Christopher Hitchens (known to UK readers for his columns in The Spectator and the tabloid Daily Mail, and US readers for his bi-monthly column in Vanity Fair) has penned a must-read column on the capture of Saddam Hussein, and how it marks the end of a regime so brutal, it is unimaginable to those of us fortunate enough to have lived in secular Western culture: Chrsitopher Hitchens on Saddam's Capture
Kanan Makiya's brilliant profile of Ba'ath Party rule, The Republic of Fear, had a title that was, if anything, understated. In Baghdad in the old days, I knew people who said you could smell the fear. Others said no, you could taste it. The one who came closest said you could actually eat it.
Just the mention of the name was enough to bring a look into the eyes of almost any Iraqi: the look of a broken dog that is once again shown the whip. This is why I can't stand those who refer with a sneer to the courageous Iraqi opposition as "exiles".
It's a brilliant essay that truly makes one feel, albeit vicariously, the oppressive fear that permeated every aspect of Iraqi life. While I agree with the overall tenor and point of Hitchens' piece, I can't embrace his categorization of Iraqi exiles. Formenting change in from inside Iraq was a near impossibility; after all, those who possessed the courage to challenge the Ba'athist tyrants were dragged away and tortured before being executed without trial.
I've often wanted to ask those persons who identify themselves as civil libertarians as well as anti-Bush's "Unjust War" how they reconcile the inherent dichotomy of Hussein's actions to suppress all dissent under penalty of dismemberment or even death with the fact that today's Iraqis, while enduring the chaos that comes with the last desperate acts of self-preservation among Saddam's disposessed power-base, have at their disposal the tools and resources to create a more liberated society than could have existed prior to this war? I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for a common-sense answer to this question, as introspection, not to mention common sense, is often absent from their emotion- & ideology-fuelled hatred of anything our President does.