On this day 11 years ago, Saddam Hussein was captured by American soldiers in the town of ad-Dawr in Iraq, leading to widespread celebration in America, as well as Shi’ite ad Kurdish populations in Iraq.
This was widely considered the high point of an Iraq war which would very soon turn sour, with President Bush claiming Saddam would “face the justice he denied to millions”. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said with his usual tact; “Here was a man who was photographed hundreds of times shooting off rifles and showing how tough he was, and in fact, he wasn’t very tough, he was cowering in a hole in the ground, and had a pistol and didn’t use it, and certainly did not put up any fight at all. In the last analysis, he seemed not terribly brave”.
This point in 2003 was arguably the high point of Bush and Rumsfeld’s neoconservative policy towards the Middle East. The Taliban had been destroyed in Afghanistan, or at least it appeared to have been, and the poster boy for state sponsored terrorism had been brought low, found “cowering” in a foxhole, to borrow Rumsfeld’s phrase. The fact that today twenty people have been killed in attacks in Afghanistan today shows how short sighted we were.
The War in Iraq, regardless of its legality, diverted time, troops and masses of money away from the conflict in Afghanistan. This allowed the Taliban and al-Qaeda to retreat to the FATA Region of Pakistan and plan the insurgency that still causes so much violence and instability in the country today. Furthermore, the unilateral way America and its ‘Coalition of the Willing’ went about the war turned many in the global community against the ‘War on Terror’, whilst at the same time inspiring terrorist organisations around the world against The West. If America doesn’t play by the rules, why should we?
Saddam Hussein was a cruel and violent dictator and the end of his reign should be celebrated, he committed numerous atrocities against his own people and he deserved to be captured and punished (we don’t have enough words today to discuss the death penalty too). However, we should also not forget the cost that we have paid in the years since because of the way we ended it, and hopefully learn lessons from it moving forward.