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If you’re looking for an example of the ideological narcissm and conspicuous self-pity of the now forlorn Iraq war promoters, go no further than this little squib in Slate by Anne Applebaum. Saddam, she says, one more of the great totalitarian dictators of the 20th century, and one of the few who ever got any sort of trial, so what’s the problem exactly. People still don’t get just how significant Saddam was. But that’s no surprise because no one understood how important and dangerous Hitler or Stalin were either. In fact, people like Applebaum who are willing to stand up, publicly and say that Saddam was an evil man are villified and demeaned. “His death is being analyzed for its impact on Iraq’s civil war and therefore for its impact on our troops. The chaos of his trial and execution are another excuse to attack the White House. Write that Saddam really was an evil man, and you’ll be thought an apologist for George Bush. Write that Saddam’s regime resembled Stalin’s, and you’ll be called a right-wing ideologue.”

Does anyone know who these people are who are making it so hard to say publicly that Saddam was a bad guy?

It gets better though. Much of Applebaum’s mini-screed is made up of a long and multiple condemnation of Americans and Europeans who not only misunderstood Saddam as they misjudged Hitler and Stalin but still only see him for his effect on us — our dead troops, our geopolitical needs, etc. — rather than for what he did in and to Iraq.

But in her final paragraph, it turns out that even the Iraqis themselves have failed to grasp what Applebaum et al. understand about Saddam.

Someday, perhaps, when Iraq’s civil war is over, and when Iraqis have achieved a measure of personal safety—an even more basic human requirement than political freedom—it may be possible for Iraqis, at least, to think objectively about the physical and the psychological damage that Saddam’s regime did to their country and about the ways in which that damage helped feed the insurgency. The human rights record compiled by the Iraqi human rights tribunal will help, particularly if Iraq’s judges now continue to prosecute other defendants. Maybe someday Americans or Europeans will also find ways to discuss Saddam as something other than a pawn in their own games or as a figure in their own political debates. But I doubt it.

If you read the piece and think I’m being to harsh or sneering, please tell me. But all I can see here are so many wanne-be Churchills and Arendts who’ve fallen into a galactic pout because history hasn’t sanctified their grandiosity.

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