As the British used to say: “The King is dead, long live the King.”
Yes, they’ve killed Saddam, a figure who faded curiously fast both from history and from any relevance to the maelstrom that currently is Iraq. And doubtless Tony Snow will sally forth with some chortling statement about how the U.S. has made one step for freedom, one small step for human kind. But it will be irrelevant, just as Saddam himself became irrelevant almost from the moment he was toppled. It is both curious and tragic that just as the former tyrant has faded from the stage of history, so the U.S. has faded as a decisive player in Iraq. We no longer matter there. If our troops are there insurgents would just as soon kill them. But when our troops are gone they will move on and kill some other perceived ethnic or religious enemy. They are now just thugs with a grievance and the means to express it through acts of torture and murder. We are mere foils or props for their rage.
And we should make no mistake. Saddam’s death by now is a mere irrelevancy. What is far more telling and important is the tyrants in waiting in their hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands whom we are creating with our hateful policies throughout the world, but especially in the Mideast.
And while we’re talking about bad guys, thanks to Jason Truesdell for pointing me to this terrific find from TPMuckraker. CNN interviewed Homeland Security Advisor Frances Fragos Townsend. Its White House correspondent, Ed Henry, posed to her the eternal nagging Osama question:
HENRY: You know, going back to September 2001, the president said, dead or alive, we’re going to get him. Still don’t have him. I know you are saying there’s successes on the war on terror, and there have been. That’s a failure.
That matter has been raised a million times or more and always answered in the same dull, unresponsive way. But Townsend, to her questionable credit, put a whole new spin on it with her highly “creative” answer:
TOWNSEND: Well, I’m not sure — it’s a success that hasn’t occurred yet. I don’t know that I view that as a failure.
Yes indeed. We may not have gotten Osama yet. But that’s no failure. It’s merely a success waiting to happen. That’s deep, mighty deep. I think even old Kant would have trouble parsing that one. Or as Jason wrote me: “I thought Orwell was supposed to be a warning, not a source of inspiration.”
For some odd reason, it brought to mind an old Jewish joke about a Jew who reads in the paper about the huge lottery jackpot. He begins thinking about all the wonderful good deeds he can perform for his synagogue and the community with his winnings. But each week he looks for the winner’s name and it isn’t his. Finally, in frustration he cries out to God: “Lord, I only wanted this for You. Why have you denied me?” A startled and put-out God replies: “Itzik, buy a ticket.”
The problem with the Bushites is that they refuse to buy a ticket or even play by the rules. Rather, they make up the rules and expect reality will conform with them. To their chagrin, reality has stopped conforming to their expectations making for very messy times.
Dan Sniderman says
If you believe, as I do, that Capital Punishment is wrong, then it is as wrong for the guy who killed a convenience store worker to get money to feed his family as it is for Sadaam Hussein. I am saddened whenver I hear of an execution regardless of was killed… And I wouldn’t say the death is completely irrelevant – I’m sure to many of the Sunni insurgents, Sadaam is now a martyr and they will be only more dedicated to the cause of killing Americans and Shiites…
Marc Silverstein says
Couldn’t agree with you more Dan. Happy New Year!
Jonathan Rosenblum says
Saddam Hussein’s death by hanging came too late to provide much satisfaction – too late for the hundreds of thousands of human beings killed on his orders – hundreds at his own hands. The taking of his miserable life can neither bring back the lives he so callously snuffed out nor compensate for them.
Still, there was rejoicing at the sight of Saddam on the gallows, though personally I would have been far happier had he fallen into one of the meat grinders into which he, and his equally sadistic sons Uday and Qusai, dropped so many of his subjects.
My satisfaction has nothing to do with bloodlust. I would not have been one of the thousands of Iraqis vying for the post of Saddam’s executioner. Rather it derives from being witness to the turning of the wheels of Divine Justice. The Midrash states that the Divine throne only became firmly established in the world when the Jewish people sang God’s praises at the Sea. Their joyous song was a consequence of watching the precision with which the suffering of each drowning Egyptian was meted out: The Egyptians either died instantaneously or slowly and painfully, according to the degree with which they had afflicted the Jews in Egypt.
Divine vengeance, then, is the righting of an imbalance in the world, and refers equally to the punishment of the wicked and the reward of the righteous. When we merit witnessing the enactment of justice, our belief that there is both Justice and a Judge is strengthened.
Three times daily, we call in our prayers for God to “destroy speedily all His enemies.” Can there be a greater enemy of God than one who murders hundreds of thousands of His creations? From the beginning of human history, God proclaimed the rule, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6).
NEEDLESS TO say much of the world does not view matters as I do. And I don’t just mean the Palestinians who benefited from Saddam’s generous subsidies to the families of suicide bombers or to Saddam’s erstwhile partner in various oil scams, the notorious Russian xenophobe Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The latter labeled Saddam’s execution “the greatest crime of the 21st century.” The so-called civilized world joined in the chorus of condemnation. The European Union and its member states expressed their repugnance at the imposition of the death penalty in all circumstances. Tim Hames, writing in the The Times of London, went so far as to proclaim Saddam’s execution “as ethically tainted as the crimes that produced that sentence.”
Following that logic, the execution of Nazi war criminals tried at Nuremberg was as “ethically tainted” as Hitler’s crimes. Those who hold that position no doubt are convinced of their superior humanity. To my mind, however, the opposite is true. Their narcissistic back-patting partakes of a certain inhuman coldness.
The critics refuse to enter imaginatively into the world of Saddam’s victims and to contemplate the true nature of his evil. They do not wish to contemplate what it is like to be a parent forced to watch your child tortured to extract your “confession,” what it is like to spend your entire life afraid to enter into an intimate conversation with another human being for fear that he or she might be one of Saddam’s informers, what it is like to have parents, siblings or children taken away in the middle of the night, never to be seen again. And then multiply such scenarios millions of times of over.
During Saddam’s 23-year reign of terror, nearly 300,000 Iraqis disappeared – more than 12,000 a year, 240 a week. And that number does not even include the hundreds of Iraqi athletes crippled and maimed for life in Uday Hussein’s torture chambers for failing to bring sufficient glory to the regime, or the thousands of girls seized off the streets to satisfy the lusts of the Husseins.
Richard Silverstein says
You’re conveniently neglecting the midrash which describes the angels rejoicing in the deaths of the Egyptians and God telling them: “Quiet, my children are drowning and you rejoice!” Unlike you, a finite and imperfect being, God does not relish even the death of the wicked.
In all yr hankering for justice, divine or otherwise, you forget that there is another quality in Judaism–mercy. And God has mercy even on the wicked. And even were God to approve of Saddam’s execution, he would never have approved of the way in which his creatures carried it out. The trial was a laughingstock and should’ve been conducted in the Hague for international credibility. The execution itself was a mockery of everything decent and humane. No human being–not even Hitler himself would’ve deserved getting figuratively spat upon before dropping through a trap door to his death. It was a pitiful travesty of justice.
Another midrash you’ve conveniently neglected is the one that warns against a world solely conducted according to the spirit of justice for that would be a world of utter chaos. It also warns against a world conducted solely according to mercy. There is a fine balancing act between the two poles that must be adhered to. Your world, sir, is meant for chaos.
And tell me this. God knows that almost as many Iraqis have been killed during and since the Iraq war as were killed during Saddam’s reign. Does God approve of this too? None of us like Saddam’s reign and most people were happy to see him go. But to leave a wicked maelstrom in his wake as Bush has done is criminal at best. It appears we will have many more years of chaos & killing to come. All due to your version of strict justice. All due to George Bush’s imperious unilateral notion of American power. Are you happy with the result?
And thank God for that.
NO. Absolutely wrong. Nazi war criminals were judged according to a rigorous international legal standard. Their trials were not rigged affairs supported only by a single Occupying power. They had effective counsel and dispassionate judges. What did Saddam have? Defense attorneys murdered practically in the courtroom. And what sort of legal procedures governed this trial?? This is justice?
Nonsense. I am profoundly moved by the suffering Saddam inflicted. And the best way to honor that suffering was the ensure that the world saw him tried and convicted according to an accepted international legal standard rather than murdered like a pig as he was.
Isi Liebler says
Conflicting government policies relating to the so-called truce with the Palestinians are truly mind-boggling. What has unfolded over the past few weeks signals that our leadership has plainly lost the plot.
The pride of Zionism was that after 2,000 years of powerlessness the Israeli army could defend the Jewish people. In fact, our citizens’ army did successfully repel the combined forces of all the Arab states seeking to annihilate us. Even now, in the wake of the blunders of our military and political leadership during the Lebanon war, the army of Israel remains the most effective military force in the region.
Yet over the past few weeks most of us have been aghast and enraged at the failure of the government to fulfill its primary responsibility – ensuring the safety and security of the civilian population.
Our leaders entered into a “truce” fully aware that the Palestinians were incapable and had no intention of even trying to genuinely curtail the terror initiatives being directed against us. Our prime minister, Ehud Olmert, kissed Mahmoud Abbas, the duplicitous successor of Yasser Arafat, and proclaimed him a moderate genuinely committed to the illusory peace process. Yet this man, who hypocritically repeats the mantra that terror attacks harm the Arab cause, sustains a genocidal culture. He not only sanctifies suicide bombers; he personally introduced legislation to provide pensions for the families of the murderers.
To this day he adamantly refuses to intervene against terror initiatives orchestrated under his jurisdiction. His own “security” forces remain actively engaged in terror initiatives and are responsible for murdering more Israeli civilians than Hamas.
Hamas accepted the truce for its own, short-term strategic requirements. But at least its leaders were honest about their intentions, proclaiming that, at a time of their choosing, they would unhesitatingly resume the battle for the liberation of all Palestine.
The IDF bitterly opposed the truce and warned the government that Israeli civilians would be at greater risk and that additional casualties would ensue. Although following the inauguration of the “truce” the Kassam rockets continued raining down on Sderot and the adjacent region, the army was explicitly precluded by the prime minister from taking defensive measures against the terrorists even if they were observed actually launching missiles against civilian targets.
The pathetic rationale of our prime minister and foreign minister was to prattle on about the enormous, positive global “diplomatic benefits” and the “good-will” Israeli restraint was achieving.
FOLLOWING A series of near-disasters, including Kassams striking a kindergarten, and only after two youngsters were critically injured did the prime minister ultimately agree to permit the IDF to fire on terrorists – but only if they were in the actual process of launching attacks. Even then he continued to deny the army the right to pursue killers after the missiles had been launched.
To top off this surrealistic scenario, the Palestinians warned that if Israel acted against the Kassam launchers, the truce would be ended!
Such shocking behavior not only disgraces our dysfunctional leaders. It reflects adversely on the entire nation.
If Israeli civilians in Tel Aviv or other major cities were under missile attack and the government insisted that the army stand by passively, the people would march on the Knesset and street riots would ensue. But apparently, if the casualties are “limited” and restricted to a border region like Sderot, this may be justified on the grounds that European politicians and even Egypt applaud us for the restraint we display while terrorists launch lethal missiles against our civilians.
Such callous indifference to the life and limb of citizens is shocking. It is of course utterly inconsistent with the sanctity of life and the obligation to defend oneself from murderers, both embedded in Jewish tradition. But even setting that aside, the fact is that other than the Palestinians and their allies, no other country in the world would, as a matter of deliberate policy, sacrifice civilians to promote diplomatic interests.
The world is now becoming accustomed to Israeli civilians being targeted by missiles, and when the day finally comes that we act we will probably be condemned for not continuing to stand by passively as our innocent civilians are killed and maimed.
But there is worse to come. We acquiesced to Gaza being flooded with new and devastating weapons, explosives and missiles via the porous Egyptian border. These arms may complement the Hizbullah buildup in the north. In addition, our government also deferred to the request of the Americans that Abbas’s presidential guard be enabled to receive weapons knowing that, as in the past, it is virtually certain they will be employed against us.
And, of course, the Iranians are training and funding Hamas in the most advanced techniques of terror. They even provide financial rewards to those involved in Kassam attacks, with bonuses when Israelis are killed.
WHAT MUST the Palestinians think? They surely believe that Hassan Nasrallah was right when he described Israel as a spider web, lacking the backbone to protect its own citizens. Our enemies are becoming emboldened, celebrating the fact that whatever was left of our deterrence is disappearing. They are being encouraged to believe that by continuing to kill and maim women and children, they will ultimately force us to capitulate.
Our apparent willingness now to release large numbers of prisoners with blood on their hands “as a goodwill gesture” makes it clear that killing Jews no longer even guarantees incarceration.
How much longer can the people of Israel be expected to continue tolerating the outrageous spins and zigzags of our failed prime minister, or the crude rhetoric of our chameleon-like minister of defense using the media to castigate his prime minister? Or the vacuous outpourings of our foreign minister in defiance to Olmert, announcing that she intends to open an independent channel for negotiating with Abbas?
Other ministers also publicly argue with one another over crucial issues. And all this chaos prevails while our enemies gird themselves for war. Now, more than ever before, this country needs a coherent policy and a government which will speak with one voice and understand that the preservation of its citizens’ lives and limbs represents its first priority. If our failed leaders are unable to move in this direction and get their act together they forfeit the moral right to lead the country. The madness must stop!
Richard Silverstein says
Quite a ranter now aren’t we? But not very convincing alas.
No, the pride of Zionism was that after 2,000 years a nation of refugees and dreamers founded a state based on idealistic, Biblical prophetic values of peace, equality, tolerance, and social justice. The army was only a means to fulfill this dream. It was never meant to be a be-all and end-all for the Zionist enterprise as you would have it. It was never meant to supersede or annul the political echelon which is what has happened over time. David Ben Gurion would likely gnash his teeth to see little Ehud Olmert shriveled up to the size of a pea in the face of the IDF’s overweening imperative to make policy, both political and military.
The “army of Israel” has been touted as one of the most powerful military forces in the world. No longer alas. The IDF currently could not punch its way out of paper bag. Though it is excellent if you ever need an army which can kill unarmed women & children sleeping in their beds. Hezbollah, which is not precisely even an army bested the IDF in Lebanon. So where do you get the chutzpah to declare the IDF the “most effective military force in the region?”
Horsecrap. You’re an ardent Israeli nationalist prob. vote for Likud or even farther right than that. Don’t give me the crap that “most of us” in Israel wish the IDF to be fully unleashed against the Palestinians. That’s NOT the view of “most” Israelis by any means. Most Israelis are in favor of negotiations with Hamas. Most Israelis are in favor of an independent Palestinian state. That’s not what you believe. So you must be in a distinct minority–not the majority. Think again, buddy.
Same old, same old rightist nonsense. A truce will hold when BOTH sides show good faith. The Palestinians asked for a truce including the West Bank as well. Olmert (or was it the IDF deciding this for him) said “No deal.” If Olmert had included the W. Bank in the truce it very well might’ve held. Plus the IDF & Olmert wouldn’t have had egg on their face yesterday at their utter failure of an anti-terror raid in Ramallah.
Returning to “good faith,” Olmert promised Abbas the moon when he met with him recently: reducing roadblocks, reopening Gaza crossings to Palestinian commerce, and on and on. How many of these “promises” has he fulfilled?? Try “none.” Palestinians are no fools. They judge an Israeli on his actions, not his words. Olmert’s words are half way decent. His actions entirely empty. Does this make for trust and firm ceasefires? Hell no.
All that being said, do I in any way justify firing rockets on civilians. No. It’s just as heinous an act as the IDF murdering Palestinian civilians as it did just yesterday in Ramallah.
Ugh! More of the mantra of ultimate Palestinian perfidy. I must say though that you’re one of the more articulate ranters who’s made it his mission to correct us progressive Zionists in the errors of our ways. Everyone in Israel and the world knows Abbas for what he is. No, he’s not perfect. Yes, we all wish he would do more. But we also wish Israel would do more. That’s where the rest of the world diverges fr. your marginal view. Only you & yr fellow hard-rightists see all the fault on people like Abbas. Not so most everyone else. But you have the supreme chutzpah and monomania to believe the entire world shares yr view. Unbelievable!
Has it come to this? Must you stoop to calumny & lies in advancing yr agenda? I dare you to produce a single example of Abbas “sanctifying suicide bombers.” And besides, suicide bombing as a tactic has been largely long-abandoned by virtually all Palestinian groups. You’re behind the times my friend.
So “active” indeed that the Israeli death rate fr such attacks decreased by half in the past yr. while the Palestinian civilian death rate from Israeli attacks increased several-fold. And pls. do provide us even a shred of proof of your claim that Fatah is responsible for more Israeli civilian deaths than Hamas. Besides, even were it true (which I by no means concede) it only indicates that Hamas has largely (except in a few egregious violations like the Shalit kidnapping) held fast to its hudna against Israel.
Hamas offered Israel a 10 year truce. In terms of the I-P conflict 10 yrs is not “short-term” but a lifetime.
Correction: they proclaim their battle is for the defense of the Palestinian people. Very few Hamas leaders still sing the out of date mantra that their battle is for “liberation of all of Palestine.” Meshal does no doubt. But the most important Hamas leaders have offered Israel a long-term truce if it returns to 67 borders, which is a far cry fr. pursuing a “battle for the liberation of all of Palestine.” Your attitudes, understanding and knowledge of Palestinians is hopelessly out of date.
Who says the IDF “bitterly opposed the truce.” A source please. And even if they did, they did not do so for the reasons you specify. The IDF, like our Pentagon, is terrified of peace because it will mean that they will be relegated to secondary status in Israeli society. It is in the interest of IDF commanders to gin up fear & hatred & paranoia of the sort you represent because they know by doing so they always remain at the center of power.
The IDF has subverted the cause of peace–witness the doomed Ramallah raid yesterday. The IDF is a cancer within Israel & not the sacred protector of the people you make it out to be. The IDF needs a short, sharp leash & a civilian leadership not afraid to crack a few eggs to make an omelet.
Isn’t it funny that I hear nary a word from you about the IDF’s ACTUAL disasters in which it has killed hundreds of Gaza civilians since June. For you only Israeli blood is red. Pathetic, really.
Gimme a fuckin’ break. You’re getting carried away w. yr loony rhetoric. The political leadership cares deeply about the “life & limb” of its citizens & you know it. But unlike you, it weighs many factors in pursuing specific policies. If a ceasefire will free Gilad Shalit and lead down the line to a real end of Qassams & other opportunities for peace, these leaders may judge such a ceasefire worth pursuing, even if endangers a few Israeli citizens. That doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned Sderot. It means that other objectives could guarantee a longer-term secure Israel for citizens of Sderot & all of Israel. The fact that you think this is perfidy matters not a whit since your thinking will bankrupt a nation and kill thousands more of its citizens. These are the people you claim to care so much about. But in pursuit of yr warlike ambitions you’d sacrifice them on the altar of Israeli nationalism. Nice.
What the hell do you know about such things? In fact, many governments have done precisely this. It is not something any government does lightly. But it has been done and will be done again by governments who perceive a longer term interest in guaranteeing peace & stability for the majority of their citizens.
Oh, you mean that little incursion into Lebanon didn’t constitute “finally acting” against terror? Or the Gaza invasion of last June? Gee, let me see how effective these blitzkrieg wars were in gaining their objective. Oh, that’s right–both failed miserably. And you’d have us hand the reins of military policy to you & yr ilk???! And do pls. tell me how many Israeli civilians have been killed since the ceasefire. Let’s tally that up against Palestinian civilian losses in the same period & see who ends up at the bottom of the stick. You know who it will be–who it will always be.
As usual, reality is precisely the opposite of what you declare it to be. Israel’s enemies have become “emboldened” not because you haven’t used yr deterrent power, but because you HAVE used it and failed. Israel’s enemies have become emboldened because Israeli policy is stuck in reverse. It is a one-note policy that has failed & will continue to fail because there is no diplomatic element in it. If Israel’s enemies saw that it had a flexible, pragmatic policy, they would not be so emboldened. As it is, Israel makes it so much easier for its enemies by pursuing an inert sets of policies & strategies.
I am sorry to have to say that unless Israel changes its policy, Palestinian Qassams will continue to rain down on Israel. And eventually, an Israeli government will come which has grown weary with the endless bloodshed. This government will not capitulate as you so stupidly assert, but rather negotiate in good faith a reasonable & pragmatic resolution of the conflict.
Virtually all of these prisoners have been “incarcerated” for many years, even decades. A number are children and many more have not even received a trial. What you really mean to say is that by freeing them Israel will no longer guarantee that Palestinians rot in jail till death.
Oh, pul-leeze. Your side ran in the last election & won 20 seats or so in the Knesset (if you count all rightist parties together). If you detest Olmert so put up Netanyahu again & see how much better you do. Extreme nationalists like you are in the distinct minority these days. I guess you didn’t get the memo which was read & heard loud & clear in the last election.
More utter nonsense. Syria isn’t girding for war. Where are the Syrian divisions massing near Mt. Hermon? The fact that Iran or Hezbollah may be girding themselves for war is almost entirely due to Israel’s bellicosity and threats against them. I’m no fan of either of those two entities, but I’m even less a fan of the Olmert-Halutz “bomb ’em all to hell” philosophy.
This is a virtual parroting of a Netanyahu stump speech. He speaks well, sounds entirely credible to an uninformed listener. But it’s all ultimately vacuous, meaningless bullshit. The rightist plan for the Palestinians is no more “coherent” than the current policy. The only difference is that a lot more bullets will be flying–in both directions.
They HAVE “forfeited the moral right to lead” Israel. But that by no means the ‘nation will turn its lonely eyes to you’ & yours for salvation. That prospect is both chilling and laughable.