While we were at home recuperating from finals, the 4th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army captured Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Troops were in the process of targeting two houses in the rural village of Adwar on Dec. 14 when they saw two men running from a small walled compound. Troops discovered Hussein within the compound, under a carpet, inside a tiny hole, where he openly confessed his identity and gave himself up to his captors. Members of campus political and activist groups commented on this turning point in the U.S. presence in Iraq.

Former president of Students for a Just Society (SJS) Paul Adler '04 asked, "Would it be better for [Hussein] to go to an international criminal court, or would it be better for an Iraqi court to try him?"

Adler, Radical Student Alliance (RSA) member Joshua Russell '06, and Co-coordinator of the Arab-Jewish Dialogue Group Ayhem Bahnassi '05 all predicted that the issue might come up in their groups' discussion sessions.

"Most of the discussion [will] center on the implications of the arrest: one, where he is going to be tried and two, how he is going to be tried ... what it means for his regime to be over," another RSA member, Alia Kaneko '05, said.

Hussein's capture would have been pertinent in the classroom as well; Professor Gordie Fellman (SOC) said that the capture might have been a topic of debate in his War and Possibilities for Peace class.

Was war necessary?

Though Dec. 14 was a celebrated day for both anti-war and and pro-war advocates, the event rekindled a debate over the necessity of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Bahnassi said he felt war was unnecessary to make Hussein lose control of the Ba'ath regime. "I think an international coalition would have exerted more pressure to step down," he said.

"I think the global community would have spoken with one voice, and would have spoken more volumes if the world was united on the issue instead of the United States alienating its traditional allies."

Russell also said he felt that the war was unnecessary.

"I guess the notion of [Hussein] being captured requires a context of war, but that doesn't mean that the war was necessary or positive ... I think the significance of Saddam's capture wasn't so much the event itself, but the response from the corporate media. It was a circus. All the talking heads were saying that the war carried itself into fruition," he said.

Adler, meanwhile, said he always had mixed feelings about the war. "The best arguments made for the war came from people on the Left who said there's a moral responsibility to rid the world of this fascist regime. On the contrary, the best argument made against the war came from people on the Right, who made arguments that it was not part of the war on terrorism," Adler said. He added that SJS never endorsed a formal stance on the war, but some members participated in anti-war activism through other organizations.

"The war was initially justified by the Bush people on three grounds: one, the presence of weapons of mass destruction; two, the claim that Saddam Hussein had some connection with Al-Qaeda, and three, that there was evidence that Hussein bought uranium from Niger in Africa," Fellman said. These claims, according to Fellman, were all false.

"The justification for the war now is capturing Saddam Hussein, but that was not part of the design," Fellman said.

Iraq's uncertain future

Many are now considering the next steps.

"I guess I think it should be up to the Iraqi people to decide how to try him. And by that I mean actually the Iraqi people, and not the small population of elites you'd see interviewed on CNN or FOX or something," Russell said.

"Saddam should be tried by an international tribunal, perhaps by the world criminal court," Fellman said.

In the midst of the 2004 presidential election, Hussein's capture also has political effects.

"I think one of the biggest implications is for the raise in percentage points to the Bush regime, and it's going to solidify the election in the hands of Republicans," Kaneko said.