration withholds information from the public.

8) Impeach and prosecute the top officials responsible for the invasion of Iraq and the domestic spying programs. This would be a great signal to the rest of the world that no American is above the law.

9) Fix our voting system. Bush did not win the election, after all; he won the counting of the votes. It is outrageous that so many American voters are not counted every election cycle.

10) Make fighting crime about the professionals, not the politicians.

Those are the biggies at any rate.

At 1/05/2007 7:16 PM, Blogger Charles said...


Short answers to your Top 10 List:
(Jackass II calls)

1. Free markets work best. Even if its weapons.

2. Cooperate with the rest of the world? Would that be like cooperating with a 3 year old when they throw a tantrum?

3. UN mandate to take Saddam out. Isn't that cooperation enough?

4. Facts aren't the same thing as fear. Not having facts and being blindsided--that's something to be scared of.

5. Agreed.

6. I used to argue you a lot on this. I seem to be getting more liberatarian as I get older (not wiser). Almost agreed.

7. You have more info now at your fingertips than any person has ever had in the history of this world. Plus, you don't need to know everything that goes on in government. It would just scare you.

8. Whiny, peevish, and ludicrous.

9. Just whiny.

10. Fighting crime? Like Batman and Robin? This is more about Captain America and Nick Fury. But I doubt you know who I'm talking about.

I so want L. Johnson to shred Indy this weekend. I'm so very tired of the Dungy/Manning Show.



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