Yesterday, a colleague and I were discussing some of the world’s sorriest places. Our conclusion was, rather obviously, they are run by dictators: Generalissimos, Claudios, “strong men” presidents-for-life, clerics, hereditary monarchs and other such scum. Naturally, the subject of Saddam Hussein and Iraq came up (how could it not?). Both of us lamented the loss of life, wastage, and ruin caused by the war.
All agree, Hussein was a bad actor and had to go. But most of us wonder if getting rid of him the way we did (pulverizing his country and igniting religious fervor) was the best way to do it. But CV says there were (and still are), only two limited options: War and assassination. War means putting through the meat grinder, tens of thousands of young conscriptees and many thousands more civilians before we even get close to the object of our wrath. Not only were a quarter million Iraqis in their graves by the time we hanged Hussein, but the land was in tatters.
So much for war as the best way to get rid of one man.
However, assassination has its detractors too. Good liberal souls whine about international law and all that nonsense, preferring to let the scumbag continue his depredations. Later, when the bad guy won’t relent, our goody-two-shoes revert to declaring war. Better late than never, right?
Unhappily, when we’ve assassinated someone, we’ve failed to properly vet the guy we want to put in the decedent’s place. We find out too late that the cure is worse than the disease. Case-in-point? Viet Nam.
Now George W. Bush (to give the devil his due) made a stab at the only workable solution possible, though he only got it half-right: W. gave Hussein a deadline to get out-of-town and when Hussein didn’t do so, W. declared war. Of course, to look at that simple face, how could Hussein have taken W. seriously? [Sidebar: Have you noticed how much W. looks like Alfred E. Neuman?] What’s more, back in Operation Desert Storm, W.’s old man pulled his punch; just when Husein had a jet at the airport waiting to whisk him off to some accommodating shit-hole, George H.W. ended the war. After that, Hussein figured Uncle Sam and the Bush family were gutless pukes so things spiraled out of control and we got another war.
Well, folks, I think there is an easy and very effective solution to the problem of bad actors. Let’s say Upper Slobovia is being run by Gloomy Gus. Mr. Gus, a brutal tyrant, likes to keep order — and himself in office — by, among other things, pulling out fingernails and teeth. Those who can flee, do; those who can’t have learned to keep their traps shut. But even so, the horrors go on day-by-day, just for the hell of it. For example, when Mr. Gus’s vile son sees a young lass he fancies, he drags her off in his limo where he despoils her, then tosses her to the curb. As for Mr. Gus, he gets his jollies watching people be lowered, inch-by-inch, into swimming pools of nitric acid.
So here’s the deal. I propose that, when we see a creature like Saddam Hussein, we employ the Tony Soprano method of pest control. We send an envoy to meet with the POS, and make him an offer he can’t refuse. It would go like this: “You have until the end of the week to resign, turn power over to someone we’ll designate, and leave the country. If you do this, Uncle Sam will pay you one-billion dollars US, tax-free. Not only that, Uncle Sam will use his good offices to secure visas for you and your family to the country of your choice and help you become citizens there, if you wish. Ah, but if you don’t do as Uncle Sam wants, if you decide to give him the finger and stay on, Uncle Sam will have you and your family promptly killed, and killed in ways that are neither pretty nor quick. Uncle Sam already has the hit squad deployed so it won’t take long.” To help drive home the point, have a Predator UAV buzz the palace while the meeting takes place.
Think this wouldn’t work? Think again. Several times in my life, I’ve successfully blackmailed people into doing my bidding. Crap like Saddam Hussein and the people to whom I put the screws, are not principled souls like David Letterman (Letterman went to the police to report the crime, then went public to disclose his offences) they are cowards — sniveling, piss-in-the-pants cowards. In every case, these creatures rolled-over for me and did exactly what I wanted. Would I have dropped the hammer had they defied my dicta? Absolutely, and they knew it. But they also knew that if they did what I told them to do, they’d be off the hook and no more would ever be said.
So what’s the life of a dictator worth? Had we made Saddam Hussein such an offer, there is little doubt that he’d have taken it. And why not? He’s seen what Uncle Sam has done to dictators elsewhere in the world. On the off chance he spurned the offer, the only people who would have died in the assassination would have been Hussein himself, his two miserable sons and a few hangers-on. A day later, someone of whom we approved would have taken power and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people would have gone on with their lives, unmolested. Our youngsters would never have gone over to Iraq to die; they’d still be doing daily drills outside their barracks. As for Uncle Sam, he’d be trillions of dollars to the good.
No sir. A judicious, well-planned assassination is an admirable solution. It’s the way Augustus Caesar controlled the known world. There are about twenty prime candidates in world affairs who should be given an offer they can’t refuse.