Sunday, December 14, 2003

Our troops in Iraq have reported Saddam Hussein's capture. Alive. Clearly this is a mistake. There is an old Charles Bronson movie which ends with him shooting someone from a rooftop, then sitting back to wait for the police. When an officer emerges from the stairs and tries to arrest him, Bronson says "You don't know your job, do you? Here, I'll make it easy for you." He then grabs his gun to point it at the policeman, so that the officer will have to shoot him.

The troops in Iraq, just like that policeman, don't know their job. If Saddam lives and is put on trial, he may embarrass Donald Rumsfeld by greeting him as an old friend and supplier. Why couldn't our former Iraqi client have been "accidentally" killed when they found him? Of course we can't expect them to equal that masterpiece by a dictator of Brazil, who announced that the previous ruler had been "poisoned while trying to escape", but surely Karl Rove could have concocted some tale. He has never been troubled by the hobgoblin of small minds.

Why did our soldiers fail to understand what their real job was? Because the media-obsessed Pentagon sent them the wrong message. According to this story, "An Army commander who threatened to kill an Iraqi detainee for refusing to answer questions avoided court-martial when his superior decided to let him retire and pay a $5,000 fine, the Army said yesterday. Lt. Col. Allen West, 42, was relieved of his post and ordered sent from Iraq to his base in Texas after being found guilty of aggravated assault and communicating a threat." Even though the officer exercised creative initiative by firing a gun near the prisoner's head to frighten him, he was still punished.

This has had an effect. Not even George's mockery ("International law? I'd better call my lawyer.") can overcome this terrible example of the "rule of law". Just scare a terrorist, and you'll be subject to punishment. God forbid you should actually kill one. So Saddam gets taken alive. I'm sure the trial lawyers are all happy now, probably toasting with vile French champagne the opportunity for fame defending him. Where is what left wing icon Molly Ivins derides as "tort deform" when we need it? ("The first thing we do, let's kill all the Lawyers." --Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part II, Act IV, Scene 2)

Liberals always denounce the use of torture in interrogations, claiming it is unreliable. Hogwash. The sadly discontinued witch hunts of the seventeenth century and earlier were brilliantly successful. They killed tens of thousands of people across Europe following confessions on the rack. Modern technology like electric cattle prods, combined with drugs, means now we can get anyone to admit to anything, even if they have to make it up. The purpose of a crusade is not to find the facts, but to punish someone for being evil.

Just as our soldiers were intimidated out of doing their job by fear, the masses will go out of their way to avoid even a hint of proscribed conduct, speech, or thought -- if they are convinced that guilt is irrelevant, since the authorities are determined to burn someone at the stake. They will even have a genuine incentive to provide plenty of new victims for the machine. It doesn't matter if their tips are lies. All that counts is the number of people we get to execute, preferably in public, to frighten others into compliance. Witch hunts really do work, if your goal is not some silly liberal idea of an intangible "truth" ("What is Truth? Said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer." --Francis Bacon, Essays, 1597), but rather to terrorize everyone and make them obey, obey, obey. If that's not our purpose, then what's the fun of having a government at all?

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