Great news – Saddam Hussein is in the slammer.

Hats off to U.S. military intelligence, which did the Get-Saddam spadework and put all the pieces of the puzzle together swiftly enough to triangulate the Super-Rodent’s rathole while he was still there.

We’ve been nanoseconds away from nailing this creep a number of times during the past few months, but somehow he always managed to scurry off to twit everyone committed to a free Iraq – including our weary warriors out in the killing fields – for yet another day.

A special mention also to the hard-charging lads from the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division, who went out into the heavily contested Sunni countryside and caught the sucker on his home ground. These well-trained troopers executed their encirclement of a farm near Tikrit with great professionalism, then had the tenacity and combat smarts to conduct the Mother of all Searches until they finally found the Father of All Serial Killers in a pathetic hole under an outlying building most soldiers would have overlooked.

But we got Saddam primarily because of good grunt work rather than any input from Washington or L. Paul Bremer’s team in Baghdad. And that might be because of the infighting and red tape that’s currently preventing the Pentagon, the CIA and State from pulling the Iraqi rope together in the same direction.

How the mighty have fallen. A dictator who habitually claimed he was descended from the kings of Babylon and lived accordingly in dozens of massive marble and gold palaces was captured in primitive digs that even a New York bag lady would have deemed unsquatable.

One of the burning questions now posed by Saddam’s incarceration is: Will his capture bring a quick end to the nasty guerrilla war that’s been escalating ever since he went to ground?

Not a prayer. No way can a case be made that the now-notorious hidey-hole was Guerrilla Command Central. The highly decentralized guerrilla war not only will surely continue, it might even increase in tempo and violence during the next several months as the insurgents make their bloody point that Saddam was far from a major player in their strategy and day-to-day tactical operations.

The most compelling factor of the Butcher of Baghdad’s capture is that it will be a big morale boost for the average Iraqi citizen. At last, every Ahmed and Khadisha has sure confirmation that there’s no comeback in the cards for the boogeyman who tormented them for more than 30 years. And no need for any more nightmares about being marched into the Supreme Sadist’s torture chambers or added to his personal body count.

Once it dawns on these savagely abused people that Saddam is gone – never to return – significant fence-sitters might finally support the fledgling free Iraqi government and the Coalition of the Willing with more than occasional lip service.

But only by attacking guerrilla strong points with even more speed, shock and resolve will the Coalition convince the dead-enders, fanatics, opportunists and crooks that the pain isn’t going away until they’re out of business. And key to winning Iraqi hearts and minds is our continuing to make clear that the United States is not in Iraq for the long haul or to knock off the Iraqi black liquid national treasury.

Saddam is reported to be singing like a final contender for “American Idol.” Hopefully, our spooks can get some valid answers to the big questions that got us into this mess in the first place: Where are the weapons of mass destruction? What’s the connection between his government and 9-11? And what’s his relationship with al-Qaida?

Another plus we should now reap from snagging the Iraqi monster is the chilling message that his capture has got to be sending to the terrorist mastermind who still remains our main enemy in terms of national security: Osama bin Laden – a far more dangerous rat who’s hiding in a deeper hole in the ground, reportedly somewhere in the Pakistani mountains.

Now hear this, Osama: When you become No. 1 on Uncle Sam’s Most Wanted list, sooner or later you are toast. There is no place to run, no place to hide, no hole deep enough. Have no doubt that we will keep hunting for you, too, until we bag you.

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