U.S. officials are starting to suggest strongly that Saddam Hussein was killed in the March 19 attack on a Baghdad bunker that inaugurated the war effort. Gen. Peter Pace, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, raised questions about Saddam’s whereabouts earlier tonight: “That doesn’t mean he’s dead, but he’s not visible publicly and he’s not been seen or reported to have been seen by anybody.”
American officials have also emphasized that there is little evidence of centralized control over Iraq’s armed forces. Gen. Pace said: “There’s no evidence of coordinated actions on the battlefield by these units. They’re being destroyed in place without much leadership from above.”
It seems likely that Saddam is dead or disabled. If he were alive, and if the Iraqi government were functioning at all, it would be easy to broadcast a video of him exhorting the troops to continue resisting the allies’ advance, and to include references that would leave no doubt as to when the tape was made. The Iraqis presumably would do this if they could.
The only alternative explanation that I can see is that Saddam may be alive, but he and other Iraqi leaders may be in worse peril than we realize. They may be in hiding, largely out of communication with their armed forces, and reluctant to surface even briefly for fear of assassination either by our forces or by dissident Iraqis. On that scenario, the Administration may be trying to goad Saddam into emerging from hiding, and thereby exposing himself, by suggesting that he is dead. One way or another, it seems clear that Saddam is either dead or in desperate straits.
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