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War Watch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card December 14, 2003

Saddam in Custody and Iraqi Oil

What does it mean, to have Saddam Hussein in custody?

In Iraq, the people no longer have to fear that Saddam himself will make a comeback. This should help remove the residual fear that kept many from fully cooperating with the new government and the allies. However, it will also increase impatience for us to leave.

To the degree that Saddam was actually the inspiration for or guidance behind attacks on the U.S., those attacks should diminish. However, it is important to remember that Saddam was not loved by anyone. People served him out of fear, or out of a belief that they could gain advantage by serving him.

So as his power diminished after the U.S. liberation of most of his country, the people closest to him began to realize that he needed them a lot more than they needed him. Chances are very good that he was no longer in control of anything -- that he was in the control of one or some of his former subordinates -- and that he continued to live only because he was useful as a figurehead.

Which may explain why nobody was there to fight and die to protect Saddam. He might already have been abandoned by those who had been using him -- they did hate him, of course, the way Stalin hated Lenin, so they would shed no tears if he was caught. It is even possible that they arranged for him to be caught by our forces because they thought they would do better without him.

But they are wrong, as they will soon learn. Because those Ba'athist ex-supporters of Saddam who thought they could do better without him will soon find that wretched as he was, as a human being, he was the only speck of legitimacy they had. Some might linger on as very minor warlords -- but intelligent self-interest will no longer keep anyone fighting for these one-time Saddamistas.

On the other hand, the Islamicist terrorists and Iranian agents who have been infiltrating Iraq, bombing and assassinating those who are cooperating with American forces, will actually benefit from Saddam's arrest.

From now on, their movement against the American occupation of Iraq is no longer tainted by association with Saddam. Nobody can claim now that they are fighting to reinstate Saddam -- their motives have now been purified.

But that's not a bad thing. Remember, our war was not against Saddam. The Iraqi campaign was designed to topple his regime and, if possible, replace his government with a democratic one. But the overall war is a war against terrorism -- and as the terrorists lash out against the new government of Iraq, they expose themselves for what they are: Enemies of Muslim democracy.

Enemies, in other words, of the Muslim people's hope for freedom and prosperity.

With Saddam gone, the terrorists will redouble their efforts. But they will also find less cooperation from most Iraqis.

With Saddam gone, perhaps our own government can begin to take the military actions necessary to eliminate the sources of continuing terrorist attacks. Those actions include interdiction of terrorist activity inside the borders of Syria, and will eventually lead to the removal of the fascist Ba'athist government of that country. And it will include actions designed to promote democratic government in Iran, hopefully through means short of war.

Until there are changes of government in Syria and Iran, this war is not over. And any outcome that declares the war over while those America-hating, civilian-killing governments remain in power is not a victory. It would be the opposite. A world where the two worst terrorist-sponsoring governments remain in power is one in which peace in Iraq will remain forever impossible.

What about the effect of Saddam's capture in America?

First, it will be amusing to watch the Democratic leadership respond. Remember how snide everybody's been about Bush's "record of failure" in Iraq? We've long had the hypocritical situation where opponents of President Bush have blamed him for the "incompetence" of a campaign that failed to capture Saddam -- while claiming to "support" the actual troops who were actually searching for him.

Count on it: Now these very critics will congratulate the troops who actually succeeded in capturing Saddam -- but will say as little as possible about the President whose policies have created a climate in which the Iraqi people have seen the determination of the American army to carry this war through to complete victory.

Still, nothing they say can paint this event as failure. Politically, it's a nice little Christmas plum for President Bush.

But let's remember, this is not a politically brilliant administration.

After all, these are the same people who made the ludicrously self-destructive decision to bar Russia, Germany, France, and Canada (among others) from top-level participation in getting contracts with the new government.

Of course it feels just and fair to give those nations the back of our hand -- especially after their involvement in efforts that could only lead to the deaths of more American soldiers.

But our goal is not to get even or even to feel good. Our goal is to create a successful, democratic, pro-American government in a peaceful Iraq.

And to achieve that, we want our European rivals, like France, Germany, and Russia, to feel a real commitment to the continuation of the new Iraqi regime.

And nothing will commit them to that better than being deeply involved in commercial enterprises that require the protection and support of that government.

Worse yet, the appearance of turning Iraq into an economic fiefdom of the United States seems to justify the worst criticisms of American policy by our enemies abroad and the administration's opponents here at home.

We did not invade Iraq in order to gain commercial monopolies, and we must actively reject even the appearance of attempting to establish economic hegemony.

It is vital that we avoid even the appearance of trying to control Iraq's economic future. We must turn commercial decisions over to the Iraqi government. The more power they have, the more legitimate they'll seem. But when decisions are reached that are obviously nothing but American advantage-seeking, it cuts that new government off at the knees.

President Bush and his administration must repudiate that restriction and open the doors to the involvement of companies from all nations in a free bidding situation. And the decision must be in Iraqi hands, with America standing back and accepting their decisions, not just in appearance, but in fact. Even when it leads to some American companies being shut out.

We did not embark on this war as a business investment, and we must not start looking for ways to offset the costs of war through exploitation of Iraq. This war is about saving the lives of American citizens from terrorist attacks, not about making money, and if we allow ourselves to be distracted, we will lose the war and the honor of the United States abroad.

It may stick in our craw to watch Germany and France get rich in Iraq when American blood opened doors they tried to jam closed. But that will be Iraq's best chance to remain independent and free with the support of the whole world.

Instead, we're creating a situation where it will be perceived by the German and French and Russian governments and people that it is in their interest to topple the pro-American regime. How does that help us or anyone? Forget past affronts -- in making future policy, we must think about what will lead to the best chance for the new Iraqi government to succeed.

Copyright © 2003 by Orson Scott Card.

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