The Corner

Saddam’s Capture – a Triumph of Barbed Wire

Another catching-up item (just got off our magazine deadline here): What was most striking to me about Saddam’s capture is that liberals were decrying the very tactics that were about to lead to his capture. Our Ramadan pause in the Sunni triangle proved disastrous, leading to an increase in attacks on our troops. It was only when we cracked down — hard — that we saw a lessening of the attacks and progress toward getting Saddam. The tough tactics included barbed wire and arrests, as Newsweek explained: “The Americans received numerous tips from Iraqis interested in the $25 million reward, but none of them panned out. So the military began to squeeze. About six weeks ago, soldiers of the Fourth Infantry Division strung barbed wire around the small farm village of Awja, where Saddam had lived as a boy, about 5 to 10 kilometers south of Tikrit–and, as it turned out, some 5 kilometers from the farm where he was finally captured. The town was a Saddamite fishbowl. About 60 percent of the village’s thousand or so men were arrested and questioned. ‘We had number 6’s father, Saddam’s first cousin, quite a cast of characters that are town elders,’ Lt. Col. Steve Russell of the Fourth I.D. told NEWSWEEK. By the time Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Baghdad in early December, top CENTCOM officials were beginning to feel that they were finally closing in. A top aide to Rumsfeld told NEWSWEEK that intelligence was working up the food chain toward Saddam, arresting and interrogating sources who were getting close to the fugitive himself.” As it happens, on Saturday the New York Times news pages had a piece with a general explaining how the crackdown was making real progress against the insurgency and he was increasingly optimistic about bagging Saddam. This turned out, of course, to be a very prescient piece. But as all this progress was happening on the ground, liberals here in the U.S. were bewailing our new toughness. On Saturday, the New York Times editorialized sourly: “Frustrated by suicide bombings and guerrilla violence, American military officers resort to the kind of harsh tactics that have caused endless ill will in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” On Sunday, Jim Sollisch of NPR wrote in the Washington Post: “I read that our occupying army is now using the techniques of the Israeli army — burning down houses, encasing whole villages in razor wire, detaining the families of suspected insurgents. And, I am too ashamed to keep quiet.” It is hard to imagine a more stark demonstration of why, at a time like this, liberals can’t be trusted in power — they aren’t up to it either intellectually or temperamentally. Barbed wire just scares them too much.


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