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Where were you when you heard the news?

Me, I was enjoying a sunny morning of skiing with my wife. The whiteboard in a lift operators' booth read, and I quote:

NPR is reporting that So Damn Insane has been caught

Nobody on line could decide whether the scrawlings of some teenager are exactly the most trustworthy news source, so we had to hold our excitement all day. Sad, really, that we couldn't exult in the news then and there. Sadder still that I had these thoughts:

  1. Man, I'm cold
  2. I can't wait to hear people attempt to put a negative spin on this

So before even knowing a single detail other than the sentence above, the wife and I discussed what such a negative spin might sound like: (Begin weenie voice) Oh, we shouldn't sound like we're gloating. We shouldn't get cocky. We shouldn't have paraded him around after being captured. We must ensure that he receives a fair trial in The Hague. We didn't have the right to do this. The war wasn't about Saddam anyway. The war isn't over, let's bring everyone home. The war *is* over, let's bring everyone home. It wasn't worth the effort anyway. It's not fair - this makes Bush look good. Et cetera. (End weenie voice).

You know, if you want to get away from world events, a ski resort is a pretty good place to be. We didn't hear any confirmation of the news until we got in our car that afternoon and turned on the radio. It didn't take long to hear the first naysayer. Less than five minutes, actually. As one of a group of newscasters asked to give their impression of the news, NPR's Anne Garrels started, and I quote:

I don't mean to rain on anybody's parade, but...

Then she proceeded to rain on everyone's parade. We just knew that *someone* was going to do it.

Now, I wasn't expecting the whole death-penalty mini-flap, but I should have, considering that I fully expected crap like this:

Human-rights groups condemned the idea of a speedy trial, saying it would take at least a year to prepare for a complicated case like Hussein's. They also challenged the legal right of the U.S. occupation to establish the tribunal and the lack of more international as well as Iraqi participation in that process.

(Complicated? Maybe for the defense.)

I head the same condemnatory sentiments from a trio of academics last night on All Things Considered. To which I say: What in the holy heck is wrong* with these people? Screw human-rights groups, screw academics, screw caring about "legitimacy" in the eyes of "the international community". If it were up to me, Saddam would languish in Guantanamo for three or four years, then he would be turned over to an Iraqi court so kangaroo-like it bounces into its mother's pouch, then he would be released to be strung up by the Iraqi people, a la Mussolini and Ceaucescu.

Then let the self-described "activists" wring their hands so hard they burst into flames.


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Comments (13)


I have one question for you Peter. Why do you listen to NPR? Are you a masochist?

These so-called human-right groups are an abomination. They couldn’t care less about the people who are being killed by people like Saddam Hussein. Their true purpose is to attack the US. As far as they are concerned the US is the biggest human rights abusing nation in the world.

Hey, when you're stuck in a car for an hour each way to and from work, listening to NPR is the least of my problems. It's actually far better than listening to Pacifica Radio or the Z Morning Zoo...

It's kind of amazing to me, Peter, that the first (well, second) thing you'd think about after hearing Saddam was captured was, "I can't wait to hear people attempt to put a negative spin on this."

I think the Democratic presidential candidates' attempts to use Saddam's capture as another political tool was pretty shameful (well, it would be shameful if it weren't so damn laughable), but conservatives have been no better, with pro-war bloggers falling all over themselves trying to find examples of people who weren't enthusiastic enough about Saddam's capture. I mean, was there any point to Andrew Sullivan quoting anonymous posts on liberal message boards?

For once, I'd like to see either side take the high road, and just appreciate the accomplishments of our troops and turning fortunes of the Iraqi people.

I mean "I can't wait..." in an ironic, exasperated way. Yes, I immediately thought that there are sick, sick people out there who will be upset by what is truly the best news the world has gotten in years; and that these people were at that very moment spinning furiously to explain to us why we shouldn't rejoice. Call me cynical. Reading the NY Times and listening to NPR will do that.

(Besides, I couldn't really feel joy at that moment because I didn't know, and had no way of knowing, if the reports were really true. No sense in being disappointed later. Fortunately, later I was indeed able to feel joy.)

I absolutely do appreciate the accomplishments of our troops and am glad for the Iraqi people. I'm just absolutely disgusted with those cretins who wince at every bit of good news, who want to undermine our resolve, who wish nothing but ill on our efforts, who fervently hope we lose and damn the Iraqis as they get thrown to the lions. All the while claiming the moral high ground in doing so. And as many have been pointing out, they are not just anonymous posters. Still, whether they are anonymous, or sign their screeds on the op-ed pages of the Boston Globe, it's important to be reminded that such people do exist, not to show the depths to which they can sink, but to show the depths to which they want the country to sink if they had their way.

Sunshine on cockroaches and all that.

Sam Hutcheson:

If it were up to me, Saddam would languish in Guantanamo for three to four years, then he would be turned over to an Iraqi court so kangaroo-like it bounces into its mother's pouch, then he would be release to be strung up by the Iraqi people...

It's not hard to claim the high ground when the above is your competition, Peter.

Hey, at least I didn't (and won't) suggest torture.

I'm sorry, but worries that the Iraqi people might not seek to be "fair", and demands that Saddam be turned over to The Hague suggest an appalling moral blindness to me. "Human-rights activists" and other assorted leftists who didn't do thing one to save the Iraqi people - in fact, who loudly demanded that *nothing at all* be done to save the Iraqi people - have no moral authority at all in this situation. None.

Sam Hutcheson:

1. you are not "sorry."

2. the justification du jour for the invasion of iraq is that saddam hussein is/was a genocidal monster who had to be taken out for the good of
the iraqi people; for "liberation." this idea is based on the notion that basic rights, such as those guaranteed by the constitution, are not an after effect of one's nationality, reserved for only those who live in a country such as the united states, but are universal rights inherit in all peoples, regardless of nationality. this is the logic which supports "waging war for
freedom." if we are to accept this logic as validation for the action which overthrew hussein we must also accept the same logic with regard to saddam hussein's actual trial. if we were to close our eyes and sniff self-righteously that *saddam* doesn't deserve a basically just trial,
regardless of his crimes, then i see little reason to suppose that there exists a universiality to human rights that requires "good people" to go take him out in the first place.

that is to say, if human rights are universal, then the requirement for a fair and just trial, as a subset of those rights (as they are generally
understood) is also universal. and universal doesn't mean "everyone except those people i've already decided should die."


Well, then, I'm sorry you feel the need to ascribe sinister motives to a perfectly common English idiom.

As I said, I initially wondered what the "complaint du jour" would be in the face of such unambiguously good news for the United States and the Iraqi people. I knew there would be one. Heck, if Osama bin Laden were found in a Baghdad basement with a crate full of anthrax-tipped nuclear missiles, some people would cry that we neglected to get a proper search warrant.

So it seems that the naysayers have settled on the question of whether Saddam can get a fair trial. Huzzah for due process and all that, but I'm intellectually accomodating enough that I can believe that when it comes to judicial procedure, one size does not always fit all; that someone who headed a regime that tortured and/or kiled (note: not allegedly tortured and/or killed) hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of his subjects - without due process - might possibly be a special case.

If there's going to be a fair trial in Iraq, then fine. If the Iraqi people instead want to do a Ceaucescu on his ass, then that's fine with me, too. They're the ones who suffered; I'm happy to leave it up to them. (You know, I don't recall much in the way of lamentation from anyone when Ceaucescu got his. I'll shed just as many tears as I did back then if Saddam meets the same fate.)

Peter, I have no objection when people post replies to what appears on the NY Times editorial page (or other public stages). But the rapidity with which conservative bloggers sought out "incriminating" comments from the left made it seem like they were also using the capture of Saddam for transparently political reasons--especially when some of those comments apparently had to come from anonymous posters on message boards. I guess I just don't see the point, other than to try to paint the entire left with a broad brush, or otherwise just to be cute and funny. Both seem inappropriate given the circumstances.

Sam Hutcheson:


My point is that, if you're going to embrace the liberal justifications for war (i.e. that Iraq is a just war for bringing down a tyrant and freeing peoples) then you should consider the underpinnings of that same liberal ideology. If Iraq is a just war for the reasons you claim, then you must believe in universal human rights (else there would be no moral impetus for Americans and bleed or spend to free Iraqis.) If you believe in universal human rights, you probably ought to believe in the idea of justice rather than vengance, that regardless of the severity of any alleged crime, a human being deserves fair and judicious treatment under the law, not the quick and angry retribution of victims or wronged parties. Your only out here is to beg the question of Saddam Hussein's *humanity*, and I don't think that's an argument you can win.

The necessity for a fair trial for Hussein has nothing to do with political strategy. It is a necessary function of the basic political philosophy that allows you to claim the invasion of Iraq was just in the first place. All I'm asking is that you maintain some coherence in this regard. Basically, if you're going to crib your foreign policy initiatives from liberalism, pay attention to the reasons those policies are the preferred ones to begin with.


People look for anything to support their preconcieved notions of the world. That's just how humanity tends to operate.


Blogician - I understand your point; I just don't fully agree with it. Let me offer an analogy: say that the U.S. has elected its first black president. I would find it perfectly legitimate to ferret out what various racist cretins think about the subject. Shining light on cockroaches and all that. I doubt that such views would be trumpeted and supported in the NY Times or on Pacifica Radio, but it would still be worth knowing that there are people out there who think that way.

To me, the rapidity in which some have found negative remarks on Saddam's capture is a sign that, sadly, such remarks are not hard to find. Nor were they unexpected.

Sam - I fail to see any philosophical incompatibility between freeing people and punishing those who oppressed them, even if the punishment doesn't conform to every single nicety of the traditions of Anglo-Saxon common law.

I ask you: did *you* embrace the notion that Iraq is a just war for bringing down a tyrant and freeing peoples?

Sam Hutcheson:

I fail to see any philosophical incompatibility between freeing people and punishing those who oppressed them, even if the punishment doesn't conform to every single nicety of the traditions of Anglo-Saxon common law.

If you can casually toss aside the "nicety of the traditions of Anglo-Saxon law," why is it imperative to impose upon an entire region the niceties of the traditions of Greco-Roman-Anglo-Saxon governments?

I ask you: did *you* embrace the notion that Iraq is a just war for bringing down a tyrant and freeing peoples?

I have not supported this war. I might have, if I believed for a minute it were being waged for the noble liberal reasons which have become the default answers for administration apologists of late, but I find those apologetics to be far from convincing. I don't think one can wage a moral war of "liberation" as an afterthought. I don't think a war can be moral simply because it has happy results. The morality of the thing must be judged from the point of action, not the point of result, and I've seen nothing to suggest that the current action in Iraq was moral from the point of action, regardless of it's outcomes.

In short, I don't trust a bunch of Nixon-era stooges any more today than I did in the late 70s. I do find Bush's last two speeches (Whitehall, and the one immediately preceeding) to be interesting, and would like to hope that they presage a sea-change in policy and adivsory initiatives, running the Rumsfelds and Perles, etc., out of the picture. Cockroaches and the light, as you like to say. But I have not seen enough to make a personal decision in that regard, one way or another, as of yet. Until that works itself out, I still can not support the Bush Doctrine of preventative invasion. I don't trust the presidency (much less this President), or any other throne, with the sort of power that doctrine imbibes.



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