MSNBC seems obsessed with calling them “gangsters.” But the better word for them is Brown Shirts. If you’ve read any of the biographies or profiles of Saddam, you know that he first rose to prominence in the Baath party as a “street organizer.” This was a euphemism for his talent at pulling together the most thugs and knee breakers and giving them political objectives. Saddam’s thugs would kill, beat and intimidate opponents. After the first Gulf War, Saddam created the Fedayeen — picked from his tribe and run by his son Uday — because he didn’t trust even the Republican Guard. In short, he went back to what he knows best. The Fedayeen has been assigned the duties of “Internal Affairs,” as it were, policing the loyalties of the army and the Republican Guards. If you defect, the Fedayeen brutally rapes and murders your family and then they send the defecter a videotape.
These guys are fighting so hard because they know that if Saddam goes, so do they. You can’t rape and murder the way they do and expect to rejoin society. They will be torn apart. Moreover, if they are wearing civilian clothes, using civilian vehicles, hiding behind civilians and — sometimes — wearing American uniforms, they are in defiance of the Geneva Convention. And my understanding is that those who do not abide by the rules of war have no claim to the protections of the rules of war. No kid gloves for Saddam’s Brown Shirts.