O munificent and mighty Saladin of our days, coming conqueror of the Crusaders and silent partner of Osama.
Whoops. I know I wasn't supposed to ever mention that last one, Saddam. Yes, I remember. That was private. It just slipped out in my anguish over your imminent demise.
It's not easy losing a known part of the universe and a reference point for a career. Pointing out your foibles, flaws and serial crimes against humanity over two decades has kept me busy, even in slow times. So, as I said in my last letter, you will be missed. Sort of.
You grow touchy, old chum. Yes, I did say that you sealed your fate with the 12,000 pages of recycled phony documents you submitted to the U.N. Security Council in December. Not even the French or Russians would defend that pack of lies, I thought. Okay, so I underestimated the human capacity for self-induced blindness. But the forecast doesn't change. Because you don't change.
Saddam, Iraq's opposition leaders will someday build statues in their liberated towns to the European diplomats and politicians who have sought to delay or undermine a U.S. invasion in this winter of decision. These Europeans clearly have convinced you by now that you can outlast this President Bush too -- that you don't have to deal with the demands to disarm seriously, or at all. You can go on stiffing inspectors ad infinitum.
Getting you to dig in your heels is all the help this President Bush needs. I wonder if he put Jacques Chirac up to this. Heh-heh-heh.
In 1990 the Bush 41 hawks were petrified that you would partially withdraw from Kuwait and start negotiations that would split the coalition and block an invasion. But half-measures or compromises in which you seem to give up something have never been your style. Why start now?
The confusion that you see in Washington over the Day After plans and the recent open rows between Iraq's democratic opposition and U.S. officials should also comfort and mislead you. You are not likely to see this for what it is: the final coming to grips with the very tough issues that a U.S. invasion and occupation of an Arab country will entail.
There is a real dilemma for U.S. officials in talking now, on the cusp of invasion, about postwar Iraq's army and civil service. The one thing that might encourage ordinary soldiers and bureaucrats to defend you would be the news that they are soon to be dismissed, put on trial or shot summarily. Or, as one U.S. official said the other day: "We don't know yet if we will be met by cheers, jeers or shooting." Talk of purges could encourage resistance.
But the dilemma is more than a matter of psychological warfare. The Iraq Liberation Army now being trained in Hungary will number -- at most -- a few thousand when war starts. The troops will be essentially interpreters, guides and military police accompanying the coalition ground forces who will do the fighting.
Given visibility and the clear imprint of U.S. support, the ILA troops could and should become the backbone of a reformed Iraqi army. There should also be room in that army for those who help U.S. troops find and destroy your chemical, biological and nuclear weapons facilities and provide evidence of your, shall we say, unique accomplishments in the human rights area.
Washington wants to keep all options open as long as possible. That is why it has resisted the proposals of the Iraqi National Congress to form a provisional government right now in the Kurdish north. This in turn has caused the anti-you folks to lash out publicly against U.S. occupation plans, as INC leaders Ahmed Chalabi and Kanan Makiya did last week.
Again, things may not be as simple as they seem for you. The publicity generated by the INC blasts helps show these are Iraqi patriots, not U.S. puppets. The Kurds, upset by the appearance of U.S. support for the Turkish generals chomping at the bit to take control of Kurdistan, have come back fully into the INC fold. Washington has been alerted that it must not stir up deep-rooted and entirely justified Kurdish fears of betrayal by giving the Turks too much leeway.
Well, space runs out for me, as time finally does for you. Keep on listening to the diplomats and protesters, Saddam. They sing a siren song that should lull you and carry you on the final leg of a long journey of destruction.