SADDAM Hussein, the dictator of Iraq who sowed fear, terror and violence in his country for more than 24 years, has finally been captured. Unlike his sons Qusay and Uday, who chose to fight it out and died in a blaze of gunfire, Saddam gave up meekly to American forces in his hometown of Tikrit. Probably he was taken entirely by surprise. Or probably he realized that any resistance would be useless.
Saddam's capture should help stabilize the situation in Iraq, but it will not mean an immediate end to the resistance being put up by Iraqi groups to the American occupying forces. His arrest has taken out a tyrant who could be a rallying point of a movement for the return of the despotic regime. It has also taken out a source of financing for the Iraqi terrorist attacks.
Saddam's capture may have some immediate international economic implications. It may result in fewer sabotage attacks along Iraq's vital northern oil pipeline and allow Baghdad to increase its oil supplies to the world market. With an increase in Iraq oil exports, international oil prices might soften. This would benefit developing countries like the Philippines that use a lot of oil for transportation and industry. The revenue from increased oil exports would also help fund the reconstruction of Iraq.
Saddam's capture will benefit US President George W. Bush, who is running for reelection. It will boost his position after the United States' failure in Afghanistan and the hundreds of deaths that the US forces have suffered after their supposed victory in Iraq.
Bush has realistic expectations about Iraq. He said that with Saddam's capture, he did not expect the violence in the country to stop. The resistance to the American occupation comes not only from the Saddam loyalist forces but also from Iraqi and Arab mujahideen who do not want any foreign forces to remain on their native soil. Mustafa Alani, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said he expected the Iraqi resistance to now have a more nationalist dimension.
The preferable course of action would be to restore peace and order throughout Iraq and then turn over the reins of government to responsible and freedom-loving Iraqis. But this is easier said than done. There are 15 to 30 groups that were not under Saddam's control or influence, and they can be expected to continue their attacks on the American forces.
Toby Dodge, an analyst at Britain's Warwick University and International Institute for Strategic Studies, says one option for Bush is to call it a victory and cut and run. But an immediate withdrawal by allied forces, he says, would be a disaster for Iraq, for the Middle East and for the strategic interests of the US in the region and beyond.
This seems to be a fair assessment. The US and its allies have the moral responsibility to see to it that the foundations for long-term stability are laid in Iraq.
There is no doubt that the capture of Saddam is an intelligence and propaganda coup. It comes as a timely morale booster for the American troops who have suffered hundreds of casualties after the fighting in Iraq supposedly ended. It is a psychological turning point in the continuing conflict in Iraq. But it should not stop the US and its allies from continuing with their work of pacification and reconstruction in the war-devastated country. It will take some time to set up democratic structures and to choose the people who will run the new government.
Then there is the matter of putting Saddam on public trial. Ahmad Chalabi, a member of Iraq's Governing Council, says Saddam has to stand a public trial so that the Iraqi people would know his crimes. Saddam, the butcher of Iraq, has committed many crimes against his people; there can be no real closure to the long, dark regime of the dictatorship until justice has been meted out to him.
The world will now await the next move of the United States and its allies. The situation in Iraq will stabilize somewhat but much still has to be done to return it to normality and to insure that despotism in whatever form will not return to repress, terrorize and brutalize its people. Sovereignty has to be returned to the Iraqi people but it should be done under the best possible conditions.
source: inquirer.net, Sunday Dec14 2003
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