The year 2006 comes to an end, and with it, Saddam takes his final step into the void -- hanged as dawn broke in Bagdad. One can only wonder what the “Butcher of Bagdad” must have been thinking in those last moments. He lost his country, his sons, and his dictatorial power—all because he refused open and complete WMD inspections. If the WMDs weren’t there, why didn’t he relent? It continues to be a puzzlement.
Commenting on Saddam’s demise, Richard Fernandez of The Belmont Club provides us insightful commentary:
On hearing the news of his death, I overheard someone say, 'what does Saddam have to live for? His two sons are dead.' What an epitaph. Just a few years ago the man bestrode a country. Now he and his are gone.
The life expectancy of anyone the United States seriously fights is very low. Zarqawi in Iraq and Janjalani in Sulu are just two examples of men who, despite their determination have simply died. In terms of kinetic warfare, the US Armed Forces are horrifyingly lethal. The Sunni insurgents who are now out to wreak revenge upon America -- the America that through some irony of history were Saddam's last defenders against men who would tear him to pieces -- will relearn to their cost that it is one thing to revile America and another to trade blows with it.
Yet if victory is measured by the attainment of political goals -- the goal being the establishment of a prosperous and democratic Middle East -- then for all of America's military invincibility it is arguable the finish line is as far as ever. The ability to build civil institutions and spread constructive ideas has lagged behind the capacity to destroy. In a world dazzled by the glare at the heart of nuclear fission we search in vain for the light of love in men's souls.
The Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, reflecting on the curious moral darkness of our world dreamed of a future illumined by another brilliance: "Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire." Maybe someday, but today we reserve our fires to scorch each other.
And so, 2006 comes to an end. Not all good, but not all bad.
I look toward 2007 with hope that is tempered by the realization that the forces set in motion on all sides of the political and ideological spectrum are implacable. That clear headed, pragmatic actions are always tempered by a world in which many have stepped “through the looking glass.” I only hope that the small sparks that we discover in 2007 are the start of the “fire” that de Chardin yearns for.