Skip to comments.Alone in his world of lies ... the last days of Saddam
Posted on 03/28/2003 3:59:41 PM PST by MadIvan
We have not yet found Saddam, but surely we can see him. The ageing tyrant is hunkered down in his bunker. His back aches from an old slipped disk, and it is getting worse without exercise. With American spy planes snooping overhead and bombs falling, he cannot now take his habitual long walks in his walled private estates, or swim in one of his many swimming pools.
He is losing weight, as he always does in times of stress. The lobster and Mateus rosé are no longer flown in twice a week. Nothing flies in but the bombers. He never slept much, but now he hardly sleeps at all. He used to enjoy going out to restaurants in Baghdad (after his bodyguards, the Himaya, have cordoned off the street, inspected the pots and pans for cleanliness and terrorised the staff) but now his only movement is from one bolthole to the next, in a humble unmarked car.
Officials bring him reports of the war, but in truth he does not know what is happening. He used to watch CNN and Sky News, but now he has only his minions for information, and they lie. They always have, for flattering mendacity is the central foundation of his power. This is the Catch-22 of despotism: they tell you what they know you want to hear, and they know you know you are being deceived. Saddam tends to kill those who tell him unpalatable truths. Indeed, he once ordered that condemned men should have their mouths taped closed, to ensure they could not utter words he did not wish to hear from the scaffold.
And so the Great Uncle, The Anointed One, Descendant of the Prophet, lives in a dark bubble, feeding off his own propaganda.
There are traitors out there. Saddam knows this because some perfidious dog informed the Zionist criminals where he was sleeping that night they dropped the first bomb. And there will be more traitors, because there always are. Of course, he could have someone killed. But here, in his bunker, he cannot carry out one of his videotaped purges, or the elaborate public hangings and tongue removals that have worked so well in the past.
Perhaps he watches videos. The Godfather is one favourite (strong man must do ruthless things for the sake of his people); The Day of The Jackal is another (there are clever killers out there: beware). Or does he read? The last time he was incarcerated this way, back in the 1960s when he was jailed after a failed assassination attempt on Iraqs President, Saddam read Ernest Hemingways The Old Man and the Sea. On the other hand, A Farewell to Arms might be a more appropriate title.
What we know of Saddam, and his broadcasts since war began, suggest that he is probably busy ruminating on his own greatness, the Father of all Narcissists preparing, again, for the Mother of all Battles. For alongside his paranoia, there is the monstrous vanity and self-obsession that had a 600-page Koran handwritten in his own blood, and made his own face the only acceptable art form. Echoing Hitlers nihilism in the Berlin bunker, Saddam is probably preparing for his own Twilight of the Gods.
In the first Gulf War he claimed to see the gates of Jerusalem opening before me, as he concocted wild and unfeasible plans to defeat the enemy, including the brutally barmy notion of tying captured US soldiers to tanks as mobile human shields in the belief that Americans would not fire on their own. Then, as now, he refused to countenance defeat, not through courage or conviction, but because he knew that retreat would bring what Saddam fears far more than bombs: the knives of his entourage. Only the fatal allied decision to stop before Baghdad saved him. A man can be destroyed but not defeated, wrote Hemingway. Saddam knows that defeat this time means utter destruction.
There is an official 19-part biography of Saddam Hussein, but for all the posturing, the murals and the bombast, he is still a peasant from the Tikrit al-Katab clan, a pure product of violent tribal village politics. The exiled Iraqi newspaper editor Saad al-Bazzaz described the world that made Saddam to the writer Mark Bowden: There is no real law enforcement or civil society. Each family is frightened of each other, and all of them are frightened of outsiders. Each of the families is ruled by a patriarch, and the village is ruled by the strongest of them. It is the system of the Godfather.
Saddam knows that his ability to remain the über-patriarch of Iraq depends on maintaining power publicly, on providing wealth and patronage to the rest of the tribe. There is a limit to how far this can be done from a secret bunker under bombardment.
And so he sits in his hole, being lied to, and lying to himself, preparing fresh volleys of the defiantly meaningless verbiage that coat his regime, like the dye he uses on his secretly greying hair. On this basis, and along the same central concepts and their genuine constants, together with the required revolutionary compatibility and continuous renewal in styles, means, concepts, potentials and methods of treatment and behaviour, the loyal people of Iraq and their valiant armed forces will win victory ...
Embracing martyrdom, predicting impossible victory, but wondering if his soup is poisoned and whether the next bomb will be even smarter than the first, the patriarch in his labyrinth smokes one of the dwindling stock of cigars sent by Fidel Castro, and watches his all-time favourite movie, a six-hour epic about his life edited by the James Bond film-maker Terence Young. The film is called The Long Days. Waiting underground, insomniac and insecure, threatening and threatened, Saddams days must be long indeed, and his nights still longer.
An apt title indeed.
Or dying, in fact, from cancer.
Hope so. With all that hiding, he must have "Bunker Butt", by now...;^)
It's hard to get Thunderbird in Baghdad.
Au contraire, his days are very very numbered.
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