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There's today's post at Baghdad Burning, the "Girl Blog from Iraq," with one view asking why -- why now? -- is Saddam being hanged?  And who benefits?  (Then, below, there's an entirely different puzzling out of those questions from American political writer Larisa Alexandrovna in a guest op-ed at Juan Cole's Informed Comment.)

From but one section of an expansive, devastating post (if not entirely one with which I agree), "End of Another Year...," at Baghdad Burning on December 29, 2006:

... Why make things worse by insisting on Saddam's execution now? Who gains if they hang Saddam? Iran, naturally, but who else? There is a real fear that this execution will be the final blow that will shatter Iraq. Some Sunni and Shia tribes have threatened to arm their members against the Americans if Saddam is executed. Iraqis in general are watching closely to see what happens next, and quietly preparing for the worst.

This is because now, Saddam no longer represents himself or his regime. Through the constant insistence of American war propaganda, Saddam is now representative of all Sunni Arabs (never mind most of his government were Shia). The Americans, through their speeches and news articles and Iraqi Puppets, have made it very clear that they consider him to personify Sunni Arab resistance to the occupation. Basically, with this execution, what the Americans are saying is "Look- Sunni Arabs- this is your man, we all know this. We're hanging him- he symbolizes you." And make no mistake about it, this trial and verdict and execution are 100% American. Some of the actors were Iraqi enough, but the production, direction and montage was pure Hollywood (though low-budget, if you ask me).

That is, of course, why Talbani doesn't want to sign his death penalty- not because the mob man suddenly grew a conscience, but because he doesn't want to be the one who does the hanging- he won't be able to travel far away enough if he does that.

Maliki's government couldn't contain their glee. They announced the ratification of the execution order before the actual court did. A few nights ago, some American news program interviewed Maliki's bureau chief, Basim Al-Hassani who was speaking in accented American English about the upcoming execution like it was a carnival he'd be attending. He sat, looking sleazy and not a little bit ridiculous, his dialogue interspersed with 'gonna', 'gotta' and 'wanna'... Which happens, I suppose, when the only people you mix with are American soldiers.

My only conclusion is that the Americans want to withdraw from Iraq, but would like to leave behind a full-fledged civil war because it wouldn't look good if they withdraw and things actually begin to improve, would it? ...

I read recently that Bush plays bridge at the White House, which astonished me because the game of bridge, especially if played at a world-class level, requires both intense analytical thinking and on-the-fly creative reactions.  And the squeeze play, known only to students of the game, is a declarer's (er, decider's?) gambit that Bush, I assure you, would never know how to execute. For one thing, the squeeze play requires the ability to envision both the suit length and honor cards in the holdings of the two defenders. Those holdings can only be ascertained by pre-play bidding, if any; the 26 cards that the declarer can see; and how the defenders play each of their 13 cards, including whatever defensive signals they may send, the sequence in which they play the cards, and the cards they cast off if the declarer/decider runs his long suits.

Ordinary students of bridge can pull off a squeeze play, and precocious but unsteady, immature players search constantly for squeeze plays (mostly for bragging rights). But only worldclass players can consistently find and execute squeeze plays. And only worldclass players can SEE the defenders' cards almost better than they themselves can.

Larisa uses a chess analogy to describe Bush's supposed squeeze play on Iran.

Alexandrova Guest Op-Ed:
Saddam's Execution and the Campaign Against Iran

Saddam's Execution and the Iran Option

Larisa Alexandrovna

[...]

... chess forces us to think beyond our own present and fixed position, forcing us to reason every possible outcome of each action and counteraction ...

[...]

Sometime this morning all the various and truly bizarre events the Bush administration has been engaged in recently with regard to troop levels and surges suddenly crystallized for me as though I were sitting at a chess board and seeing the entire strategy unfold ... I hope I am wrong.

[...]

And why anyone want to enrage the Muslim world by executing a Muslim, publicly, during Hajj?

Suspend your emotions and think strategically. ...

The administration is stalling as it supposedly weighs its Iraq options, when in fact they have made their decision. ... One need only look at the slow leaks coming out, not the least of which was Joe Lieberman's op-ed in the Washington Post to understand that we are going to be sending more troops to Iraq. So why does the administration wait to tell us this?

[See also: "Joe Lieberman's declaration of war on Iran," by Glenn Greenwald, about Lieberman's op-ed in today's WaPo.]

In the meantime, naval carriers are deployed to send Iran "a warning," as though the threats thus far and the passing of sanctions are not warning enough. Add to that the detainment of Iranian diplomats invited to Iraq by the Iraqi leadership. ...

[...]

Why censor Dr. Leverett's opinion piece on Iran when the CIA already cleared it?

Now given this entire context, ask yourself again why Saddam Hussein is being executed now, during Hajj even? What is the urgency?

THE UGLY STRATEGY I SEE

This is what I think may be playing out [and] the strategy is so brazenly obvious, arrogant, and antithetical to everything America is supposed to be and stand for, that it will be difficult to digest.

What the Bush administration appears to be waiting for, stalling for, while they allegedly mull over the Iraq question is for the naval carriers and other key assets to fall into position. This will happen in the first week of January. Saddam Hussein is being executed ... to enrage tempers and fuel more violence in Iraq. This violence will justify an immediate need for a troop surge. ... [T]he British press has for the past week done nothing but report that Britain will be attacked by the New Year. Clearly they are preparing themselves for a contingency and that contingency is the massive violence that will erupt across the Muslim world as they watch (and I really believe it will be televised) Saddam's hanging and just before the New Year.

Why is the rush to execute Saddam Hussein not account for Hajj? Or does it?

The carriers will be in position and I imagine there will be an event of some sort in Iraq. ... The attacks will be blamed on Iran, with the help of the Saudis and Pakistan. ... The sanctions, as watered down as they are, have given the administration the blank check they needed from the world (and they still have their blank check from Congress) to order aerial strikes. The surge troops will be in position and I estimate that ground support will begin around late February, early March.

Saddam's execution and the violence is also a convenient cover for the administration while pieces are moved into position and during Hajj, when Muslims are busy across the world.

What they don't seem to realize is that the Persians are the most expert of chess players and they are a patient, strategy minded opponent. ... The US has a superior air force, but Iran has a formidable navy and while the house of Saud will fuel this, the fallout will be fatal. Why?

[ONCE AGAIN Bush fatally underestimates the "enemy."]

Because the US is too stretched to be able to protect Israel and Israel cannot sustain a long term attack. ... [I]f you have any doubt, go back to the recent war with Lebanon. The British will pull out, despite promises of support. Blair is on his way out and the British public will not tolerate support for Israel because of its help in supporting US imperialistic aggression. Whatever terrorist cells lurk in the US, and make no mistake, our administration has done little to address this issue, will be activated. Also consider that the house of Saud is not prepared to defend itself against an uprising and that the US cannot protect it while simultaneously operating on three different fronts and covertly in god knows how many. Despite the various sectarian differences in the Muslim world, there are two enemies that they all agree to fight and die fighting against: the US and Israel. This attack will set off a Muslim counterattack so large, that nothing will be able to stop it or contain it.

But our leadership does not see this, because they cannot think strategically and won't think in human terms, so they are left with nothing but arrogance. And we are left with a world ablaze. '

Two women boggled by it all.  As are we.

Then there's a third woman, Barbara Ann Radnofsky, who wrote a "Happy New Year" post, which my friend Norma sent along the other day, in which Radnofsky quotes Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade":

And who loves war for war's own sake
Is fool, or crazed, or worse;
But let the patriot-soldier take
His meed of fame in verse;
Nay - tho' that realm were in the wrong
For which her warriors bled,
It still were right to crown with song
The warrior's noble deed--

Ah, but what noble deed might our indeed noble soldiers claim?

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Originally posted to SusanHu on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 12:57 PM PST.

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