Sunday, June 16, 2002

Steve Green, the Vodkapundit, has some indicator developments extracted from the Hindustan Times.

This raises an important consideration about the coming war on Iraq: Saddam is quite literally fighting for his life. Unless the guy is absolutely barmy, he knows he will die once the war starts.

Ten years ago, he could follow Mengistu, Adi Amin Dada and Baby Doc Duvalier into comfortable retirement and obscurity. A footnote in a long history of disasters.

But that has changed now. Where could Saddam flee to? There isn't an Arab country that would have him: they all watched CNN live from Tora Bora. If you're the Justice Minister of the Sudan, all the payoffs in the world will not protect you against a GPS-guided extradition order. So you are going to be out of town when the phone rings at 3am from Baghdad.

Saddam is not alone either. He has made a policy of making sure his entire Cabinet and top-line military are implicated in his abuses. They are in it up to their necks, and they have nowhere to go either.

So you have an elite group of men with a proven ability to inflict any level of suffering and abuse on anyone, in order to stay in power. It's five days after the bombing started, and most of the army is deserting. The security apparatus is looking shaky. Outside the gate are millions of locals, most of whom have either had a relative kidnapped by the secret police, had one killed in Saddam's pointless wars, died from a lack of basic medicine, or just plain starved to death.

Can you spell M-U-S-S-O-L-I-N-I?

These men understand they will not live ten days past the start of the bombing. The mobs will quite literally tear them apart. This does not reduce the legitimacy or necessity of a regime change, by whatever means necessary. If a hostage dies because a kidnapper starts shooting at police, we don’t blame the police. If civilians die in Iraq because the nutter that controls their lives decides he has nothing to lose whatsoever, then put the blame where it belongs. And that isn’t on those nations backed into taking dreadful measures to end hostilities with as few casualties on their side as legally possible.

The safest way I can see forward is to make a deal with some of the next-to-top echelon military. Put some money on the line, offer some a way out. Leaflet drop the entire country offering $10 million and immunity for the guy that kills Saddam. Send the lucky contestant to live in the Palestinian Authority in relative splendour, on strict condition that any political activity will violate his immunity and lose him his cash.

Once Saddam is out, the centre will not hold. Most of the colonels will defect and place their units at the command of local leaders. They will need to understand that any move by their superiors to escalate hostilities will be met with the hammer of God on their units. The colonels will need to be told, by leaflet, email and broadcast, that the Coalition forces know them by name, and they will be held personally responsible for their unit’s behaviour once the war starts.

Cut off the head, and the body won’t just die: it will grab a shovel and dig its own grave.

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