We fear those we don’t know and we demonise those who threaten us.
Surfing around I came across this rather sweetly-toned piece, about the male nurse charged with caring for Saddam in captivity. An American fella who seems to be a good genuine guy. And it caused me to think again the thoughts I have been hiding in the back of my head for a while. I wonder if others are thinking as I do…
If the last years of post-Saddam Iraq have taught us anything, it is that the place is full of deeply messed-up people with deep convictions going back many generations. Man, if the Uuuuuunited States of America can’t get them under control, who will?! Iraq is a deeply deeply troubles place. So, if it wasn’t Saddam, what kind of regime, government, what-have-you, was ever going to work in that part of the world, with those religious groups, factions, tribes and interests? I mean, really?
Would anything even slightly more “democratic” than the Saddam regime have possibly worked? Sure it was draconian, repressive, dictatorial, heavily militarised and so forth. But look at it now! There is no freedom. There is only complete mayhem.
So my point is that Saddam may well have sincerely done the best he could with what he was given, in the light of his very Iraqi-ness. He was one of them, folks! To the last, they’re all messed up. There’s not going to be any democracy there any time soon! They’re generations away from any internal capacity to sustain anything as politically cultured and “level” as that, for goodness sake.
Methinks therefore, that before we demonise Saddam, stick him up there with Hitler, Amin, Pol Pot and history’s other psychotic megalomanics, we should take a humble moment to consider the man who fed birds with scraps of bread, who never complained without cause, and who went with quite a lot of dignity to the gallows, refusing a hood and without sprouting any last-minute vitriol-laced anti-Bushisms.
No, I am not saying anything different from what I’ve ever said before; this is not a new tack for me. I am the kind of person who is calm and controlled and reflective enough to realise no earth-bound mortal is either fully demonic or fully angelic. And I think we should approach the man Saddam with a little more care and respect than to demonise, dismiss and dissect his entire person in a few lazy, unintelligent pen strokes of cheap condemnation.
Can we question his love for his homeland, as perverse as the expression of it may have been? Can we dare to accept that in the madness of his rule and dictator’s posturing, there wasn’t also the genuine heart of a father for his kid who needed a Band-Aid?
I hope historians from all sides are generous enough, and careful enough, to go looking for Saddam Hussein, the man. I’m sure the American nurse found him. His journals and reflections would make a great book. A book I’d bother to read.