June 10, 2003
More Than Half Way There, But . . . .

I have updated my Ba'ath Poker list (button in the right column) to reflect the latest captures, and 'Boomshock' (Priorities & Frivolities) has updated his lists of the best Poker hands that can made from them (6/10, 3:31 PM if the link doesn't work).

If my calculations are correct, we now have 29 of the Deck of 52 and 30 of the List of 55 in custody. Not too bad for less than nine weeks work: that's roughly 55% either way you count them. On the other hand, the slackening pace of captures is worrisome. Obviously, Central Command has a lot more data about what is going on than they're likely to tell us, but surmises are possible. Here are mine:

  1. The remaining two dozen can't all be dead: if they were, we would expect to have at least a few corpses to prove it. (Then again, perhaps CentCom has some of them 'on ice' and for some reason doesn't want to reveal the fact.)
  2. Ironically, they may all be alive, given the demonstrated extreme reluctance of Iraqis at every level to lay down their lives for the Husseins if they can avoid it.
  3. So what are they doing now? They're probably not trying to lead a resistance movement: if they are, they don't have much to show for it. Yes, we have lost a few soldiers each week, but given that they are now the only effective police force in a huge area full of people who have never had any reason to respect policemen, such losses don't prove much.
  4. Though some may have escaped from Iraq, it's unlikely that all of them have. Rumors about high-ranking Iraqis holed up in Syrian resort hotels seem to have dried up.
  5. So what are they doing besides hiding? Do they have any long-range plans, or are they focused on evading capture from day to day? Are they waiting for a chance to leave Iraq, or making plans to rise up in revolt and restore the Ba'athist regime, or what?
  6. I think most of them are still trying to figure out how to get out of the country, and whether it's even safe to do so. (They can't assume that Syria and Iran would not bow to U.S. pressure and hand them over: that is reported to be how one or two have already been captured.) It's interesting that the three captured truckloads of gold have (as I recall) all been near the border. It seems that it's a lot easier to hide 40 tons of gold inside Iraq than it is to get it out of the country, and therefore that our border controls are more effective than our in-country searches. If the same applies to people, the remaining cards in the Iraqi deck may be hanging around in Iraq, afraid to risk a border-crossing.
  7. In the mean time, it certainly looks as if some of them are trying to get their loot out of the country so they can follow it. There might be some reluctance to leave without out, for fear that underlings would (e.g.) bury it and blame the loss on the Americans. And they'll likely need the money to help convince Syria or Iraq to let them stay.
  8. Another interesting question: were the truckloads of gold that have been captured sent by Saddam and his sons, or by smaller fry? I would have thought that the Husseins would have enough socked away in Swiss bank accounts not to have to worry about dumptrucks full of gold. Or are they that greedy? On the other hand, if any of the Husseins are still alive, would their subordinates dare run off with the Iraqi gold supply without permission?
  9. This brings us to another question: If they're still alive, are Saddam and his sons together? Do they have other henchmen with them? (None of the top seven on the CentCom list are in custody.) Are the fugitives gradually coagulating into larger groups? That would explain the slowdown in captures, but would also mean that we could eventually capture (or kill) a bunch of them together. Or are they splitting up, 'every man for himself'? In that case, the slowing pace would be an illustration of survival of the fittest: all the less competent fugitives have been picked up.

It's all very puzzling, and we will certainly know more eventually. If Saddam and his sons don't turn up either alive or dead, inside or outside of Iraq, we will eventually conclude that they are dead, just as most sensible people realize that Osama bin Laden has almost certainly been dead for many months now. I would certainly like to know what happened to him, but the thought that he most likely died a slow and painful death from gangrene and was buried in an unmarked grave is not entirely unpleasant.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at June 10, 2003 11:49 PM