All Writings
December 14, 2003

A Good Day For The Iraqi People, But . . . .

The administration has every reason to rejoice over the capture of Saddam Hussein. But we should not allow ourselves to be overjoyed because the situation in Iraq and the dangers that lie ahead will most probably make this event seem in retrospect a brief happy hour. This said, our men and women in uniform, especially from the 4th Infantry Division, should be saluted for their accomplishment. Saddam needed to be captured, if for no other reason, than to end a tragic chapter in Iraq's history. The Iraqi people can now breathe a sigh of relief. Perhaps more importantly, his capture sends a clear message to those still at large who tortured the Iraqi people over the years as well as to future tyrants everywhere that there is always a judgment day.

As their jubilation wears thin in the next few days, most Iraqis will wake up anew to their day-to-day hardships, mounting grievances, and escalating complaints. Except this time, we will not have Saddam to blame for the continuing precarious internal security situation, rampant joblessness, frequent failure of electric power, inadequate social services, and the growing sectarian, tribal, and religious conflict. We should not quickly draw the conclusion that the insurgency which has taken such a heavy toll on our forces and the Iraqis and foreigners cooperating with us might soon abate. I fear the precise opposite might occur. Many Iraqis will now try to assume Saddam's mantle, attempting to upstage one other by raising the level of violence against our forces in the hopes of gaining recognition and more recruits and money. Based on our most reliable intelligence, the majority of the insurgents–particularly the Ba'athist Sunnis-have not been operating at Saddam's behest. And neither the insurgents from Iran nor the various terrorist groups have been taking their cues from his former henchman. Nor has American or western intelligence gotten a real grip on the identity of these groups, how are they funded, and who is behind them. With Saddam out of the picture, they will doubtless intensify their violent operations to prove both their independence and tenacity and our continued vulnerability.

Contrary to the administration's assertion, the war in Iraq has aggravated rather than helped our war on terrorism. Iraq may have become for now the battlefield between the terrorists and our forces, but most certainly it is not be the last stronghold for anti-American insurgency. Before and since the invasion of Iraq, Saddam was incidental to the war on terrorism. His capture and ultimate demise thus will change very little in the overall global fight against the multiple terrorist groups that target us. The same outcome may well occur if we capture Osama bin Laden. His persona like that of Saddam has become bigger than life to millions of people mainly because of their defiance of the United States. These individuals have already left their mark on a new generation of Arab and Muslim terrorists who blame us for their misery and degradation.

Although the Ba'ath party will not return to power and Saddam will become only a bad memory, Iraq remains extremely volatile and divided, with centrifugal forces working against one another. These are ripe to explode. The problem for this administration and the next one is how to make sure that the end of his era does not usher in a more unsettled time for the Iraqis because of internal political and religious combustion. Regardless of what type of regime it ends up with or what sort of constitution emerges, political and security stability will not come to Iraq unless we insure the following: (1) that the Kurdish community preserves its autonomous rule while working hand-in-hand with any future central authority, (2) that the Sunnis, who have been in power from the day of Iraq's creation, be treated fairly and have a stake in governing the country, and (3) that the Shiites, despite their absolute majority, understand the value of representative government and the limits to the power even a majority can wield in a deeply divided country.

Although Saddam has been reviled by so many in the Arab and the Muslim world, he was also exalted for his daring to challenge the United States. For this reason, we must be extremely careful not to make his humiliating capture in a mud hole with rats appear a humiliation for all who admire his stand but not his ruthlessness. Many Iraqis will lament his capture in these circumstances. We must play a major role in helping them and their fellow citizens seek internal peace (in Arabic, Sulh, a peace of reconciliation) to prevent the wholesale killing of many talented Iraqis and so put a real end to the darkest chapter in Iraq's history.