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by Jonathan Gurwitz
Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2003 at 1:20 PM
email@example.com San Antoion Express-News
CRITICISM of the U.S. effort to depose Saddam Hussein -- and the central role of Baathist Iraq in international terrorism -- has rested on four pillars.
The first pillar -- that the war in Iraq was a failure without the capture or death of Saddam Hussein -- came crashing to an ignominious end Saturday night on a farm near Tikrit. The tyrant who struck terror in the hearts of millions of his own citizens, the butcher who sent hundreds of thousands of people to unmarked graves across Iraq, is now a prisoner.
The irony is great that a man who buried so many victims in the earth was himself pulled from the ground, alive and safe, by those sent to liberate his long-suffering country.
Images of a tired and haggard Saddam, compliantly being checked for lice, opening his mouth for a medical examination and the fact that the self-styled, modern-day Saladin gave up without resistance all will have a profound psychological impact.
That impact will be felt first and foremost in Iraq where, as British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, a shadow has been lifted from the Iraqi people. Ordinary Iraqis can now confidently believe that their march toward democracy is irreversible. Saddam and his henchmen will never return to power and exact retribution.
By the same token, Baathist dead-enders must now unequivocally understand that their terrorist attacks against coalition forces and free Iraqis are futile.
Their extremist allies, both secular and religious, across the Arab and Islamic world, are similarly demoralized. Their symbol of defiance, the man who waved swords and fired rifles into the air before adoring crowds, surrendered. He neither fought nor took his own life.
The second pillar of criticism asserts that Saddam's Iraq had nothing to do with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against the United States. That pillar is also crumbling.
Britain's Sunday Telegraph reported that the new Iraqi government has uncovered documentary proof that Mohamed Atta, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was trained in Baghdad by the Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal. That Abu Nidal was for two decades an honored guest of the Baathist regime ought to be enough to demonstrate the ineluctable connection of Saddam with international terrorism.
The third pillar of criticism ridicules the notion that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction or programs to produce them. This pillar, too, is crumbling.
The Telegraph also reported last week that a former Iraqi army commander and spy confirmed that Iraq did, in fact, possess weapons of mass destruction and that he personally saw them. Lt. Col. al-Dabbagh was also, the Telegraph disclosed, the intelligence source who asserted that Iraq could mobilize and launch weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes.
Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction, used them against Iran and his own people and refused to supply proof to the international community that he had completely destroyed them. With sources such as al-Dabbagh now going public, these new claims -- even if they turn out to be without merit -- give lie to the theory that the war in Iraq was based on nonexistent intelligence.
The final pillar of criticism rests on the failure, thus far, to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Saddam's capture demonstrates that American intelligence is working, and that the discovery of bin Laden's whereabouts, like the disposition of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, is only a matter of time.
The struggle for freedom in Iraq is far from over. But the capture of Saddam and the concomitant acceleration of the process of democratization and stabilization mean that thousands of American troops now in Iraq can more quickly be deployed to Afghanistan.
Osama's day is coming, and with it the destruction of the final crutch upon which vapid criticism of the war on terrorism now rests.
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