Now that Saddam has landed in our Christmas stocking, the pundits are tripping over themselves to explain what it will all mean to us.
Many of my friends who work for the government are asking what they consider to be the most important question of the day: "Does this mean we’ll get eight hours off?" The corollary question they ask: "Does it get charged to administrative or holiday leave?" There are other questions being asked as well.
Conventional wisdom will say catching Saddam will clinch George W. Bush’s chance to spend another four years dispensing goodies to his friends in business suits. Of course we are told that if Halliburton overcharged your government and mine, the Prez will see to it that every cent is paid back. Yes, and Dick Cheney will lead a chorus of Kumbaya around the White House Christmas tree.
But all is not always as it seems, or hardly ever as it seems. Who was the dope who captured Saddam alive so he can tell the world that not only didn’t he have anything to do with 9-11, but he had stopped making weapons of mass destruction about the time our last president discovered that oral sex in the Oval Office was better than having chats with Madeleine Albright?
Now that Saddam and his boys are out of commission, whom will we blame when the attacks inevitably continue? Was Saddam really masterminding these "coordinated" attacks while hiding in a hole? This would be a great time for Iraqis to feel grateful to us, but what if they now focus all of their attention on getting us the hell out of their country?
It would be true justice for Saddam to be brought to trial as a war criminal, but what if he hires Johnnie Cochran? Will Iraqis insist that George W. Bush also be tried because it turns out we might have killed as many of them as Saddam ever did? Will all of this be played out on those horrid cable news shows every night? Does this mean more of Court TV’s Nancy Grace commenting on Saddam’s legal guilt? And doesn’t Nancy sound like Dolly Parton with a head cold?
But seriously, what if catching Saddam doesn’t change anything?
The unemployment rate in Iraq may go up because Saddam’s 2 million body doubles are now out of work. Maybe they can get work impersonating Geraldo Rivera. The poor guys who did those videotapes for Saddam have nowhere to go unless Paris Hilton hires them.
Things are not guaranteed to get better for the average Iraqi, who while shopping in the market still faces the prospect of either getting blown up by a suicide bomber or getting in the way of some friendly fire from American forces. That same Iraqi was not so fond of Saddam, but he knew how to keep himself and his family out of the way of his thugs.
Nowadays it’s very difficult to keep out of the way. All those statistics about how many schools we’ve opened or how many elections we’re planning doesn’t mean much when your bubkus gets blown off.
Over here in this country there will be some short-lived euphoria, probably a boost in the President’s popularity rating. And the stock market — God bless the stock market — will go up a few points. But then reality will sink in because, contrary to popular belief, tomorrow always comes.
The angry American out of work will still be out of work. When even William Safire and George Will start criticizing a Republican White House because it spends like a "drunken sailor" (with all due apologies to sailors), Saddam’s capture won’t change that. The bills will still come due because this President gets high on cutting taxes and spending at the same time. (Makes you nostalgic for liberals who at least have the good sense to tax while they spend.)
See, for months while Saddam eluded us (and Osama still eludes us), the White House told us we didn’t have to catch them to make the operation successful. Now they will tell us that the capture of Saddam proves the invasion of Iraq was a success. The "mission accomplished" banner will be dragged out all over again, and the President will get dressed up in camouflage again.
But winning the peace will still take more brainpower than just telling the French and Germans to go to hell. It will still require the enormous expenditure of American lives and money. It’s like the sign in the antique shop says: "You break it, you pay for it."
We broke it — meaning Iraq — and Saddam or no Saddam, we have to pay the piper (whoever the hell he is).
Oh, by the way, Merry Christmas.