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Asylum for Saddam

Saddam Hussein should be offered asylum in another country and full amnesty for his crimes. There, I've said my case. Does it sound so unreasonable?

Well, let's see. Saddam has already done so many gruesome things to stay in office that, if he resigned and stayed in Iraq, he would not survive a day. No doubt he remembers what happened to one of his predecessors: That guy was dragged from a car through Baghdad and cut to pieces by the mob that followed it. Years ago, Saddam looked like he could be a player in the Middle East. Now he's the tyrant of a heap of rubble, and he will either die painfully in a coup or stay in power long enough to die in his bed.

So, it's time to develop a third option. One night, the Iraqi people go to bed. Come morning, they will find out that Saddam has left the country, and they are now under the rule of a dissident coalition in preparation for an election. For Saddam, the perks will be a pension from his current assets, a house somewhere, and being surrounded by masses of people who are merely indifferent to him. He won't like being put out to pasture, but, on the other hand, Saddam's ambitions of leading the Arab world are gone now.

Does it sound obscene, to let a man who gassed his own villages skate like this? Welcome to the Middle East. Saddam's neighbor, Assad, shelled one of his own cities into oblivion. A few weeks ago he got a state visit to France, with full honors. It's better to let Saddam skate for his crimes than have him commit even more. Apropos France, nine out of ten ousted tyrants prefer the French Riviera to the leading retirement spot.

Does it sound crazy? Well, at this point, the sanctions are crazier. The United States has openly stated that it wants Saddam ousted. "Ousted" is a euphemism for something much nastier in Iraq, so we can expect Saddam to continue his cat and mouse game with the inspectors. The sanctions are no longer helping with the situation. Saddam has already shown that he doesn't care if his people starve. Since he is devoting what resources he has to his weapons, the United States can only slow his weapons program using the sanctions, not stop him.

In the meantime, Iraq is becoming a concentrated version of everything that makes the Middle East such a miserable place. There's the bloodthirsty tyrant, the censorship machine, the scapegoating of various ethnic groups to deflect attention, there are bizarre conspiracy theories circulating all the time (starring you-know-who), there's poverty, misery, and the water is bad enough to pick people off randomly. This toxic cauldron is bound to spill at some point. A quiet departure on Saddam's part would be a much more hopeful way to resolve this crisis.

Omri Schwarz G