They got him! Or so they suggested, back in March. No one said it explicitly, but for a day we hoped. The troops were massed and poised; intel came in, off when the rockets. I remember watching video of flames licking the sky that night - best of all possible worlds, it seemed. The war hadn’t even begun, and maybe the butcher was a pink smear on a shattered hunk of concrete. Not the case, as it turned out. Then came another decapitation attempt before the troops took Baghdad, and I thought the same thing: if only. "Coalition forces have discovered a liver on a rebar, and are making DNA tests as we speak!" But he lived. He fled. He literally went to ground. Looking at the odorous burrow where he was finally found, you realize that the last words Saddam might have heard were “fire in the hole!' - but somehow those atavistic cowboy soldiers swallowed their instincts and took him alive.


Alive is better.

Right now the TV is playing a hastily assembled documentary of Saddam’s rise to power – it’s mostly clips of the butcher in tailored suits, smiling, at ease, in power. The suits always seem to blind certain people. They see the suits, they assume the best. They want to sign treaties, make contracts, lend money. Yes, yes, he is a hard man, but it is a hard part of the world, no? One must deal with someone. Saddam was said to have studied Stalin, and in one respect he trumped his idol. Stalin’s smile never reached his eyes. He was always looking around to see who on his team was smiling more than he was, or wasn’t smiling enough. But sometimes Saddam actually had a genuine smile. And why not? He had his people under his heel, and a good portion of the West in his pocket. The American presidents, they came and went. Granted, so did their bombs. But no American president knew what it was like to grow up poor in Tikrit. No American president had ever shot a man – soft hands, they had. They had big sticks, but big sticks taxed the arms of weak men, and they always laid them down eventually.

Hence the grin; hence the big wide open toothy grin. Top of the world, ma. Top of the world.

Many have noted that the sight of Saddam looking like Nick Nolte’s mugshot will have a harsh effect on our old seething friend, the Arab Street. They will see him looking like a piss-soaked bum with matted hair and bags under his eyes that look like Kathy Bates’ bosom, and they’ll see the Proud Example brought low, the man who had stood up to America humbled and unmanned. (That always makes me wonder how many fellow Arabs a man can kill before that crime exceeds the virtue of Standing Up to America. Half a million? One? Two?) What struck me was his expression when the doctor poked around in his maw for a suicide pill – he had the standard reflex familiar to anyone who’s been in a dentist’s chair. The intimacy of the act makes you look away. You look up; you endure; you disengage until it’s over. Saddam humiliated himself. A big bald Yank stuck a stick in his mouth and he couldn’t even look him in the eye.

This was their hero? His army evaporated. His statues came down like cheap plastic bowling trophies. He ran away. He hid in a hole. There’s your man, O brave foes of American imperialism. It’s Ozymandias in reverse, really – in Shelley’s poem, the stumps of the great statue punctuate the vast and trackless desert, and when we are asked to look upon Ozymandias’ works and despair, it’s a comment on the smothering hand of time. Nothing remains. But now the entire world can look upon Saddam’s works, and despair for different reasons. We see what he did. We see everything that remains; we see what he didn’t do. It’s possible to build a reasonably prosperous society that invests in its people, doesn’t invade its neighbors, opposes Israel and stands up to America. (Just look at France.) He failed to give his people anything but the geegaws and baubles stolen from successful cultures. Streetlamps and telephones: so what? It was the sort of government that would institute rural electrification only to reward friendly tribes and power the testitcle-clamps in the torture cells.

Saddam’s failure isn’t his alone. The entire political construct he represents is a miserable man too tired to resist when it’s finally pushed against a wall. One hopes the point is made: when the US Army turns your way, your barber and your tailor are no help at all. When you’re a ragged hairy thug dragged from a bolt-hole who’s having his back teeth interrogated by a grim buff Murcan soljur who would really prefer to be home for Christmas, there’s a chance Paris and Berlin won't take your calls.

I’ve read all the nutball far-left sites worrying about the worrisome worries – does this help Dub? Was it all faked? Surely America will see that the man paraded before the cameras was a soy-based simulacrum cooked up in the Halliburton labs? It’s amusing to troll the fevered swamps, but nothing they say matters in the end. The history texts will note that Baghdad fell on this date, Saddam was captured on that date, and the events between the two events will fill up a paragraph at best. Cruel but true. This was a big event, but there are bigger events to come.

We live in an age where we’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. And drop it does. And drop again it will.

If this war has a mascot, it’s the millipede.

Nothing today - Amazon was having server problems when I tried to log on to my account, so to hell with them. The gift archive is here. Or - hey - buy my book! It's printed on quality paper.
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