Opinion » Bill Cope

The Way It Weren't

Where's Saddam when we need him?


Late at night, when you're struggling to get to sleep but you can't because you're too worried about the Middle East--about guys who dress like ninjas beheading guys in orange scrubs; about the entire region disintegrating back to stone-age values, only with nuclear-age weapons--do you ever wonder what things would be like if Saddam Hussein were still in power?

Alternative timelines have long been a staple of sci-fi writers, historical revisionists and chronic day-dreamers. Who can forget Captain Kirk's adventures on planets where the Roman Empire had never fallen, where Hitler won and the society was a fascist nightmare, or where Capone-ish gangsters with tommy guns were living like their world was all a rum-running racket? And did you know there are novels out that give those nostalgic for the Confederacy a pretend history in which the South was triumphant and the whole U.S. of A. now lives as it did in antebellum Dixie?

So, as useless as it is in any real sense, it's not unusual for someone to wonder "What if?" For instance...

...what if George W. Bush had been born with even enough intelligence to learn something useful from his father, who was born with enough intelligence to know... yes, Saddam Hussein was a triple-A asshole, and no doubt murdered a great many of his own people... but that this particular area of the Earth's surface was known for producing triple-A assholes, and that there were plenty more of them lurking around in the shadow of Saddam, just itching for a chance to come out from under their rocks and demonstrate their leadership style--which, in that neck of the desert, often amounts to murdering a great many of their own people?

And what if Bush, rather than invading a place where the perpetrators of 9/11 weren't, had instead focused his meager attentions on where the perpetrators of 9/11 were; and rather than destroying one of the few regimes in the Middle East that was even more adamant than America about denying Jihadist savages a place to set up shop, he would have directed America's awesome vengeance exclusively at those countries where Jihadist savages had been allowed to set up shop?

And what if Bush had not unleashed hell on the wrong country, leaving as many innocent civilians dead as Saddam could only dream about; that he and his neo-con cohorts had not turned the Iraqi military into a shambles that we've spent the past 10 years trying to rehabilitate; that the infrastructure and administrative capabilities of Iraq had not been smart-bombed into dust; and that there was still a functioning government in Iraq, no matter that it didn't quite live up to American standards--standards that America itself is struggling to live up to?

And what if Saddam Hussein was still there, still the strong man in Iraq--(this is a particularly iffy "what if," since he would now be 77 years old, which is pretty over-the-hill-ish for a "strong man")--and either he or his asshole sons (Uday and Ixnay?) were still managing to keep asshole Jihadists savages from setting up shop anywhere in that country?

And what if there had never been a unilateral invasion, a surge, a sectarian civil war and 30,000-plus American soldiers dead or severely damaged?

And what if we'd never heard of WMDs, which didn't exist, or IEDs, which did? Or billions of dollars being delivered on pallets into the unaccountability of corrupt contractors and Dick Cheney's old pals at Halliburton? Or the purple finger sign that Iraqis were voting, as it has turned out, for the majority power of the Shia to screw the Sunni like the minority Sunni had screwed the Shia for all those years? Or the Iraqi treasury, armories and museums being looted like a convenience store during a hurricane. Or Fallujah? Or the Green Zone? Or the Ba'ath Party or Nouri al-Maliki or Muqtada al-Sadr?

What if we'd never had to withdraw our troops because they were never there in the first place? And what if we'd kept it like we had it before March 2003, when a no-fly zone was keeping Saddam from dropping any more poison gas on the Kurds? When Saddam was always bitching about us and we were always bitching about him, only a lot more people--ours and his--were still alive? When the cities and roads and power grid were still in one piece? When Saddam's army, as feeble as it proved to be when it went up against ours, would have been plenty strong enough to squash ISIS like a baby camel spider, assuming those asshole Jihadist savages even had the nerve to show up when the asshole Saddam was in power? When we hadn't thrown only-god-knows-how-many-zillions of dollars into the ancient winds that have blown through those sands since the beginning of time and swept away greater empires and greater armies and greater monuments to assholes of the past than Saddam could even dream of, all without any help from Hellfire missiles and bunker-buster bombs?

And what if George W. Bush had developed a strategy which thoughtfully and deeply considered the ramifications of what he was about to do before he did it, rather than recklessly casting America's fate to those ancient winds, hoping "It'll work out in the end... somehow?"

And finally, what if Bush's strategy had succeeded, rather than so miserably failed, leaving the following president, and most likely the president after him, and the president after her, etc. etc. etc. to be haunted by the eternal curse of George W. asshole Bush's legacy?

Ah, what if... what if...

Now, back to what is.