[TODAY]Saddam’s capture: rat in a trapImagine if Saddam Hussein were to appear in the place where his statue stood in one of the more affluent parts of Baghdad with an automatic rifle in his hand. Ten or more of the most elite members of the former Republican Guards surround him. Thousands of citizens who recognize the former president flock around. Some cry and cheer at his return while others yell at the demonic Saddam Hussein to go to Jahannum, the Islamic hell.
Six hundred U.S. combat soldiers rush to the scene upon hearing the news. With violent excitement in the air, the former leader of the Iraqi people delivers a speech with the roar of a lion. “Brave people of Iraq, faithful warriors of Iraq! In the holy name of Allah, I ask you to follow me and join the holy war to drive out the U.S. invaders!” After this roar, Saddam Hussein fires blanks into the air with his rifle. Suddenly, three shots are fired from U.S. snipers who are approaching the former dictator, hitting him on his left chest, right stomach and thigh. Saddam Hussein swerves but continues to speak, “In the name of Allah...” He is hit by four more bullets in the chest and head and falls down to breathe his last at the podium that once supported his statue.
If this had been the end of Saddam Hussein, who once claimed to be Nebuchadnezzar II, after the legendary king of Babylon who took Jerusalem in 597 B.C. and conquered the Israeli people, then he would have remained forever a hero not only in the hearts of the Iraqi people but among the entire Arab race. However, the real end for the self-proclaimed hero of the Arab people was to have been captured alive by U.S. soldiers in a pitiful state in a hole under a farm. At the time of his seizure, Saddam Hussein had a pistol, but he did not resist his captors in the least nor attempt to take his own life.
The picture of Saddam Hussein turning his head left to right and opening his mouth at the direction of a U.S. medical officer, like a child at a health examination, must have triggered despair for countless Iraqis and Arabs. Samir Ragab, the chairman of the Egyptian Gazette, an English-language newspaper published in Cairo, expressed his grief in a column Tuesday at the sight of Saddam Hussein captured in a rat-hole of a dungeon when the former Iraqi leader had boasted that he had an impenetrable secret underground fortress. “Where are the generals and the Republican Guards? It is a humiliation that he was caught like a rat in a trap after the betrayal of a close relative.”
The apprehension of Saddam Hussein is a political bonanza for U.S. President George W. Bush, who faces a presidential election in just 11 months. If Saddam Hussein had met a heroic death, Iraq could indeed have become a slough in which the United States could neither stay nor leave. Saddam Hussein, who was feared as a lion, turned out to be nothing more than a house cat. The former leader is thought not to have been behind the anti-occupation insurgency in Iraq. He was merely a cowardly runaway. The surrender of Baghdad by the Republican Guards was not a strategy, as some had thought.
President Bush has promised that he would try to leave most of Saddam Hussein’s trial in the hands of the Iraqi people. However, it would be hard for him to resist the temptation to coordinate the trial schedule to his campaign schedule for maximum political effect. Should Mr. Bush overdo those intentions, he would bring on the antipathy of world opinion and the Iraqi people. While Saddam Hussein’s apprehension does not automatically mean the end to the Iraqi problem, it could actually bring on the pressure to hasten the end of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and to transfer sovereignty back to the Iraqis.
Saddam Hussein’s seizure could be a decisive springboard in the restoration of stability in Iraq in that it has dashed the persistent hopes of some Iraqis for his return. The capture of Saddam Hussein has made it almost certain that the former Iraqi leader was not behind the terrorist attacks that have been occurring sporadically around the country since the end of the war. If the anti-occupation terrorist activities were carried out without any involvement from Saddam Hussein, then there is no reason they would stop after his apprehension. Saddam Hussein’s seizure, however, means his supporters have lost their final bulwark and this would be a great psychological blow to the terrorist and guerrilla forces.
The apprehension of Saddam Hussein also signifies that the mental burden of the Korean government in sending additional troops to Iraq has lessened considerably. The capture of the former Iraqi president means that the centripetal force uniting the discontented forces among Iraqis involved in terrorist attacks has been removed.
But if the Iraqis try to make up for their mistake of having resigned themselves to the tyranny of Saddam Hussein by trying to resist the U.S. occupation, as the Egyptian Gazette’s Samir Ragab suggests, then the seizure of Saddam Hussein could actually work for the worse for countries sending troops to Iraq.
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie