Thursday, July 24, 2003

As noted by Atrios and others, questions are being raised about the operation that took down the Hussein brothers:

Certainly only a few diehards mourned the passing of Uday and Qusay Hussein; the regime’s Caligula and its Heir Apparent were if anything despised and feared even more than their dad. But as details became clearer of the raid that eliminated what the U.S. military calls High Value Targets (HVTs) Nos. 2 and 3, a lot of people in the intelligence community were left wondering: why weren’t they just taken alive?

At a news briefing today, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, squirmed his way past that question repeatedly. It was, he said, the decision of the commander on the ground based on the circumstances and his judgment—”and it was the right decision.”

But was it? Who beside the sons might have better information about the one HVT that really matters, Saddam? “The whole operation was a cockup,” said a British intelligence officer. “There was no need to go after four lightly armed men with such overwhelming firepower. They would have been much more useful alive.”

But Sanchez insisted it wasn’t overkill. “Absolutely not. Our mission is to find, kill or capture high-value targets. We had an enemy that was barricaded and we had to take measures to neutralize the target.

“Bollocks,” said one former Special Forces soldier. “A SWAT team could have taken them. It didn’t need a company.”
No idea whether this will have any traction... to be honest, I hadn't even thought of the "why did they kill them" angle until it began showing up in Blogovia and, apparently, the mainstream press. I had just somewhat assumed that the standing orders were that Hussein and his sons were not to be taken alive, and who would challenge that? Uday was insane and Qusay was as bad as his father, if not worse. I was (and remain) somewhat uncomfortable at the idea that leaders are fair game- too much opportunity for "payback"- but I harboured no illusions about the attitude that the American (and Iraqi) public would have upon hearing this news. If they had had the opportunity, the Iraqis would have probably done something much, much worse to mad Uday and "the Snake".

Still, considering the 9/11 report and its revealing of more Bush duplicity, and considering the possible ramifications of the "Wilson's wife" story, this particular question is likely to remain somewhat academic. The real question, as I mentioned earlier, is what it means to the political scene in Iraq and in the United States. It may seem trite to bring everything back to Bush and domestic politics, but the president isn't called "the leader of the free world" because of his oratorial skill... it's because he wields more power than any other single human being on earth. Given the nature of the man that power has been entrusted to, I'd say that the 2004 election matters a great deal no matter who you are or where you live.

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