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A killing on the market

When death and destruction become healthy economic indicators, something is deeply wrong. That is, of course, unless death and destruction target the right parties. A case in point occurred last week as reported by Reuters.

“U.S. stocks perked up after news that Saddam Hussein’s two sons were killed by coalition troops in Iraq.” The killings, cheered the business report, “lifted sentiment on Wall Street.”

The joyous mood came as blue chip stocks “shook off an early slump after U.S. Army Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez said in Baghdad that the two sons of Saddam Hussein, Uday and Qusay, had been killed in a U.S. raid on a villa in Mosul, northern Iraq.”



The news of the killings was reported as a “positive development for the effort in Iraq.” Said stock market analyst Michael Scherer at Legg Mason: “The death of Hussein’s sons could possibly discourage those still loyal to Saddam Hussein.”

Stocks climbed shortly after a positive confirmation that among the four charred bodies taken from a villa in Mosul following a prolonged gun battle, two were identified through dental records as the sons of the Iraqi despot.




Known widely as despots themselves, Uday and Qusay Hussein had been high-ranking targets on America’s hit list. That there was a multi-million-dollar bounty on each these men speaks to yet another economic aspect to their brutal killing.

It wasn’t only stock market investors who celebrated about the elimination of these sinister siblings, but also informants who notified coalition troops of the brothers’ residence at the villa. A sizable bounty will be theirs.

Now that conventional means for fighting an insurgent force in Iraq have failed, blood money is the weapon du jour. The U.S.-led coalition is providing payoffs in an effort to snare the bad guys, while at home we reap dividends, real and psychological.

According to Reuters, President Bush hailed the deaths of “brutal regime leaders” Uday and Qusay as “further assurance to the Iraqi people that the regime is gone and won’t be back.”

The report added: “As word spread of the deaths of the feared and ruthless brothers, celebratory gunfire crackled across night-time Baghdad and financial markets were fueled by optimism that Washington might now be able to get on top of postwar difficulties in Iraq.”

What it really means is that vigilantism is alive and well in Iraq. The U.S. and its coalition partners have sunk so low in the Iraq quagmire that bounties and charred bodies are necessary to spur economic confidence back home.

The week before the Hussein brothers were snuffed, a New York Times headline read: “The murders of Baathists now rampant across Iraq.” With a nod from the U.S., it is open season on anyone with past affiliations to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.

The article describes “drive-by hit squads” that have racked up numerous assassinations in a display of unbridled murder. If this is an example of the kinder, gentler Iraq envisioned by the Bush administration, our foreign policy is a disastrous failure.

Meanwhile, back home we have administration lackeys falling on their swords as they sacrifice themselves to Bush’s errant intelligence about Iraq’s WMDs. The spreading web of culpability makes it clear that grievous mistakes were made and that the president hopes to dodge them all.

When stock markets rise because of brutal killings, I get the creepy feeling that the U.S. economy is mired in some very bizarre indicators. Since when have charred bodies given anyone a sense of confidence or stability?

Paul Andersen thinks the pictures of the dead brothers is the final proof of insanity. His column appears every Monday.


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