I think Saddam is alive. Injured? Perhaps. Rattled? Certainly. Mostly unable to issue orders beyond earshot? With any luck.
I also think the videotape we saw of him Wednesday night was real. And filmed after the initial strike. It might not have been live, but it wasn’t delayed by much.
Why? Just the general impression I get from watching different news sources, from scouring all the usual web sites for information, and from all the comments and emails I get through this site. Let me explain.
One reader asked, “Where is all the Iraqi propaganda?” Good question. This time around, we have yet to see any “baby milk factories” (are they shaped like giant breasts?), or slaughtered Iraqi civilians, etc. The latter can be explained by the tight controls rightly placed on the media in-theater. If we’ve found any, you can bet we won’t see any reports until the facts can be made clear. Don’t be impatient — the truth will eventually come out.
The lack of video propaganda is easier to explain. First, there just hasn’t been time. We’re less than 48 hours into this war, and if you think we’re confused here, think of how blind the Iraqi leadership is. Their comms are down, and Saddam is in hiding. Or on a respirator, if some reports are to be believed. Second, who is going to make the tapes, and who is going to distribute them? This isn’t merely a tactical air campaign, smashing down on frontline troops down on the Saudi border. We’re hitting everywhere at once, and ground forces are driving in quickly from the south, and flying in unpredictably into the north.
Which Ba’ath Party official or Republican Guard officer, with enough authority to make propaganda effective, wants to be anywhere but deep underground? The Iraqis lack time and opportunity, and the speed and breadth of this campaign aim to deny them both until it’s (quickly, we hope) over.
That leaves one question unanswered: Why don’t we have any more videotape of Saddam raving in his bunker?
Possible answers are that he’s dead, he’s too injured to make a “public” appearance, he’s too rattled and/or afraid, he’s in hiding, or he’s tried to broadcast and we’ve shut it down. Or he’s somehow fled the country already.
My best guess is either he’s injured. Or rattled. Or in hiding. Is that hedging my bets, picking three out of six answers? You know it is — but in the fog of war, you’ve got to hedge.