“Better Alive Than Dead”

That’s the title of an op-ed in today’s New York Times by Sandra Mackey, the author of several books on the Middle East. Ms. Mackey criticizes U.S. forces for failing to take Uday and Qusay Hussein alive:
“The killing of Saddam Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay, is a tactical victory for the American occupation of Iraq. But it is not a strategic one. By not capturing these odious symbols of the old regime alive and putting them on display, the American occupation authority has denied itself the chance to give absolute proof of their demise to a society that rejects authority and thrives on conspiracy theory….In giving up on the attempted capture of the Hussein brothers as too risky, the American administration of Iraq has ignored the dictates of Iraqi culture.” Ms. Mackey explains the value of putting the Hussein brothers on trial for their crimes, based largely on the importance of revenge in Iraqi culture.
Strangely, Ms. Mackey offers no support for the idea that it would have been possible to take the Hussein brothers alive–which would seem to be an essential step in her argument. The Hussein brothers and their escorts were heavily armed. They began firing on American troops as thee troops approached the villa where they were hiding. They were offered an opportunity to surrender but kept firing instead. And some reports say that Uday shot himself.
It seems pretty clear that Uday and Qusay were determined not to be taken alive, for obvious reasons. This determination is no doubt consistent with the same features of Iraqi culture that Ms. Mackey accuses the Bush administration of failing to understand.
I doubt that this criticism will gain any traction, but it is noteworthy as an example of how far critics of the war will go to emphasize the negative at every turn.

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