Tuesday, December 16, 2003

I started writing this piece a couple of days ago when the news of the capture of Saddam became public. I haven't been able to finish it, though, because I get so furious at the attempts of the local and international anti-Americans to minimize the importance of the fall of Saddam. We have him and now we're going to find out all about weapons of mass destruction, not to mention huge massacres of innocent people and all the other evil that that man perpetrated. But it's no big deal if you've already decided the Americans are wrong, see. Anyway, here it is. I'm going to translate a piece from one Javier Valenzuela in El Pais and an article from Tikrit Tommy Alcoverro in La Vangua when I get around to it.

The Spanish media coverage of Saddam Hussein's capture has been somewhat less than highly enthusiastic. When the capture was announced the TV stations had a special report, but it lasted only a few minutes. I remember on 9-11 they had all-day coverage of the attacks, they did the same thing a few weeks later when a plane crashed in Rockaway, in Queens, which turned out to be an accident, and they had all-day coverage the day the Iraq war broke out and the day the Americans took Baghdad. For this one, though, they just went back to regular programming after the newsbreak. I really would have appreciated more information than they gave us. I got it off the Net, of course, but I'm a little disappointed in Spanish TV's lack of coverage.

Now, admittedly it's big news, but it's not especially complex news, if you see what I mean. That is, I understand there isn't that much to say besides the bare essentials of the story, you know, they got him hiding out in a bunker. Anything else there is to say comes out of the US military, and all news outlets have the same access, so I'll bet what we saw on the 8:30 evening news here was more or less all the interesting stuff which everybody else saw. They still could have broken for updates every couple of hours during the afternoon, though.

I watched the news on Television Espanola this afternoon at 3 PM; most of their correspondent's report from Baghdad consisted of film of several pro-Saddam demonstrations, one of which apparently turned into a pretty good riot. They did show one anti-Saddam demo, but let's say that the selection of the news TVE reported on reflects their point of view a whole lot better than an analysis of two Russell Crowe movies. reflects anything about America.

As far as the press, La Vanguardia titled its international pages dedicated to the arrest as "The fall of the Iraqi tyrant" at the top of every page. Here's mildly persnickety Jose Antich in the Page Two signed editorial:

It is difficult to know to what degree the capture of Saddam will precipitate the Iraqi resistance toward dialogue with the current rulers or, on the other hand, there will be a quagmire in the postwar situation. One objection: Saddam must not become a trophy of war. He should be tried by a court--the Iraqi criminal court, better than any other--and face the corresponding sentence. Yesterday was a good day for the Iraqis and for the international community. And that satisfaction neither can nor should be rejected.

A couple of points: 1) La Vanguardia hasn't been much help in getting rid of Saddam. I would even dare to say that in their fomenting of anti-Americanism and Arab nationalism, they've been more of a negative factor than anything else. 2) I appreciate Mr. Antich's feelings of satisfaction at the end of the road for a dictator. He's basically a decent guy at heart, just confused. 3) What Iraqi resistance? What there seems to be are a) some Saddam clan loyalists, who have been struck a deadly blow b) some al-Qaeda and similar foreign Arab or Muslim terrorists c) some Iraqi criminals and gangsters that Saddam let out of the slammer a couple of weeks before the war--like Fidel, he cleaned out his jails d) A few dumb teenagers. What there seem to be very few of are e) normal Iraqi citizens with jobs and families toting guns against the Coalition troops.

The Vangua points out that Saddam's capture will undoubtedly help Bush, and Joe Lieberman and maybe Dick Gephardt will be the beneficiaries among the Democrats. They signal Howard Dean as the candidate most likely to be hurt. They also mention that many political operatives say that both sides, the Reps and the Dems, may be trying to establish their strength among their most basic supporters first and trying to attract swing voters second. Well, that is the standard way an American political campaign works. You run left (or right) during the primaries to nail down your core voters. Then you run center in the post-convention campaign to attract centrist and/or undecided voters.

El Pais is pissy. Here's their lead editorial on Monday:

...Saddam Hussein...cruel tyrant...threat to neighbors...USA seems not to discover this until August 1990...never again must the USA support dictators of this type as they did with Saddam...international or Iraqi, not American court should try Saddam...just like the American military victory over Iraq was predictable, so was the capture, sooner or later, of Saddam...the greatest power in the world needed seven months of occupation of Iraq in order to catch a defeated, aged, and hidden-in-a-hole Saddam...Now that the personal struggle between the Bushes and Saddam has ended...

Yeah, right, you guys thought an American victory in Iraq and the capture of Saddam were inevitable. Sure. Besides, remember, a) the United States barely supported Saddam. All the military stuff we sold him, ever, were some 60 Hughes and Bell helicopters, which we sold him between the end of the Iran-Iraq war and the invasion of Kuwait. That's less than one percent of Iraq military imports. The majority of Iraqi arms are Russian, French, and Chinese, in that order b) we did tilt back and forth between the Iranians and the Iraqis between 1980 and 1988, basically because we wanted both sides to lose and didn't want either side to gain a clear-cut victory.

Cynical, maybe, but Reagan was in charge then and he's about to be historically rehabilitated. Just like Ike, it's being discovered that Reagan was a good deal smarter than he sometimes let on to be. And remember those years: 1980-1988. That's when the Cold War was on, the last eight years of the Cold War while we were torturing ourselves with atomic nightmares (cf: The Day After), remember, and what we could do internationally was limited by what the Russians would think of it. Daring the Russians, or challenging them, was considered dangerous. Remember the panic when Reagan's joke, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Soviet Union has just been outlawed. The bombing begins in five minutes," over an open mike, got out around 1983? I was sure nervous and scared. I thought Reagan was going to get us nuked.

b) No, this is not a Bush-Hussein dyanstic war. Though if it were, it would be a clear Bush win, since they're all alive and free, while Saddam is in custody and Uday and Qusay are dead. That's two US presidents and one governor of Florida against one guy in jail and two guys in hell.

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