December 15, 2003

We Caught The Wrong Guy

Here are some talking points (the only ones you'll need) for the next few days:
1. Saddam did not kill thousands of innocent US citizens on 9/11
2. No WMDs have been found in Iraq (you were told there were tens of thousands of tons of them, you were told they could be delivered in 45 minutes)
3. Over 400 US soldiers have been killed already in Iraq, and many thousands injured, some maimed for life
4. Al-Qaeda, which did kill thousands of innocent US citizens on 9/11 is stronger today than it was a year ago (because the _resident has fed the fire, lost the good will of the world and redirected vital resources to his foolish military adventure in Iraq)

The _resident LIED, and over 400 US soldiers have DIED
-- and this country is more vulnnerable today, not

William Rivers Pitt: "Hussein was never a threat to the United States. His capture means nothing to the safety and security of the American people. The money we spent to put the bag on him might have gone towards capturing bin Laden, who is a threat, but that did not happen. We can be happy for the people of Iraq, because their Hussein problem is over. Here in America, our Hussein problem is just beginning. The other problem, that Osama fellow we should have been trying to capture this whole time, remains perched over our door like the raven."

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We Caught The Wrong Guy
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Monday 15 December 2003

Saddam Hussein, former employee of the American
federal government, was captured near a farmhouse in
Tikrit in a raid performed by other employees of the
American federal government. That sounds pretty
deranged, right? Perhaps, but it is also accurate. The
unifying thread binding together everyone assembled at
that Tikrit farmhouse is the simple fact that all of
them – the soldiers as well as Hussein – have received
pay from the United States for services rendered.

It is no small irony that Hussein, the Butcher of
Baghdad, the monster under your bed lo these last
twelve years, was paid probably ten thousand times
more during his time as an American employee than the
soldiers who caught him on Saturday night. The boys in
the Reagan White House were generous with your tax
dollars, and Hussein was a recipient of their largesse
for the better part of a decade.

If this were a Tom Clancy movie, we would be
watching the dramatic capture of Hussein somewhere in
the last ten minutes of the tale. The bedraggled
dictator would be put on public trial for his crimes,
sentenced to several thousand concurrent life
sentences, and dragged off to prison in chains. The
anti-American insurgents in Iraq, seeing the sudden
futility of their fight to place Hussein back into
power, would lay down their arms and melt back into
the countryside. For dramatic effect, more than a few
would be cornered by SEAL teams in black facepaint and
discreetly shot in the back of the head. The President
would speak with eloquence as the martial score
swelled around him. Fade to black, roll credits, get
off my plane.

The real-world version is certainly not lacking in
drama. The streets of Baghdad were thronged on Sunday
with mobs of Iraqi people celebrating the final
removal of a despot who had haunted their lives since
1979. Their joy was utterly unfettered. Images on CNN
of Hussein, looking for all the world like a Muslim
version of Charles Manson while getting checked for
head lice by an American medic, were as surreal as
anything one might ever see on a television.

Unfortunately, the real-world script has a lot of
pages left to be turned. Former U.N. weapons inspector
Scott Ritter, reached at his home on Sunday, said,
“It’s great that they caught him. The man was a brutal
dictator who committed terrible crimes against his
people. But now we come to rest of story. We didn’t go
to war to capture Saddam Hussein. We went to war to
get rid of weapons of mass destruction. Those weapons
have not been found.” Ray McGovern, senior analyst and
27-year veteran of the CIA, echoed Ritter’s
perspective on Sunday. “It’s wonderful that he was
captured, because now we’ll find out where the weapons
of mass destruction are,” said McGovern with tongue
firmly planted in cheek. “We killed his sons before
they could tell us.”

Indeed, reality intrudes. The push for war before
March was based upon Hussein’s possession of 26,000
liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin,
1,000,000 pounds of sarin gas, mustard gas, and VX
nerve gas, along with 30,000 munitions to deliver
these agents, uranium from Niger to be used in nuclear
bombs, and let us not forget the al Qaeda terrorists
closely associated with Hussein who would take this
stuff and use it against us on the main streets and
back roads of the United States.

When they found Hussein hiding in that dirt hole in
the ground, none of this stuff was down there with
him. The full force of the American military has been
likewise unable to locate it anywhere else. There is
no evidence of al al Qaeda agents working with
Hussein, and Bush was forced some weeks ago to
publicly acknowledge that Hussein had nothing to do
with September 11. The Niger uranium story was
debunked last summer.

Conventional wisdom now holds that none of this
stuff was there to begin with, and all the clear
statements from virtually everyone in the Bush
administration squatting on the public record
describing the existence of this stuff looks now like
what it was then: A lot of overblown rhetoric and
outright lies, designed to terrify the American people
into supporting an unnecessary go-it-alone war. Said
war made a few Bush cronies rich beyond the dreams of
avarice while allowing some hawks in the Defense
Department to play at empire-building, something they
have been craving for more than ten years.

Of course, the rhetoric mutated as the weapons
stubbornly refused to be found. By the time Bush did
his little ‘Mission Accomplished’ strut across the
aircraft carrier, the occupation was about the removal
of Saddam Hussein and the liberation of the Iraqi
people. No longer were we informed on a daily basis of
the “sinister nexus between Hussein and al Qaeda,” as
described by Colin Powell before the United Nations in
February. No longer were we fed the insinuations that
Hussein was involved in the attacks of September 11.
Certainly, any and all mention of weapons of mass
destruction ceased completely. We were, instead,
embarking on some noble democratic experiment.

The capture of Saddam Hussein, and the Iraqis
dancing in the streets of Baghdad, feeds nicely into
these newly-minted explanations. Mr. Bush and his
people will use this as the propaganda coup it is, and
to great effect. But a poet once said something about
tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow.

“We are not fighting for Saddam," said an Iraqi
named Kashid Ahmad Saleh in a New York Times report
from a week ago. "We are fighting for freedom and
because the Americans are Jews. The Governing Council
is a bunch of looters and criminals and mercenaries.
We cannot expect that stability in this country will
ever come from them. The principle is based on
religion and tribal loyalties," continued Saleh. "The
religious principle is that we cannot accept to live
with infidels. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him,
said, `Hit the infidels wherever you find them.' We
are also a tribal people. We cannot allow strangers to
rule over us."

Welcome to the new Iraq. The theme that the 455
Americans killed there, and the thousands of others
who have been wounded, fell at the hands of
pro-Hussein loyalists is now gone. The Bush
administration celebrations over this capture will
appear quite silly and premature when the dying
continues. Whatever Hussein bitter-enders there are
will be joined by Iraqi nationalists who will now see
no good reason for American forces to remain. After
all, the new rhetoric highlighted the removal of
Hussein as the reason for this invasion, and that task
has been completed. Yet American forces are not
leaving, and will not leave. The killing of our troops
will continue because of people like Kashid Ahmad
Saleh. All Hussein’s capture did for Saleh was remove
from the table the idea that he was fighting for the
dictator. He is free now, and the war will begin in

The dying will continue because America’s presence
in Iraq is a wonderful opportunity for a man named
Osama bin Laden, who was not captured on Saturday. Bin
Laden, it has been reported, is thrilled by what is
happening in Iraq, and plans to throw as much violence
as he can muster at American forces there. The Bush
administration spent hundreds of billions of dollars
on this Iraq invasion, not one dime of which went
towards the capture or death of the fellow who brought
down the Towers a couple of years ago. For bin Laden
and his devotees, Iraq is better than Disneyland.

For all the pomp and circumstance that has
surrounded the extraction of the former Iraqi dictator
from a hole in the ground, the reality is that the
United States is not one bit safer now that the man is
in chains.

There will be no trial for Hussein, at least nothing
in public, because he might start shouting about the
back pay he is owed from his days as an employee of
the American government. Because another former
employee of the American government named Osama is
still alive and free, our troops are still in mortal
danger in Iraq.

Hussein was never a threat to the United States. His
capture means nothing to the safety and security of
the American people. The money we spent to put the bag
on him might have gone towards capturing bin Laden,
who is a threat, but that did not happen. We can be
happy for the people of Iraq, because their Hussein
problem is over. Here in America, our Hussein problem
is just beginning. The other problem, that Osama
fellow we should have been trying to capture this
whole time, remains perched over our door like the


William Rivers Pitt is the Managing Editor of He is a New York Times and international
best-selling author of three books - "War On Iraq,"
available from Context Books, "The Greatest Sedition
is Silence," available from Pluto Press, and "Our
Flag, Too: The Paradox of Patriotism," available in
August from Context Books.

Posted by richard at December 15, 2003 10:08 AM