Bring back Saddam. Spring him from the slammer and put the old dictator back to work. Otherwise, we’re never gonna get out of Iraq.

Here’s why. A new survey, conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, has discovered that Operation Iraqi Freedom has caused 654,965 deaths.

Compared to Hitler, Stalin and Mao, that’s chopped liver. But 654,965 dead bodies is still a formidable number when viewed, for instance, from a small town in Kansas or a New England village. But look at the options:

Bush can stay the course and hit 1 million, or he and his henchmen can retire happy and satisfied with 654,965, which ain’t bad for a country that up till now has had little practice in this line of endeavor. At the minimum you can say that this war has achieved a national personal best. On the other hand, hitting the 1 million mark means that Old Uncle Sam will have gone platinum.

Even so, the doomsday grumpeteers will tell everybody that a million deaths ain’t much. It hardly counts compared to Rwanda and Chechnya, and the way things are going in Darfur these days, it’s only a matter of time before they pass us by–and those folks do not even begin to have our firepower.

So it boils down to this. Hitting the million mark is not practical. Practical is figuring a way to get out of Iraq without a civil war. How do we do that?

The answer is sitting there behind bars on television starring in the big Baghdad show trial. The answer is Saddam. He is the one person who can run Iraq without a civil war. He was doing it for years until he suffered a horrendous case of regime change.

Would that work from a public relations point of view? He’s the guy who “used poison gas on his own people.” But that was twenty years ago, so he is covered by the statute of limitations.

Don’t be flamboozled by the fact that he used weapons of mass destruction on his fellow Iraqis. His poison gas only managed to kill about 5,000 or 10,000 people, which hardly counts when compared with what the United States can claim credit for. Saddam was a butcher, but he was retail butcher. The mom-and-pop store versus Wal-Mart.

Saddam tortured his enemies, and those two sons were charmers. But numerically they indulged in small-scale stuff. Now anybody or everybody gets to do any kind of stuff on anybody and everybody else. Bloody, blood, blood all over.

When Saddam was running Iraq there was no daily “finding” of thirty-five or forty bodies, which had been tortured prior to being dumped on the roadside. Under the old despot, Sunnis and Shiites lived side by side, intermarried and went their own way. Now they’re killing each other’s grandmothers.

Saddam was a brute, but the electricity generally worked and the garbage got picked up. Doctors hadn’t fled the country and there even was some medicine in the hospitals, and nobody was going around blowing up bakeries and schools. Saddam even managed to get a little oil pumped, and he wasn’t about breaking into thousands of people’s houses and giving them two hours to move out of the neighborhood because they belonged to the wrong mosque.

Let’s not forget that he held the country together and made sure to keep those Evil Axis-ing Iranians at bay. Saddam had his faults, but there was a time when Rumsfeld really liked him.

Presently old Saddam is spending his days in a cage watching his lawyers get bumped off and arguing with whoever happens to be the judge in charge that day. It wouldn’t take much persuasion to get him to forget the trial and get on over to the Green Zone (which used to be one of his palaces) and start putting Iraq back in order.