The morning I heard Saddam Hussein was captured, I was awakened by a low murmur I couldn’t quite place. When I read the good news for the first time, I immediately realized what it must be - the collective of far-left anti-war protestors wailing and gnashing their teeth.
Sure enough, the first thing I found when I sat down to look were leftists bemoaning the news, since they believed Hussein’s capture would improve President Bush’s re-election chances. As James Taranto at Opinion Journal noted, the angry supporters of Howard Dean were crestfallen by the capture of Saddam Hussein - one woman, more pessimistic than average, wrote in to Dean’s ‘Blog For America’ to say “I can’t believe this. I’m crying here. I feel that we now don’t have a chance in this election.” A person with the pen name ‘Muslims4Dean’ replied “If the Death toll mounts - good. It will teach the American people not to support Nazi Republicans.”
It’s unfortunate that some Americans place partisan domestic politics over the removal of a murderous dictator, something the entire world should rightfully celebrate. However, this wasn’t unexpected. Leftist authors, political commentators, and organizations have long been implying that anything contributing to the electoral defeat of President Bush was fine with them, even the unfortunate deaths of American soldiers abroad. When good news comes out of Iraq, they’re forced to frantically downplay it.
In order to make the capture of Saddam Hussein seem insignificant or even a negative for America, the left must frantically downplay its importance, while continuing to attack America for ever defending itself in the first place. That’s exactly the strategy media gadfly Michael Moore chose when he commemorated Hussein’s capture by bitterly denouncing the United States. He stated that the capture had not “made us one bit safer in our post-9/11 world,” and spent the bulk of his article reminding the public that Hussein was once America’s ally against Iran - neglecting to mention that at that point in the early 1980s, Iran had held over fifty Americans hostage for more than a year.
Other leftists have closely followed Moore’s two main themes - the relative unimportance of Hussein’s capture and the United States’ prior good relationship with Hussein. Indymedia chose to analyze the good news by publicizing an already widely-circulated 1983 photo of Hussein shaking hands with Donald Rumsfield. The Guerilla News Network published a bile-filled rant calling the capture another ‘moment that does not really matter’ in a campaign to ‘return Iraq to its rightful place, the third world.’ Greg Palast of Z Magazine decided the occasion called for a rather limp satire about the ‘back pay’ America owes Saddam. At the left-wing The Nation, David Corn tried to turn the capture into a negative for America, arguing that Hussein’s capture may just embolden Islamist terrorists unaffiliated with Saddam. In places, radical news sites have been so eager to criticize the achievements of the American military they put forward contradictory theories; for instance, the website Counterpunch published an Independent article by Robert Fisk, “This Won’t Stop the Guerilla War,” right beside a piece by David Lindorff called “The Saddam Dilemma.” The former argues that the capture of Saddam means nothing, since the ‘resistance’ is not Baathist; the later argues that keeping Hussein in custody will make him a focal point for Baathist guerrillas bent on revenge.
It’s often difficult to tell whether these leftist commentators believe what they’re saying, or if they’re just trying to do damage control for a badly-stung batch of anti-war Democratic presidential candidates. The farthest left, however, really do believe Hussein’s capture changes nothing. Wrapped in their Marxist fantasies of revolutions and class struggle, they see the ongoing terrorism in Iraq as an indigenous anti-imperialist resistance, having little to do with Saddam Hussein or the remnants of his Baath Party thugs. They deftly ignore the dancing in the streets of Baghdad, preferring to dismiss the pro-American Iraqis as a small group of ‘collaborators’ completely unrepresentative of the general population.
The de facto leader of this pack of ideological throwbacks, the Workers World Party-led International ANSWER, released a statement shortly after Hussein’s capture. In it, they reassure their supporters that they will continue on with their anti-American organizing. In their own words, “The seizure and public display of Saddam Hussein may be a propaganda victory for imperialism, but it changes nothing fundamental about the situation in Iraq.” In their fevered imagination, by overthrowing Hussein, the United States somehow “removed the essential features of sovereignty for the Iraqi people.” In a century-out-of-date analysis lifted right out of Lenin’s ‘Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism,’ the war with Iraq is portrayed as nothing more than a war of colonization. Their attitude towards the removal of the Butcher of Baghdad? They simply don’t care. The Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter, produced by strong supporters of International ANSWER, spelled this attitude out clearly: “The U.S. government and mass media are beating the war drums of joy and victory over the capture of former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq, but the U.S. peace movement certainly has no cause to celebrate.”
No cause to celebrate. Not a bit of cheer at the corralling of a notorious filler of mass graves, not if that happens to benefit America.
In the near future, the American far left will try to turn the capture of Hussein into an opportunity. Many are already calling for Hussein’s trial to be conducted by an international court, controlled by the United Nations. By transferring Hussein to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, they can both take the death penalty off the table and drag out the Iraqi people’s desire for justice for years. Leftists want a United Nations-controlled trial not just because they oppose the death penalty; they would also like to use the opportunity to embarrass the government. For instance, Center for Constitutional Rights head Michael Ratner has been arguing on Pacifica Radio that any trial that didn’t also try the United States itself would be “trying the puppet without the puppeteer.”
These leftists can be countered simply by pointing out that no matter what they say, the capture of Saddam Hussein was a historic event, and the American people know it - a Gallup poll showed that eight out of ten believe Saddam’s arrest was a ‘significant achievement.’ Every day, more documentary evidence emerges showing that Hussein’s government was indeed a threat to American security - for instance, Iraq’s coalition government now claims to have documentary evidence that 9/11 organizer Mohammad Atta trained in Baghdad during the summer of 2001, taught by the infamous Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal, with the full knowledge of Saddam Hussein. As for America’s past support for Hussein, this only increased our obligation to remove him. The logic of the left here is puzzling - because of Hussein’s cooperation with the Reagan administration in the early 1980s, he should not have been removed in 2003? Apparently, in the leftist mind, being allied with a past American administration gives rogue states a ‘threaten America free’ card for the rest of their existence.
No one is certain just how many Iraqi terrorists acted out of loyalty to Hussein, and how many are loyal to Islamist terrorist movements. That’s why President Bush clearly told the American people that “the capture of Saddam Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq. We still face terrorists who would rather go on killing the innocent.” And that’s why the American left’s near-unanimous pessimism is so unjustifiable. They’re no more able to predict the future than the rest of us - and given their track record over the last year, you’d think they’d refrain from making any predictions at all. They claimed they could stop a war against Iraq with their protests, and they couldn’t. They claimed the American army would face fierce resistance, and it didn’t. They claimed there would be a quagmire outside Baghdad, and there wasn’t. They claimed the war would cause massive civilian casualties, and it didn’t. They claimed the war would lead to terrorist attacks on American soil, and it hasn’t. Now they’re claiming the capture of Saddam means nothing, and terrorism in the Middle East will continue on unabated. If they’re right, it’ll be for the first time. In the meantime, it’s too bad they can’t put their hatred of the President aside, and join the rest of America in celebrating the bringing of a tyrant to justice.