Is it Really Hussein?


Does It Matter? asks Heather Wokusch

Now that the Evil Prince of Iraqi Darkness has been captured by valiant US military forces, the Middle East is free to democratize and the world at large is a much safer place. As Bush put it, Hussein's capture means "sovereignty" for Iraq, "dignity for ... every Iraqi citizen, the opportunity for a better life. All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence."

Any problems with this rosy assessment? Maybe my bullshit detectors go into overdrive every time the Bush administration announces a success, but this latest scenario just doesn't stack up.

For one, how do we know that the dusty old guy dragged out of the ground really is Saddam? Hussein was known to have had multiple "doubles," exact lookalikes who, for security reasons, took his place in meeting foreign dignitaries and in mingling with the public. Could the famous prisoner just be a double? A stooge set up to take the heat while Hussein lives lavishly-ever-after

in some other country?

DNA tests will apparently be conducted on the prisoner to prove he's Hussein, but it's unclear where the necessary comparative DNA samples will be obtained or how independent the verification process will be.

One could argue, of course, that the Bush administration would look pretty dumb later on if an impostor testified in court, so the prisoner must be Saddam. But face it: if Hussein ever does go on trial, how public will it be? Imagine the testimony:

"Well Your Honor, during the 80s I got all kinds of battlefield intelligence and weaponry from my buddies in the White House. Reagan and Poppy Bush gave me billions of dollars in credits for US agricultural products, so I could buy more weapons on the side, and a whole slew of stateside corporations sold me biological and other weaponry. Gassing Kurds, crushing Shiite uprisings ... no problem for my American friends! Wanna see a picture of me and Donald


Won't happen. We will not be hearing detailed depositions from Hussein, any more than we'll be seeing open trials for Guantanamo inmates.

But suspend doubt for a moment and assume the prisoner really is Hussein. Imagine he didn't escape with untold wealth to a mansion in Moscow, a villa in Naples, wherever, and really did end up moving from hovel to underground hovel in bombed-out Iraq. Then who revealed his location and what were the true circumstances of his capture?

The official version (brought to us by the same folks who presented Jessica Lynch as a Barbie action figure) is that superior US intelligence led Operation "Red Dawn" forces to their dusty prey. Little mention is made of the $25 million bounty on Hussein's head (namely if it was forked over, as was the $30 million for information on his two sons), but the fact that information was reportedly obtained "under duress" to discover his whereabouts would indicate harsh  interrogation, if not torture, was used to find him.

The L.A. Times reported a US official saying, "Some people were impossible to find, but we'd find their relatives. One interrogation led to another raid, which led to another interrogation."

And then there's the matter of Hussein's spaced out, arguably drugged, appearance upon capture. Conspiracy theory has it he was actually being held prisoner, and the White House was just waiting for the most politically expedient time to "find" him. None other than Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently told a Fox news analyst she suspects Bush knows where Osama Bin Laden is too.

Bribery, mass raids/interrogations, political kidnappings? Who knows the truth behind this sordid affair, but it appears "sovereignty" and "dignity" for Iraqis were not the operating principles in capturing Hussein.

Bottom line: Prisoner Saddam is nothing more than a distraction, a prop used to bolster sagging White House ratings, much like the plastic turkey Bush offered troops in photo-ops last Thanksgiving. Hussein will be dangled every now and then (just in time for Christmas, next year's elections, Halliburton's latest accusation of corruption ...) and then locked away in a dungeon for life, or maybe even bumped off, "Jack Ruby" style.

Because surely the White House won't need him for long. The US will soon invade other countries way more evil, depose their dastardly leaders, and win more hearts, minds, respect and security in the process.

Heather Wokusch is a free-lance writer. She can be contacted via her web site: www.heatherwokusch