Monday, December 22, 2003

Savor it. Adolf Hitler deprived the Allies of the satisfaction of executing him. Josef Stalin died in his bed. Pol Pot died of natural causes. But Saddam Hussein, that vicious, depraved worm of a man, was plucked from his rathole. Ah the great warrior. The author of the Mother of All Battles. The man who claimed he would drive the “invaders” from Iraq. The man who forced thousands of Iraqis to sacrifice their lives so he could continue his squalid and luxurious spree in his many palaces.

This modern-day Saladin (another of his conceits) didn’t even have the courage to kill himself in the end, but submitted meekly, with an offer to “negotiate.”

There was a time in our history when such a triumph for our forces would have engendered universal applause and deep gratification in America. But we are not living in such a time. For liberals, no U.S. success is an unmixed blessing, and I don’t mean this in the short-term political sense — “This will hurt Howard Dean’s campaign” — though that is clearly true, but also in a more philosophical sense.

Note how nearly every liberal has been quick to emphasize, after perfunctory words of praise for the troops, that Saddam’s capture opens the door to a larger United Nations role in Iraq. The New York Times editorialized two days after Saddam’s capture that the U.N. should be enlisted to conduct a trial because “a tribunal picked by Americans would lack legitimacy.”

Why? Does the Times suggest the United States cannot be trusted to conduct a fair trial? President Bush is surely right that the Iraqis themselves should try their oppressor. Not because we are incapable of doing so properly — but because the Iraqis, as his principle victims, have the moral right to seek justice first.

Just hours prior to Saddam’s capture, callers to NPR radio programs, commentators on liberal Web sites and lefty columnists had been baying about the terrible grossness of the Bush administration’s decision to exclude French, German and Russian companies from valuable prime contracts in rebuilding Iraq. Some have suggested those countries were prescient about the Iraq war and ought not to be penalized for it.

At least that’s what they say. They probably really think anyone who opposes the Bush administration is doing something right.

Consider this: Many liberals have been at pains to point out the United States once supported Saddam Hussein. They cite the Reagan administration’s decision to “tilt” toward Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. In hindsight, it was a mistake to do so. Strict neutrality would have been preferable to dirtying our hands.

But here is where the liberal sentiment gets murky. They are all over the United States for having once supported Saddam, even though we have repented of that and, at considerable cost in blood and treasure, have driven him from his throne.

Yet they have nothing but praise for the French, who built a nuclear reactor for Saddam, supplied him with loans and goods, supported him diplomatically to the bitter end and did everything in their power to keep the U.N. from joining with the United States, Britain and others to liberate Iraq from him.

Many of the Democratic presidential candidates, their fannies smarting from having the rug pulled out from under them, returned to their favorite mantra — the capture of Saddam, said Sen. John Kerry and others — was an “opportunity” to get the United Nations more involved in postwar Iraq. What is this mythic U.N. they keep invoking?

Memo to liberals: The U.N. bugged out of Iraq after the bombing of its headquarters, remember? It’s perched at a safe distance in Cyprus. On Dec. 11, 2003, the New York Times reported: “Secretary General Kofi Annan said Wednesday that the dangerous situation in Iraq had caused him to rule out a swift resumption of a United Nations presence there.”

Frankly, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari had a much clearer view of the moral standing of the U.N. than Mr. Dean, Mr. Kerry, the New York Times and the rest. “One year ago,” he told the delegates, “this Security Council was divided between those who wanted to appease Saddam Hussein and those who wanted to hold him accountable. The U.N. as an organization failed to help rescue the Iraqi people from a murderous tyranny that lasted over 35 years, and today we are unearthing thousands of victims in horrifying testament to that failure. …”

That pathetic talking shop is the Democrats’ Holy Grail.

Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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