And here I thought I was joking. Yesterday, I closed this item on Maureen Dowd's column - in which she longed for an Iraqi dictator to whom to surrender - by wondering whether we should "look for Dowd to pop up in Baghdad sometime soon, leading a 'Bring Back Saddam' movement?"
But the appeal of bringing back Saddam is apparently no laughing matter in liberal circles. In today's Los Angeles Times, New Republic editor Jonathan Chait - he of "Bush Hatred" fame - has written a column entitled, yes, "Bring back Saddam Hussein." I kept reading for a clue that this was a Swiftian modest proposal. It never came. Chait apparently means it. Excerpts:
- "Allow me to propose the unthinkable: Maybe, just maybe, our best option is to restore Saddam Hussein to power."
- "Yes, I know. Hussein is a psychotic mass murderer. Under his rule, Iraqis were shot, tortured and lived in constant fear. Bringing the dictator back would sound cruel if it weren't for the fact that all those things are also happening now, probably on a wider scale."
- "Hussein . . . has a proven record in that department [of stopping chaos]."
- "The return of Saddam Hussein — a man every Iraqi knows . . . would do the trick [of returning the 'expectation of order'].
- Concludes Chait: "I know why restoring a brutal tyrant to power is a bad idea. Somebody explain to me why it's worse than all the others."
I'll paraphrase what I wrote in response to Dowd's pining for a strong man:
"So, Maureen [and now Chait] long for a dictator who will impose "law and order"? [Weren't they] part of the same crowd condemning various administrations for doing just that with strong men from Batista to the Shah to Pinochet?"
Since liberals believe in powerful central government, could they harbor a secret fascination for the ultimate in big-government types - dictators?
Finkelstein recently returned from Iraq. Contact him at email@example.com