End of Days
In a flash, Saddam's hold on Iraq evaporated last night.
7:45 AM, Apr 9, 2003 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
THIS MORNING CNN reports that many Iraqi officials didn't show up for work in Baghdad and that the police are not on the streets. Also, the network is broadcasting footage of a massive anti-Saddam rally in the Saddam City section of eastern Baghdad. There are pictures of one man spitting on a picture of Saddam; another man beats an image of the dictator with his shoe; another man chants "The tyrant . . . is finished;" yet another proclaims "No Saddam! No Saddam!"
Something's going on here.
The London Times reports that "hundreds of looting civilians cheered and danced in the streets of Baghdad" and that "Foreign journalists said that the Iraqi minders that monitor their movements failed to turn up for work today at the Palestine Hotel. State television went off the air yesterday."
The Financial Times reports that last night (local time), U.S. Marines swept through Saddam City, and received "a largely warm reception from the district's two to three million Iraqis."
There are conflicting reports on what has happened to Saddam himself. British intelligence believes he's alive, the CIA thinks he's dead, and there's a report from the Iraqi Republican party that he's seriously injured and Baath partisans are trying to smuggle him into Syria for medical treatment. But what's amazing is that it doesn't seem to matter what his fate is: To a large segment of Baghdad's population, his control has vaporized.
The pace of events will likely accelerate today, but it's worth taking a brief pause this morning to note three things:
(1) This looks not like the beginning of the end (that was the night of March 19), but the beginning of the beginning of a Free Iraq. There will be hazards aplenty in the coming days, but also opportunity. If the allies wage the peace as skillfully as they've waged the war, then you have to like the odds for the Iraqi people.
(2) That said, you'll see a number of people pivot in the next day or so. Commentators who first opposed the war, and then said that the war was going badly, will now say that, yes, of course we won the war--we knew we would all along--but the administration is doing a poor job of rebuilding. (They'll also fret that Bush is going to a permanent war footing. They'll ask "Who's next? Syria?" This is what you do when events prove you wrong.)
(3) Dick Cheney seems to have been about 80 percent vindicated (so far). In the last couple weeks it has been fashionable to pile on the vice president for his prediction that the war in Iraq would be a "cakewalk" (I don't think he ever actually said it would be) and that "after liberation the streets in Basra and Baghdad are sure to erupt in joy in the same way throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans."
Who knows what the unit of measure is for cakewalks. And to be sure, the war isn't over yet. But to this point it has proceeded more smoothly, with fewer allied and civilian casualties than almost anyone predicted. And as for Cheney's predictions for Basra and Baghdad, unlike many media prognosticators, today he's been proven correct.
Keep those things in mind as you read the op-ed pages tomorrow.
Jonathan V. Last is online editor of The Weekly Standard.