Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant and a criminal. It is good for tyrants and criminals to be brought to justice. While the capture of Saddam is good for Iraq (he can now be held accountable for his crimes against humanity), it is not a vindication of the Bush administration's war policy. The ends do not justify the means. Consider the following.
1. The invasion of Iraq was a flagrant violation of international law. The UN Charter prohibits the use of military force against another country unless authorized by the Security Council. No such authorization existed.
2. Despite President Bush's rhetoric, the war was not fought to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq. The real reasons behind the war were to project American power, reshape the Middle East to serve U.S. interests, establish military bases in Iraq, control Iraqi oil, and establish a puppet government that will open up Iraq's economy to U.S. corporations. Neo-conservatives in the administration have "imperial designs;" that is, they seek to create a new American empire to dominate the world. The invasion of Iraq was the first step in their grand geo-political strategy.
3. Even with Saddam Hussein deposed Iraq is not a liberated country. It is an occupied country. And it is an ugly occupation. Over 10,000 civilians have died so far (along with over 400 U.S. soldiers). Iraqis may be free of the brutal tyrant but their infrastructure is shattered, basic services have collapsed, there is rampant violence and massive unemployment.
4. To win Congressional and public support for an illegal war of empire the Bush administration engaged in a propaganda campaign based on lies and distortions concerning two important issues. First, false claims concerning the threat of weapons of mass destruction were made. Evidence was fabricated. Inconclusive intelligence was hyped. No weapons were found and it is now clear that Iraq did not pose an imminent threat to anyone. And we should remember that U.N. weapons inspectors were in Iraq when the war began, searching for any prohibited weapons. Second, false claims concerning Iraqi ties to the terrorist group Al Queda and the 9-11 attacks were also repeatedly made. There is absolutely no evidence that Iraq had anything to do with 9-11 or Al Queda, and yet as a result of the Bush propaganda 70% of Americans think Saddam was responsible for this tragedy. Congress and the American people supported a war on Iraq on the basis of a pack of lies. Had the war been presented solely as an effort to liberate Iraq, it would have been rejected by the American people.
5. In yet another lie, President Bush insists that the current struggle in Iraq is part of a war on terrorism. But Iraq has never attacked the U.S. or sponsored any terrorism against us. And, we are not fighting foreign terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here. We are encountering native resistance to an illegal occupation, and that will continue despite the capture of Saddam.
6. Finally, we should remember that at the time Saddam Hussein was committing his greatest crimes (including the gassing of the Kurds) he was being supported and supplied by the Reagan and first Bush administrations. Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and other neo-cons in the current administration were strong allies of Saddam in his war against Iran. And to this day these hypocrites continue to support other repressive regimes around the world.
Given these facts it is hard to see how the capture of Saddam, as welcome as it is by the Iraqi people, can be portrayed as a vindication of the Bush war policy. Prior to the war, Saddam was a weakened dictator, contained and deterred, with no weapons of mass destruction left thanks to UN weapons inspectors. The Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union, apartheid, and even other tyrants have fallen without war and the destruction of innocent lives. So too could have Saddam fallen without war. No, the ends did not justify the means in this case. As Martin Luther King Junior said: "Wars make poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows."
Ron Kramer is a professor of sociology at Western Michigan University and a founding member of Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War (KNOW).