Dude, You've Been Had!Nattily attired Saddam Hussein has been fitted with his last opulent accessory - a snug, yellow-sisal cravat, rakishly knotted around his neck with a small, offsetting black chafe-strip that brought out the distinguished white in his beard. Just as he lived his life, Saddam came to the end of his personal Green Mile marathon larger than life and shouting down his enemies while proclaiming himself a martyr for his people. You have to marvel at a man who can so ignore the harsh judgments of history that he still believes he's right as they slip the noose around his neck. Single-minded stubbornness like that doesn't come easy or cheap, just ask the other great delusionist of our times, George W. Bush.
So far, the swirling wake of the hanging has been predictable. Inept handling of the prisoner hand-over, secret video that spoiled the illusion of a dignified execution, and the fluffy, "another milestone reached" confection by the Bush spin dervishes. US deaths also surpassed 3,000 this weekend, providing a morbid bookend for 2006 while fueling the inevitable question, "Were the 3,000 deaths worth it."
Well, were they?
Nobody can argue that Saddam wasn't a bully's bully - an evil man who brought death and destruction to thousands. Most people agree that he was a bad, bad man who deserved his fate and much more. As many pundits pointed out, if ever there was a case that cried out for capital punishment, this was it. So, in the morbid calculus of his capture and execution being "worth it", many argue - not completely without merit - that it was. However, people aren't numbers and how you define "worth" isn't something they teach in Moral Economics 101.
Perhaps if his capture and execution had been accomplished with only 3,000 deaths it might have been worth it. The lives of 3,000 Americans balanced against the scale of Saddam's atrocities would be small change. The 3,000 would have given their lives in a noble sacrifice that allowed millions of Iraqis to finally live in peace. But we know the deaths are only a part of this payment macabre.
Tens of thousands of those we were "helping" also died. Many thousands more fled, searching for a place where they could safely walk the streets. Along with the human toll, Iraq's and America's national treasures were shamelessly plundered, we reduced their property to rubble, and we left them an infrastructure straight out of the stone age. So all told, "worth it" takes on a new meaning.
Perhaps the best way to measure this sort of worth is through a simple economic model - buying a car.
You roll onto the lot and you're met by a man in a plaid sport coat, white belt, and cowboy boots.
"Howdy there neighbor. My name's Honest George. Whut kin ah do ya for today?"
So, you look at cars and haggle endlessly with George as he keeps changing the base price and juggling the list of accessories. To end the frustration, you finally give in and say, "OK, I'm sold."
As George writes up the purchase - and you take some Tylenol for your headache - you discover hidden fees and extras that add up faster than a grocery bill for sextuplets. Pretty soon, your $20,000 car is "worth" $28,000 and climbing. Each time you ask about the mounting charges and fees, George simply smiles and punches more numbers into the adding machine.
"Oops! Hell, I musta fergot ta tell ya 'bout that undercoating, but it'll be worth it. Trust me!"
Finally, you drive off the lot with your $20,000 cum $35,000 car, basking in the knowledge that it's all been worth it.
Then, the car dies. Exactly one block from the dealership.
You race back and confront George about your dead car and his assurances that it would all be worth it. You're livid, but George just smiles his sycophantic smile and says, "Do I know you?"
Suddenly, you have a moment of clarity. The price was too high and the car turned out to be a lemon. All those extras you were promised are nothing more than the hot air of a slimy car salesman in a cheap suit.
As George retreats into his office, you ask yourself, "Was it worth it," and the answer comes to you like a booming voice from the sky.
"Dude, you've been had."
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, January 02, 2007