Strong message in Iraq capture

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 29, 2003

We have Saddam.

Now what? Years of international trials, renewed terrorist bombings in attempts to revenge Saddam or get him freed, endless speculation and analysis… and celebration.

It doesn't matter if the capture of Iraq's former dictator didn't end the conflict instantly, although it certainly would have been nice. What matters is the symbolism. Do not underestimate the power of a symbol to the psyche of a culture. Sixty years after World War II, and it is still hard to find a veteran of the Pacific Theater who does not have a gut reaction to the sight of the "Rising Sun."

Ask an American how he feels about the burning of his flag, or a Christian, about the breaking of a cross, and you will grasp the power of symbolism.

With the capture of Saddam, we have not only provided ourselves with a powerful symbol of our troops' success, but we have denied the insurgents with a symbol of their own. Saddam was not allowed the opportunity to suicide himself into instant martyrdom and his own followers now have the chance to see him as he really his, hiding, grasping for his life with American dollars, and weak.

The capture provided other symbols that we hope the Iraqi people can recognize. We did not kill Saddam immediately - we are not a cruel people. We saw to his physical needs immediately, with medical care and food - we are a compassionate people.

We did not give up the search for him. We are not a forgetful people.

Would our men have been treated as well in Saddam's hands? Were they, the Iraqis themselves, treated as well in Saddam's hands?

We can only hope the citizens of that country recognize the truth of what is happening now and what has happened to their former leader, and above all, what has happened because of their former leader.