Question of the Day: ‘Would You Have Left Saddam in Power?’

Surfing the blogs and reading the usual suspects in the usual propaganda outlets, I get the impression that the war hawks have settled on a response to the WMD snipe hunt fiasco and the broken promise of democracy fiasco. This is to respond to every bit of bad news – and every new sign of the administration’s bad faith – by snarling the question: “Well, would you have left Saddam in power?”

This is the right-wing question de jour because they believe it puts opponents of the war in an impossible position. Say “yes,” and it doesn’t matter what else you say, the attack machine has you in its cross hairs. Say “no,” and the obvious response is “so what you are bitching about?”

It’s a clever tactic – in a cheap, Mayberry Machiavelli sort of way. The kind of thing Grover Norquist and his storm troopers might think up at their little lunches and pass along to the RNC and its mouthpieces at Fox News.

But it’s only a short-term fix, because the mess in Iraq is now the sole property of George W. Bush and the U.S. military. Saddam is gone, if not forgotten, and constantly reminding the world of his evil ways can only obscure the utter incompetence of our Iraq adventure for so long.

The truth is that what’s coming down the road in Iraq is going to make the old “containment” policy seem like a wet dream. And asking a bunch of powerless liberals what they would have done instead isn’t going to cut much ice with the American people once they finally realize what a nightmare they’ve been dragged into.

But, since I’m not running for office and have no journalistic reputation left to protect, I’ll answer the hawks’ question: Yes, I would have left Saddam in power.

Because at the end of the day, having a brutal but aging dictator sitting in a box in Baghdad would have been far safer for U.S. national security – and the health and welfare of the Iraqi people – than the bloody chaos we have unleashed.

Because booting Saddam back into the criminal underground resurrected not one of his previous victims, and added another 4,000 names or so to the list of casualties – and that doesn’t include the thousands or hundreds of thousands more who will die in the insanity to come.

Because whatever chance Iraq had to eventually emerge from Baathist dictatorship into some less horrific form of government has been blown. The only options now are Lebanon-style chaos or an expensive, bloody U.S. occupation – followed by Lebanon-style chaos once we finally give up and withdraw.

Because without self-defense or proof of an imminent threat as justification, the United States did not have anything close to the color of the law to back its aggression. America has destroyed its own crediblity, the credibility of the United Nations and the credibility of international law to pursue the necons’ silly dream of “remaking” the Middle East. I hope the hawks can remember that when some other country – India? China? Russia? – launches its own “preemptive war” against a smaller, weaker country.

Because we are now hated and feared as never before in most corners of the world. And if you think that doesn’t matter, just wait until the next terrorist atttack on the United States, when the sound we hear from the rest of the world isn’t words of sympathy or solidarity, but sullen silence – or cheering.

At some point, the American people are going to realize just how isolated we’ve become in the world – outside the small circle of bureaucrats, kleptocrats and oil sheiks who do our bidding in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. And I don’t know how they’re going to react. But given the ignorance, racism and blind trust in the U.S. government I see reflected every day – in both the real and cyber worlds – I don’t want to think about the possibilities.

Bottom line: The conservatives, their beloved president and his neocon revolutionaries have made an ENORMOUS mistake – of the kind that keep historians busy arguing for decades: How could they have done something so stupid? It’s the March of Folly, heading straight over a cliff.

And shouting, as they topple over the edge:

“But what about Saddammmmmmm?????????”