Christians have a saying "be careful what you pray for; your prayers may be answered." American leaders and military commanders have been praying for the capture of Saddam Hussein. Now that he has been apprehended, our problems in Iraq may have just begun. Answered payers may lead to political and military nightmares.
Several months ago I wrote in a column predicting that the capture of Saddam would make President Bush’s difficulties in Iraq worse, not better. Here’s why:
First, what do we do with him? There has been talk of establishing a "war crimes tribunal" in Iraq. Does Bush really want Iraqis trying Saddam? I’m not sure. But if Bush refuses to permit Iraqis to try Saddam, there will be an outcry and backlash. The battle over where to try Saddam will not be an easy one.
Second, the trial of Saddam in an American court would also pose problems. When former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was prosecuted in Miami, proceedings lasted months and became an embarrassment. Efforts to convene a "military tribunal" to prosecute low-level prisoners from Afghanistan have paralyzed the courts and military policy makers, not to mention criminal defense attorneys.
Saddam the prisoner becomes a focus of worldwide interest. He will be "there."
The worst problem, the most dangerous, is that the capture of Saddam frees his potential successors to solidify their power and expand their attacks.
For these reasons, I have always felt that the capture of Saddam would eventually make the military situation worse, not better. As long as Saddam was at large, the fear of his return and doubts about his whereabouts inhibited the development of new resistance leaders. Saddam’s unseen presence effectively prevented the development of a successor to him.
Now that he is in custody there will be jockeying among the various factions that hope to rise to power to succeed him. Even Al Qaeda may now see an open door to further infiltration and terrorism. The result, after a brief period of confusion violence and attacks could increase, not decline.
Bottom line: capturing Saddam is the beginning of our problems with the resistance in Iraq, not the end.