contradictions about Saddam

Surfing the information overload cohering around the captured-Saddam story, I am struck by the contradictions that abound in evaluating what it all means. The political meme emerged on the Sunday talkshows and the pundit print media that the Democrats should simply give up against Bush, delivered without a trace of irony though the message last week was that Gore's endorsement of Dean somehow undercut democracy. If Gore was Dean's kingmaker, does that make Saddam Bush's?[1]

There's also contradiction regarding Saddam's role in the guerilla resistance. He was found sealed into in a hole without a single communication device, yet also had in possession a cache of documents including (reportedly) minutes of a meeting between guerrilla resistance leaders. So naturally FOX News takes this to mean Saddam was coordinating and funding the resistance. However, Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno (commander of the 4th Infantry Division), noting the lack of comm gear in Saddam's hideyhole, suggested that Saddam likely had only symbolic value to the resistance.

Regardless of whether Saddam is a symbol or the guiding hand, his capture would suggest that attacks would decrease. However, another contradiction: Kos points out a whole slew of new attacks, as does Juan Cole, and Riverbend notes that the capture may unite guerilla factions, who can agree on the common cause of sovereignity now that Saddam is moot.

And what about the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people? There are reports of jubilation at Saddam's capture, as we would expect - but also pro-Saddam demonstrations around Iraq (and in the US), including recent ones such as in Tikrit that was broken up by US tanks, another in Falluja where some demonstrators were killed by US troops, and another in Mosul (surprisingly) that ended with a truck explosion.

What effect will Saddam's capture have on the ultimate goal of Iraqi democracy? That hinges on how the capture is viewed and processed (politically speaking) by the Shi'a majority population. Juan Cole's wife offers the possibility that Shi'a resistance to occupation will increase, emboldened by the removal of the only force they ever feared. However, Syed Hassan al Naji, the Baghdad commander of Muqtada Sadr's militia "the Army of Mehdi", is quoted by CNN as proclaiming "We will be friends with the Americans because of this." And there's no word on reaction from Ayatollah Sistani, whose insistence on elections remains at odds with the Administration's favoritism of the "temporary" Governing Council - though SCIRI did organize marches in celebration.

My sole interest is in seeing the Administration leverage Saddam's capture towards the goal of Iraqi liberation, rather than domestic political gain. I see some positive signs of this, such as France and Germany's increased willingness to comply with debt amelioration (note that the issue of denial of contracts to those ocuntries was hardly a significant threat to them). But given the morass of contradictory claims and facts, it's hard to see what effect the capture will ultimately have - until it's all within the purview of history rather than news, at any rate.

[1] Saletan argues otherwise in Slate.

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