Vol. 2, Issue 24, June 15, 2004
U.S. Deciding Whether To Use FedEx to Ship Hussein Back to Iraq
President Bush said today that his administration was making plans to transfer custody of Saddam Hussein to the new Iraqi interim government. But he refused to be pinned down on exactly which shipping company would be used.
"We're working with the Iraqi government on a couple of issues," Mr. Bush said at a news conference in the Rose Garden. One issue is whether the deposed Iraqi dictator should be transferred via military transport, or whether the United States should outsource delivery to a third-party company such as FedEx.
"We're working to make sure there's appropriate security," Mr. Bush went on. "I mean, one thing, obviously, is that we don't want, and I know the Iraqi government doesn't want, is for the American guards in charge of this prisoner to display behavior like we've seen over at Abu Grahib. But on the other hand, there's no real precedent for using a company like FedEx for a prisoner transport. So there's a bit of discussion."
The president seemed, by steering clear of a specific shipping and transport method, to distance himself from remarks earlier today by the interim Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi, who said that Mr. Hussein and other detainees would be transferred to the custody of the Iraqi authorities in the next two weeks by FedEx next-day priority.
"Those no-tear Tyvek envelopes which FedEx uses are extremely reliable," said Allawi. "Our police have been using them for makeshift body armor, and they are easily capable of withstanding small to medium caliber weapons. I see no reason why America can't just pop Hussein in there with a few bags of peanuts and a bottle of water for the trip."
"We want to make sure that he is secure," Mr. Bush said, with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan standing by his side. "He's a killer. He is a thug. He needs to be brought to trial. If we used a shipping company and they lost him, what could we tell the Iraqi people waiting to see justice? That their money would be refunded in full?"
The American military is still reeling from the revelations of prisoner abuse committed by its soldiers, and has been extremely wary in recent weeks of undertaking any operation that does not actually involve blowing things up.
"Our specialty is really search-and-destroy type missions," said Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, currently the top American commander in Iraq. "We do much better when we get to coordinate high-tech, multifaceted operations that involve neutralizing military targets in a battlefield context. Civil-servant type jobs, such as guarding prisoners, obeying the law, and fixing utility systems, are not what we do best."
FedEx is apparently eager for the opportunity and is lobbying the White House for the job, offering the United States a substantial "Freedom Discount" for shipping Hussein back to Iraq.
"We've been secretly shipping people for years, and our fatality level is impressively low," said Fred Smith, FedEx chairman and CEO. "You just tell us what time the trial starts, and we'll make sure he gets there on time. I guarantee it."