More than 3,000 American servicemen and women are dead. Forty-seven thousand reportedly are injured. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead, and the region is awash in sectarian violence that never ends. The reputation of the United States is in shambles, billions of tax dollars have been poured into the sand and the most radical elements of the Arab world are feeling invincible.
But we got Saddam.
Vowing to bring democracy to Iraq, we have in fact brought back the Middle Ages. The grainy images of Saddam's final hours elated my conservative friends, because a tyrant went down " a murderer got what was coming to him. U.S. officials didn't like the timing, but nobody in the White House tried to stop it. Indeed, one could say that at the most personal level for President Bush, this was the real prize. It's never been about democracy. It's about what happens when you threaten to kill my dad, and he doesn't finish the job.
Life in prison would have been the real punishment for Saddam, and like with Timothy McVeigh, the truth died on those gallows. Most Americans accept the accounts of the gassing of the Kurds as gospel, even though a U.S. intelligence report concluded that it was Iranian gas, not Iraqi gas, that killed the Kurds.
No doubt about it: Saddam Hussein was a murderer in a land of murders. But the revisionist history of the ultimate bad guy was brought to you by the same people who gave us Jessica Lynch, Pat Tillman and "mission accomplished."
In the world's most bizarre and incompetent show trial, Hussein was sentenced to death for the 1982 murders of 148 Shiites in Dujail, as a reprisal for a failed assassination attempt. This conveniently predates the time when we were helping Hussein to do his killing, and before the tyrant we created got out of hand. Like Ferdinand Marcos and Manuel Noriega before him, we'll work with despots as long as it suits us. But when they are no longer useful, or become a threat, then we turn on them with a choreographed righteousness. The useful idiots become the evil ones.
Ironic, isn't it, that Hussein's death sentence was handed down for killings ordered after a failed assassination attempt? The apparent assassination plot by Hussein to kill Bush Sr. was said to have obsessed the son. The number of deaths that have resulted from the war to avenge that obsession far outnumber the death toll in Dujail.
Although the president loves to say, ad nauseam, that the "world is better off without Saddam Hussein," just roll back the tape and remember how it was in the bad old days. In the Arab world, Iraq was one of the most progressive and secular of all the states, and Sunni and Shia bloodletting was kept at bay. Saddam's hatred of bin Laden and al-Qaida kept terrorists out of the country until our failed invasion turned it into a world-class training ground. Our defeat at the hands of the insurgency, Israel's deadly draw with Hamas, and a possible Turkish war with the Kurds have emboldened the region's most radical elements who threaten to torch the whole Middle East.
But we got Saddam.
The real question is: What have we become? What have we unleashed? And who would Jesus hang? Perhaps the truth is too painful to bear: The noose is around our neck. - Robin Meyers
Meyers is minister of Mayflower UCC Church in Oklahoma City.