Saddam and Gormorrah

By on January 29, 2004

You have to admit it was a compelling image: the former dictator of Iraq, mouth open wide, saying “ahhh” as a doctor probes his tongue and inspects his matted hair for lice.

We’ve seen monkeys on the Discovery Channel better kept than this-but you have to admit that they seem to have the luxury of better living conditions.

Critics from the Arab community called the display a “humiliation” and a “disgrace” and indeed, that is exactly as it was intended. In his Jan. 20, State of the Union Address, President Bush stated, “Of the top 55 officials of the former [Iraqi] regime, we have captured or killed 45.” For some reason, at this point in his speech I found myself humming, “he’s making a list/he’s checking it twice…”

Bush is no Santa Claus, although he did have a few gifts to offer as eye candy.

Just as the bullet-ridden corpses of Uday and Qusay were paraded for the world to see, their father has now joined the enclave of the Bush’s war-chest mausoleum.

It is depressing to find that times have not changed all that much.

In 1305, King Edward had Scottish rebel William Wallace dismembered.

He had Wallace’s head put on display at the London Bridge, his right arm on another bridge at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, his left arm at Berwick, his right leg at Perth and left leg at Aberdeen.

With the visceral benefits of global media, there’s no longer a need to go through all that trouble today. We can receive these images directly and readily in the comfort of our own homes.

A more interesting image-and more frightening, perhaps, because of its subtlety-was the waxen visage of our President as he delivered his annual State of the Union Address (equally priceless, though, were the reactions of Senator Ted Kennedy.)

The lips move, but you can literally see the strings attached-and I thought Hollywood had better special effects than that. Somewhere lurking above that podium, a nimble Karl Rove conducted his favorite marionette with dexterous fingers and carefully chosen pauses for applause (which did not always come as expected.)

Bush mentioned progress with al-Qaeda (“nearly two-thirds of their known leaders have now been captured or killed,”) but not the three dirty words. For now, I suppose, Saddam will have to be enough.

No one can excuse his brutal tyranny, but was he the one who shed the blood of thousands of civilians on American soil?

The President put it rather succinctly, “The once all-powerful ruler of Iraq was found in a hole, and now sits in a cell.”

But once the perverse thrill of watching a disposed dictator in captivity has worn off, I wonder what significant impact Saddam’s disposal will have-not for the people of Iraq-but in our war on terror.

After all, it was this crusade of the just that brought us into Iraq; our nation’s safety was of utmost concern in a post 9-11 world.

“Operation Iraqi Freedom” was the banner the troops rallied behind, but I cannot forget some of the other choice words that got them there.

When the President addressed the nation on January 29 in 2003, he stated, “Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and plans, this time armed by Saddam Hussein…” Links between Saddam and al-Qaeda were tenuous then, and have proven to be fallacious now.

The rhetoric has changed much since then, of course, but one should be cognizant of the conditions that led to our current predicament before we can so quickly celebrate its results.

Also conspicuously absent from this speech was any mention of oil in Iraq (or Iran, for that matter.)

And to what extent has our (illegal) occupation of Iraq exhausted the resources of armed forces to combat this war on terror?

If indeed the occupation is as internationally involved as the President asserts, why did he not elaborate on the “contributions” and “sacrifices” some of these nations have made? The most difficult questions, it seems, have been simply avoided.

The cringe-inducing rhetoric of the “evil-doers” has not softened, but has simply been redirected to demonize Iraqis and other Middle Easterners who had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

This seems to be a mute point. Maybe Bush is right that, “For all who love freedom and peace, the world without Saddam Hussein’s regime is a better and safer place.”

I surely cannot contest or evaluate that statement, but I find little solace in its vagueness and am left to ponder why statements like this are so common from this man.

Perhaps I should feel comfort that there is someone else whose job it is to sort out the just from the wicked, to contemplate those spaces between gods and men as to carry out the celestial design of justice.

Bush seems to know this terrain well. “We can trust in that greater power who guides the unfolding of the years. And in all that is to come, we can know that His purposes are just and true.”

I often wish that this God would speak to me too, so that I could share and rejoice in these assurances as well.

Until then, I will have to contend with a conscience plagued by doubt and unanswered questions, and the fear that our conflict in Iraq could be little more than a red herring.


About S. Flavius Mercurius