IS SADDAM BACK?….How did I miss this news on Friday? Apparently al-Jazeera has aired a tape that was purportedly recorded by Saddam Hussein a couple of weeks ago. It calls on Iraqis to resist U.S. occupation.

(Oh yeah, it was the 4th of July. I didn’t bother reading any news that day.)

Anyway, like all these tapes, this one is filled with background noise and is of very poor quality. Nonetheless, the CIA says that “it’s most likely his voice.”

But why are these tapes always of poor quality? According to this latest one, it’s just really hard to get good recordings of deposed dictators: “People have been asking why they haven’t heard the voice of Saddam Hussein. We face a lot of trouble in getting our voice to you even though we have been trying.”

What trouble? A $30 tape recorder will make a pretty good quality recording, and it’s certainly easy enough to be sure to include some details in the message that make it clear when it was recorded. But they never do.

So I will remain mildly skeptical until we learn more. At the same time, however, it looks like the mere suspicion that Saddam might be back is causing problems:

“You can’t speak now, just like you couldn’t speak during Saddam’s time,” said a math teacher who would identify himself by only his first name, Rami, which “would not be enough for them to catch me.”

Another man, a student named Khalid, refused to speak about Hussein in front of his friends. “Things are getting worse, not better,” he said. “Everyone is afraid.”

Some Iraqis said recent attacks against people who have been working with U.S. troops and the U.S.-led civilian occupation authority have further stoked public anxieties and prompted some to question whether they should continue cooperating with Americans.

….Then, after walking around the store to make sure no one was listening, he ventured another thought: “You know, if he comes back, he won’t just be the old Saddam,” he said. “He’ll be 10 times the Saddam we knew.”

Well, maybe. That’s what Napoleon thought too, after all, and it didn’t work out so well for him. Still, it would be nice avoid a rerun of Waterloo, even if we do end up on the winning side.