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LOST AND FOUND

History is a succession of success stories. The coalition forces in Iraq led by the United States of America scored a major success on Saturday and may have even erected a milestone in the history of Iraq. The loser was literally in a hole in a small farmhouse. He had been absconding ever since Baghdad fell. The arrest of Mr Saddam Hussein signifies the end of a vicious dictatorship in Iraq. It is now certain that Mr Hussein will never again rule in Iraq. The war in Iraq may not be over but the capture of Mr Hussein means that the coalition forces have won. The scattered bits of resistance owing allegiance to the former tyrant can now be easily cleared up since they will be without a focus and a nominal leadership. The aftermath of Mr Husseinís arrest will also demonstrate one thing. If the resistance continues over a period of time, it will reveal that the roots of the guerrilla war lie in a deep-seated resentment against the occupation forces and are unrelated to Mr Hussein. The dying-out of the resistance, on the other hand, will reveal the loyalty that even a vanquished tyrant commanded. But many Iraqis ó even those who have no love for the US army ó will see Mr Husseinís imprisonment as a moment of liberation. They will look forward to his trial and to his conviction on innumerable counts, from mass murder to the violation of human rights.

With victory all but sealed and signed, a different kind of responsibility descends on the US army and policymakers in the White House. Most people in Iraq are yearning for some kind of security and a restoration of civic law and order. They are eager to get on with the normal business of life. The coalition forces had so far failed to do this since they had not found Mr Hussein. It might be easier to restore normalcy with Mr Hussein behind bars and singing to his interrogators. The president of the US, Mr George W. Bush, expressed his pleasure and satisfaction at the arrest of Mr Hussein but he did not, as is his wont, go over the top. Mr Bush and his advisers know that the real job in Iraq is just about begun. The transition from tyranny to democracy is always a long and bumpy haul especially when carried out in an environment where friendship is not guaranteed.

The discovery of Mr Hussein in a hole could not have come at a better time for Washington. Many were beginning to suspect that Iraq was becoming a replay of Vietnam. The appearance of body bags was raising resentment about a war that seemed apparently to be pointless and without a resolution. The real reasons for the US invasion of Iraq are still unclear. What is clear however is that the entire issue of weapons of mass destruction was a mere pretext. It seems reasonable to suggest that the overthrow of Mr Hussein and the subjugation of Iraq are chess pieces in the USís great geo-political game. The US would like nothing better than to resolve the mess in west Asia, the nursery of Islamic fundamentalism, in its favour. Even critics of US policy will admit that the US is well on its way to successfully reordering the west Asian chess board.

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