Saddam’s Capture: One Year Later

Today marks the one year anniversary of the capture of Saddam Hussein, who was hiding in his spider hole.

The OTB posts on the subject at the time:

And that was just the first day!

As UPI’s Claude Salhani noted that afternoon, Saddam’s capture was unlikely to spell the end of the insurgency:

In fact, Saddam’s capture may not herald the sudden end of these attacks. Instead, it may well have the opposite effect — that of seeing the remnants of the Baath resistance push for an all out, final chance assault, as a vendetta for the demise of their leader. Another scenario is that with their leader captured and humiliated in front of the world, the resistance may putter to a halt, dry up and die away. But let’s not claim total victory too soon.

The real danger in Iraq today no longer emanates from the Baathists, but comes from the thousands of jihadi resistance fighters who have been pouring into Iraq. Unlike the Baathists, they are unlikely to be affected by Saddam’s demise. The jihadi fighters are the ones who have been the most active in recent months and all indications points to them stepping up their war against the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

He was right, of course.

A year after Saddam capture, rebels fight on (MSNBC-Reuters)

Much has changed in the year since a haggard-looking Saddam Hussein was pulled from a hole in the ground and taken into custody by jubilant U.S. troops. In some ways, it has changed for the worse. President Bush hailed the capture as a breakthrough at the time, saying he expected his arch foe to be tried, convicted and put to death — adding that that would be up to the Iraqi courts. “In the history of Iraq, a dark and painful era is over,” Bush declared in a television address the day after the capture Dec. 13. “A hopeful day has arrived. All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq.” But twice as many U.S. soldiers were killed by insurgents in the seven months after Saddam’s capture than in the seven months before, and thousands of Iraqis have died. There are growing fears that elections set for Jan. 30 could be derailed by the mayhem.

***

In January, Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, whose troops got credit for snatching the “Ace of Spades,” declared the insurgency to be “on its knees” and only a “sporadic threat.” “I believe within six months, I think you’re going to see some normalcy,” he told the Pentagon news corps. The confidence was infectious. “Systematically we have captured or killed the individuals directing the insurgency,” said Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, commander of the 82nd Airborne, in March. “… The insurgency is pretty much in disarray, I think is the best way to describe it.” Swannack was responsible for the volatile western region of Iraq, including the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. A month after he spoke, Fallujah fell into guerrilla hands and was wrested back only after a U.S. offensive last month.

Presumably, the effort to build a secure Iraq would be even further behind were Saddam still free. But that the level of violence would be higher a year later was not something I would have predicted. Nor would I have guessed that Saddam’s trial wouldn’t even be underway. I’m still glad “We got him” but it has mattered less than it seemed at the time.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Meezer says:

    I thought at the time we should have had him carted around town in a tumbril for the populace to throw stuff at and spit at and so on. But everybody was, like, “Noooo, he’s got rights n’ stuff.” I hate when they do that.

  2. Mike says:

    Then bring him to DC to put in the National Zoo for all to see…but I am guessing this would violate a law or two.

  3. ken says:

    I knew at the time that we were not any safer for having captured Saddam. What did he ever do that threatened our security when he was in power? What could he have done? Nada, zip, zilch. So what threat could he have possibly have been when he was driven from office and his country occupied by our military?

    The increased threat came from the Bush policy itself which gave motive and incentive for otherwise peaceful people to take up arms against our forces. It’s not the extremists we have to worry about it is everyone with a family, a home, a brother or sister or cousin we have killed. Right now their fighting is limited to Iraq, but doesn’t it make sense for them to eventually bring the fight here? If they can? And the longer we are stuck there the more incentive they will have to change the dynamics by attacking us here.

    Bush will have us turn into a version of Isreal. We are now hated and despised by millions of people with some willing to die to get revenge. Can it be long before we see suicide bombingss at malls around America? Is this what conservatives want?

  4. Would today also be, then, the first anniversary of the start of Howard Dean’s decline in the Dem primaries? I think he came out with that reckless statement of his within a few hours of the news.

  5. LJD says:

    Oh yeah. Every one hates us…
    ..and Saddam was minding his own business. The Iraqi people in general would much rather starve and be torutred than to be able to choose their leadership….

  6. McGehee says:

    We are now hated and despised by millions of people with some willing to die to get revenge.

    Where you been, Ken? People have been choosing to hate us since long before President Bush’s father even thought of running for President the first time (1980).

    It’s because we are free and prosperous and at peace internally despite a vast diversity of people and creeds. They can’t even believe it can be done — the fact we do it every day is what pisses them off.

  7. Bithead says:

    McGehee; Just so.

    While I do agree that his departure did not signal an end to the violence, what it did do was remove one legitimate face of of the evil that is the Islamo-facists. we knew going in that there was far more than Saddam himself involved, here. And we were right, too; Saddam, more clearly now than then, was a tool of these animals, not their leader… but because of his semi-legit position, a very effective one on the world stage, particularly, in the UN he was decidedly a threat to the rest of the world, and we’re better off with him gone.

    That action, however, could do little BUT escalate the violence in the region, at least in the short term. The best analogy I could draw would be a raccoon, cornered by a pack of dogs… Such an animal will always fight with a rabid viciousness. It’s this reaction we’re now seeing from the Islamo-Facists. Their mask has been pulled back a bit and they’re not happy about it, any more than the Germans, or the Japanise were happy about us bombing the snot out of them.

    However, their happiness isn’t the issue here. Nor are the long-disproven claims of the left that these were a peaceful people. Peaceful? I think, if Ken Looks, he’l find news of a few mass graves in the news articles posted since our invasion there… mass graves by the hundreds. He may also find where there’s a couple of buildings missing here in the states, and a few hundred tead in a train station in Madrid. Peaceful, my ass.

    I’m not interested in who hates us. OUr central issue was and remains the security of the western world against these animals. Indeed, who hates us, seems to me a good measure of whom we should be attacking. Think clearly about this, now; America has made it rather a habit to anger enemies of freedom. The Nazis, The Communists, the Islamofacists… all of these have hated us. Seems to me an encouraging trend, but it is a trend which forces a question: Which side is Ken on?

  8. jri says:

    FYI: Saddam had nothing to do with 911.

  9. ken says:

    It’s because we are free and prosperous and at peace internally despite a vast diversity of people and creeds. They can’t even believe it can be done—the fact we do it every day is what pisses them off.

    That is just plain retarded.

    Sure, our living in peace and harmony is more irksome to them than our dropping freaking bombs on them every day.

  10. anjin-san says:

    It is very true there were mass graves in Iraq under Iraq. It is also true we have killed as many as 100,000 Iraqi citizens in the war. Is the good here that we are killing them instead of Saddam?

    I also take issue with the premise that we are “fighting the terrorists in Iraq instead of Kansas”. Even if you accept this rather absurd reasoning, is it a moral action on our part to turn an entire country into a killing field so that we may sleep a bit more soundly? As Albert Einstein once said, “This I call the morality of a pigsty”.

  11. LJD says:

    100,000 Iraqi “citizens”. Like Udai and Qusai.

  12. Justin Gates says:

    ‘Mistakes were made’ is an understatement. Why did anyone buy into the Saddama s bogeyman thing anyway. He was bad, every bit as bad as his personal hero Joe Stalin and as bad Islam Karimov our buddy in Uzbekistan and all the other brutes of the 20th century. But Saddam wasn’t targeted because of an Iraqi threat or his evil but because he forgot he was our puppet. The idea that violence would go down with his capture has always been ludicrous. He wasn’t directing the insurgency. It may even be that we liberated him from imprisonment from kidnappers for ransom.

  13. Justin Gates says:

    ‘Mistakes were made’ is an understatement. Why did anyone buy into the Saddam as America’s bogeyman anyway. He was bad, every bit as bad as his personal hero Joe Stalin and as bad Islam Karimov our buddy in Uzbekistan and all the other worshippers of power in the 20th century. But Saddam wasn’t targeted because of an Iraqi threat (none) or his evil (a lot) but because he forgot he was our puppet. The idea that violence would go down with his capture stands logic on its head. He wasn’t directing the insurgency. Noting his wretched condition when we laid hands on him, noting also that ‘the gun’ he was supposed to have had was broken and without bullits, it may be that we liberated him from imprisonment from Arab kidnappers for ransom, an old trade in some places. No, our government was simply monumentally incompetant.

    Please also note one cannot defeat an insurgency of the kind we face in Iraq with anything less than genocide. The British example in Malaysia may be the exception that proves the rule.

  14. Bithead says:

    FYI: Saddam had nothing to do with 911.

    Arrrrr. Sorry, Wrong answer.
    It’s clear you’ve not been reading.
    Try this one.
    Or, if you prefer a leftist rag, how about the Times?

    Hint; They’re all connected.

  15. Bithead says:

    It is very true there were mass graves in Iraq under Iraq. It is also true we have killed as many as 100,000 Iraqi citizens in the war. Is the good here that we are killing them instead of Saddam?

    Perhaps the question shold be asked; How many would die had we not beome involved, and how many of those IRaqi citizens were in fact combatants?

  16. Justin Gates says:

    Bithead, the article relies on an anonymous’sources belief. Hmmm. Belief never has equaled a fact. Have you read about the awe inspiring corruption of the CPA in Iraq. No auditable records.

  17. Bithead says:

    Have you notiiced a rather interestinglack of attacks on us here in the States? When did htose attacks stop?

    Oh, yes… it was after we took Saddam out, right?
    Gee….

  18. Ironically, any court with moral and judicial authority to prosecute Saddam could prosecute Bush on similar grounds. If it existed beyond metaphysics that is.

  19. Justin Gates says:

    No attacks have occured since my cat died either, also 2 years later in fact, but that doesn’t prove a connection. Lets gaze a little south of Iraq, since none of the 911 terrorists were from there, over to Saudi Arabia, the home of 15 of 19 of 911 terrorists and the verifiable source of the funding. Saudi Arabia is a theocracy too, like Iran and formerly Afghanistan: proven incubators of terrorism. One can wonder.

  20. Bithead says:

    You seem rather stuck on one country or another.

  21. anjin-san says:

    Bithead,

    Study al-queda’s pattern, they are in no hurry. They are unpredictible. They would rather take their time and get it right (at least their definition of right, which differs a bit from ours).

    I also would argue that al-queda was not prepared for the level of sucess (again from their point of view) of the 9-11 attacks. To follow up on 9-11 they need another attack which creates massive loss of life, devistation, & financial harm. Either that, or a change of tatics. bin laden himself has announced that his plan is to bleed America finanicaially until it it bankrupt, or something to that effect.

    It is worth noting that Bush’s squandering of national treasure in Iraq, combined with the fact that homeland security under Bush is something of a very unfunny joke. Certainly the out of control deficit combined with massivly underfunded homeland security make the job of an al-queda tatical planner a bit, or perhaps a lot, easier.

    As for as a correlation between Saddam’s capture & the lack of subsequent attacks on American soil Bithead, you sound like you are too bright to buy that, I think you are just pumping it as a debate tatic…

  22. LJD says:

    They say Al Qaeda is very patient and calculating. They also say U.S. response is completely botched. That says a lot about the problem with the mindset in this country.