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Editorials

Saddam Hussein's capture; Santa Claus

Iraqis deserve last word on Saddam

Huzzah! We got that [expletive deleted] Saddam Hussein!

Now we know how the Munchkins felt when Dorothy landed on the wicked witch. Saddam deserves no better fate. We sincerely hope something heavy drops on him too.

Conservative estimates say Saddam killed at least 300,000 of his fellow Iraqis. He made murder, torture and rape matters of national policy. This waste of skin deserves as much compassion as he showed his thousands upon thousands of victims.

We have many qualms about the death penalty as applied domestically. But if the Powers That Be decide Saddam deserves to die for his sins, we won't be sponsoring any candlelit vigils. We say good riddance to bad rubbish.

Having said all that, however, the capture of Saddam Hussein raises some important questions. Exactly who should mete out justice to this lunatic?

A lot of Americans -- and probably President Bush himself -- want to see Saddam face U.S. military justice or an international tribunal. At the very least, Saddam faces the next few years in the tender mercy of U.S. intelligence officials. The Iraqis, of course, want to see him face justice from the same countrymen he oppressed.

We understand the military's interest in keeping Saddam's fate under American supervision. Our boys scored a decisive victory in snagging the despot. Saddam cost a lot of young Americans their lives. We want to make sure he gets what he deserves -- no ifs, ands or buts.

Also, his capture and imprisonment by American forces hopefully helps controlling post-war Iraq a little bit easier.

Yet we think Iraqis need to prosecute Saddam. He encouraged and supported international terrorism and invaded Kuwait but he never directly attacked the United States.

(Remember that Saddam Hussein was a secular tyrant, unlike Osama bin Laden. He had nothing to do with the Islamic fundamentalism behind the terrorism attacks of 9/11.)

The United States took the offensive and attacked Iraq both during the Gulf War and in this latest conflict. We had our reasons. However, as our public relations problems in the Middle East demonstrate, we are quickly perceived as the aggressors.

We deny this, of course. We keep saying we want to free Iraq for the Iraqis. If so, a good way to show this would be to eventually turn Saddam over to the new Iraqi authorities. They suffered a lot more under Saddam than the people of the United States.

He killed thousands of them. He raped and tortured thousands more. They are the victims. They deserve a chance to mete out justice. Given how Iraq historically deals with criminal offenders, Hussein might prefer to take his chances with the American military.

Iraqis, however, need the civics lesson. If they are ever to learn the lessons of democracy, their leaders need to know they will be held accountable by the Iraqi people -- not the United States.

The United States needs some guarantees, to be sure. We need basic guarantees against Saddam's escape. We need to be certain the Iraqi insurgence is not powerful enough to regain control of the country and return Saddam to power.

However, even more important than the fate of Saddam Hussein is the fate of Iraq. Is it to be a perpetually occupied nation with the United States calling every shot? Or is it to be a free country where even the highest and the most powerful are held accountable for their actions?

The answer may not only determine the fate of Iraq, but the fate of the United States as well. Are we to be champions of democracy or just a kinder, gentler dictator?

Mysterious Santa makes us believe

We believe in Santa Claus. Meeting Bill Amo of Independence convinced us.

He just moved to Independence, but as he has done for years in Clallam, Wash., he faithfully donned his red suit and went about the community giving presents to every child he encountered.

The only real difference between Santa Claus and Bill Amo is that Bill lacks access to flying reindeer. If he could find some, no doubt Bill would expand his territory from Independence to the rest of the world.

We found out about Bill from a mom who called to tell us about Independence's mystery Santa. We ran a small story that caught the attention of Sgt. Rick Igou of the Independence Police Department. Rick told us where to find the town's real-life Santa.

(Bill checked in at the police department before starting his rounds.)

Meeting people like Bill restores one's faith in humanity and the spirit of giving. Fortunately, we meet many such people in Polk County this time of year -- from the volunteers at Christmas Cheer, the Monmouth-Independence Community Holiday Project and countless other efforts. Like Bill Amo, all they lack is the flying reindeer.

So yes, we believe in Santa Claus. We meet him every day.

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