The Death of a Tyrant
Saddam Hussein, “self portrait.”
They hung Saddam. That’s the ending, where to start? 1990 I suppose. His name first came into my and most people’s minds when he invaded Kuwait. Shortly followed by a chorus of how Saddam was the new Hitler. When I first heard that, I thought “Well, either Hitler was less evil and dangerous than I thought, or Saddam is far more evil and dangerous than he appears.” It was neither. Saddam was no Hitler, but he was one evil rat bastard. He managed to kill a remarkable number of innocent people in his quest for glory, mostly his own unfortunate subjects. Other world leaders then and now are just as murderous as Saddam, they just have the sense not to get into disastrous wars with their neighbours or the USA. Dear God, what was the man thinking? The First Gulf War has been characterized as the greatest drive by shooting in history. Talk about blowing it as a leader. Then there were the hundred’s of thousands dead in his eight year war with Iran, enough said. Saddam got a far more humane and just death than his victims, I’ll not be shedding any tears for him.
I suppose if I had been clever, I would have prepared this post in advance. It’s not like I haven’t had time, or this is a big surprise. Saddam’s been a player on the world stage for decades, and a household word since 1990. A lot of history to cover, so there’s a lot that can be said, and a lot that has been said. I’m sure a million “Saddam is dead” blogs and columns are hitting the blogosphere and the streets today, so whatever I say I’m sure someone else will say it better. Not that that ever stopped me before, these are my thoughts on Saddam and his passing.
The cynic in me says, “Gee, wasn’t taking Saddam out supposed to make things better?” Will this finalization of “Mission Accomplished” be the key that unites Iraqis and proves the brilliance and rightness of the US invasion? While some are celebrating, I haven’t seen a let up in the carnage just yet. Iraq’s problems long ago were severed from Saddam the man, one more dead Iraqi isn’t going to fix Iraq. I would be nice if this was the magic bullet, or magic rope as the case may be, that brings peace and prosperity to Iraq. For now, I’ll still take a pass on any job offers in Baghdad, thank you.
Despite Saddam’s current household name and T-shirt icon status, I think in the long run he will be a footnote player in history. His name will merge into Hitler’s and be forgotten by all but historians of the era. Saddam was a peasant thug who clawed his way to the top of his little hill, briefly defied the order of things, and was exterminated. His short regime was just another minor rebellion in the tapestry of history. He was a man of his era no doubt, but he will not be a man of the ages. He will join the ranks of countless forgotten warlords before him. In most ways Saddam’s day ended with the fall of Baghdad. Saddam the man’s passing is just an afterthought, he was already dead when they pulled him out of his hiding hole.
Questions remain and will always remain. What secrets did he take to his grave? There’s enough dirt there to write a book, no doubt someone will. Is the world better or worse off without him? What will a world without Saddam be like? I think it’s a little unfortunate that they hung two other nameless guys with him, what were they thinking? No doubt some will speculate on that. Why did I choose the picture above? Because it’s weird. More to the point, it is one of the few surviving pictures from his era, Saddam approved this picture. It is how he saw himself. Anther line of speculation I’m sure. Symbolism and myth revolve around the man. The King is dead, that sums up his end. There’s always uncertainty and speculation in such times.
In our lives Saddam’s death is the ending of chapter. He was a symbol of the times. So much of the nineties was based around the idea of Saddam Hussein, the symbol of evil that must be vanquished. Now The Tower has fallen, the imprisoned tyrant is dead. His era is gone, an era when the evil in Iraq was personified. His death puts us through through the looking glass, into a world where terror has receded into the shadows. Does the real war begin now, a war with no visible enemy and no end? A world where evil lurks where our leaders say it lurks, and must be dealt with however they decide. My fear is that Saddam’s death portends a sea change, and not a change for the better. I do not pray for his soul, I pray for his victims, alive and dead. I pray for us all.
(The above image is so historically important that it almost seems unnecessary to claim it as Fair Use under US copyright law, nonetheless that is what I am doing.)