On the Other Hand...

Time to Take Out Saddam?

by Jim Davies

Once again that troublesome fellow in Baghdad is stirring things up, now even daring to challenge the Feds' self-appointed role as World Cop. This time around, it's interesting that his neighbours seem supportive. If so, the fact marks a truly major defeat for the diplomacy of the US Government and its 85-year-old interventionist foreign policy. None too soon, some of us think.

Even so, there is no denying that Saddam Hussein is a particularly savage example of the sub-species, Government Man. He not only led a brutal invasion of a neighbor country, he has viciously suppressed individuals in Iraq who have tried to fulfil their humanity by living their lives, their way. I have to agree with the popular view that the world would be a safer, happier place without him; that his death would save many lives in the future.

So, rather than have another war and kill some more civilians, we may fairly ask, has not the time come to assassinate the guy?

I did not invent that idea; I saw it floated twice, recently, on genuine TV network talk shows! Hey, if THEY can talk about it, it must be okay, right?

Let us then examine this intriguing notion.

Clinton, No It's highly improbable that the President, or anyone on his behalf, would undertake such a task as to knock off Hussein or any other Head of State. The reason is simple: Tit for Tat. If Clinton can take out Saddam, he legitimizes the practice for years to come; so eventually, someone will knock off Clinton. And, careless though statesmen certainly are with the lives, limbs and fortunes of ordinary people, they are famous for being mighty careful with their own; they surround themselves with taxpayer-funded bodyguards even long after leaving office. So I think there is a long-standing and highy sacred Code of Dishonor between the world's leading Pols: assassination is OFF the table.

How else can we explain George Bush, who at the height of the Iraq War, swore up and down that he was NOT targetting any particular individual? - and this, after so stirring up his electorate that "Kill Saddam" b-stickers were sprouting like weeds, in every trailer park from Sea to shining Sea!

He was willing to sponsor a war that killed about 150,000 people, the vast majority of whom had done nothing worse than fail to resist an Iraqi Government Draft, but he expressly refused to try to take the single life that he said was the cause of it all. Truly, that unwritten Code must be powerful indeed.

Okay, so we cannot look to government to "off" the guy. Anyone else?

Private Hire, Maybe To answer that, we need to visit the unsavory subject of private contracts to kill. Suppose (bear with me!) that an entrepreneur announced that a prize or "bounty" fund was being set up to dispose of Saddam, or for that matter any other murderous and well-known scumbag. Anyone - you, me, or anyone with a fading "Kill Saddam" sticker still on his bumper - could contribute a few bucks to the bounty; the more widely the target is resented, the bigger the bounty. Anyone suitably skilled takes up the challenge, kills the target and claims the reward, minus perhaps a percentage to the entrepreneur for his services in putting the deal together. Now, exactly why wouldn't that arrangement work?

The obvious reason is that it would violate a bunch of laws. The assassin would be arrested, the businessman would be prosecuted for conspiracy to murder, even the $10 contributors might face time in the pokey; the whole thing is absurd, right? It could never work unless the government suspended all pertinent laws for that one target only, and then we're back to Square One because that's tantamount to State sponsored topping. Hillary would never wear it.

But wait, wait just a moment. Suppose the scenario above were changed a bit; suppose the assassin could somehow be guaranteed not only his bounty but also his absolute anonymity? So now he could not be arrested, supposing only that he completed the hit without being spotted in the Baghdad Bazaar.

Suppose further (like I said, please bear with me!) that the $5 contributions could be made to the fund in absolute secrecy, so that not even our entrepreneur knew where they had come from and so would be entirely unable to identify the donors to any investigator? And suppose finally that the terms under which he organized the bounty fund were changed so as NOT to violate the conspiracy laws - for example, by describing it as a "competition" to guess the date of the target's death? So long as he operated in a State without anti-gambling laws, he'd be home and dry, right?

Well, the truly fascinating news is that some smart guy on the Internet has figured out a way to take away all those big "Suppose"s. Apparently, the raw technology is already in place. The secrecy - and the all-important payoff - can in fact be made as described, thanks to two brand-new factors: secure "digital cash", that is, a payment system as anonymous as the pocket full of quarters you or I might use to pay for a cup of coffee; and unbreakable code, with which the hit contract (or "guess") could be administered.

The exact how and wherefore is a bit beyond me, with its public and private encryption keys, anonymous remailers and all, but I know enough to know that they do exist. That being so, we are on the cusp of a revolution that promises to slash - to decimate - the power of tyrants, all over the world. For all of human history, ordinary people have looked for a way to prevent ruthless "leaders" stealing their property and their lives; but they've never found one.

It could actually be that now, in our lifetimes, that long search will end. Chilled by fear of apppearance on a public Hit List, the sheer, sweet enjoyment of political power everywhere could soon turn very, very sour.

© Copyright Jim Davies 1999

Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.

The above is Edition # 235

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