Ogged makes a good point:

The capture is great news, both for the future of Iraq and for the little bit of justice it affords to all of Saddam’s victims.

But here we are in America, with half of us feeling at least a little uneasy because this is good news for George Bush. Get over it. We don’t want to become the caricatured left: actively wishing the country ill for the sake of putting our own people in power (and not for the sake of a greater good, so don’t comfort yourself with that thought: no matter how convinced you are of your political beliefs, you have to admit that you might be wrong, the other side might have the right idea, and the proof will be in the results).

Ask yourself, if Iraq becomes a great success, then will you still be so unhappy with George Bush? If so, say why; lord knows I don’t think there’s any shortage of other things to say. But pretending this isn’t good, or failing to give George Bush some credit when you would have given him the blame, isn’t what the good guys are about.

For the most part, the significant Democrats I’ve seen on television have followed this advice, whether by natural inclination or prudence. John Kerry was a notable exception on the talking heads shows, sounding rather shrill and out of synch–doing the standard Sunday show trick of responding to every question with only semi-related bits of the stump speech. Lieberman was superb. So far, I haven’t seen Howard Dean; my guess is he’ll be smart about it.

Update (1454): Apparently, I wasn’t looking hard enough. Steven Taylor links to the NRO roundup of candidate comments, and Dean has indeed spoken:

“This is a great day for the Iraqi people, the US, and the international community.

“Our troops are to be congratulated on carrying out this mission with the skill and dedication we have come to know of them.

“This development provides an enormous opportunity to set a new course and take the American label off the war. We must do everything possible to bring the UN, NATO, and other members of the international community back into this effort.

“Now that the dictator is captured, we must also accelerate the transition from occupation to full Iraqi sovereignty.”

It’s pretty bland, frankly. And one wonders how one can come “back” into an effort one has never participated in.

Update (1950): I’ve posted a much more comprehensive listing, with quotes from all the contenders save Sharpton and Braun, here.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. To me, it really came across like, “okay. Whatever. This is good, but we still need to get out of Dodge.”

    Say what . . . .?

  2. Mithras says:

    Take a good look at Saddam’s picture. He wasn’t directing the attacks against U.S. forces. His capture is a good thing for Iraqis, but it doesn’t lessen so much as alter the dynamic of the war.

  3. James Joyner says:

    I don’t think anyone was claiming he was actually running the insurgency.

  4. Norbizness says:

    Definitely an odd editorial comment by you on Dean, James, although I’m sure something short of “I’m immediately dropping out of the race” would not have satisfied a lot of people.

    And I’m guessing the “back” could be plausibly read to mean he scaling back of efforts after the UN building was bombed.

  5. James Joyner says:

    What was odd about it? It was a pretty bland statement–he didn’t say anything. But rather than simply saying how proud he was of the troops and how great it was to capture a tyrannt, he blathers on about the “international community” as if they had anything to do with it.

  6. Kate says:

    I’ve been reading various commentary all day, and what keeps bringing me up short is the cautionary argument that “Saddam obviously wasn’t directing attacks from a dirt hole, and therefore, don’t expect them to wind down”

    …- as though discovering him in a dirt hole means he’s been trapped there during the past 6 months


    Was he controlling attacks? Obviously, not all of them. And no question that they’re sure to continue. But the conclusion that he was somehow incapable of involvement, because he was found in a dirt pit “without even a cell phone”, does remind me of the type of logic I see in my dog, when, having discovered a stray toy under the couch, barks “Eureka!” and continues to go back to that spot for the rest of the week, looking for more.

  7. James Joyner says:


    My guess is that he was in that hidey hole for no more than a few days. But it’s always struck me as unlikely he was issuing too many commands–he didn’t have the instruments of power anymore and was too busy hiding. With that reward money out there, it was too risky to do much communicating.