Alister Cameron // Blogologist

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Reflecting on Saddam Hussein, the man.

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…

Saddam Hussein

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.

saddam, saddam hussein, history, historiography, captivity


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  1. Posted 12 years, 5 months ago // Permalink

    Great insights Alister! Yes I reckon his journals and reflections would make a very interesting book, and I’d love to read it too!

  2. Grey
    Posted 12 years, 5 months ago // Permalink

    LOL. You must be an American. Take a look at your own dictator. He’s far FAR FAR worse then Sadam ever could of dreamed of being. More deceptive, more evil, more dishonest. Sadam offered surrender 3 times to Bush. He had no weapons of mass destruction. Bush has now used chemical, biological and nuclear weaponry on the country he dishonestly accused of the exact same thing. Bush has killed 160,000+ and climbing Iraqis, Sadam less then 200 allegedly… you do the math on who is worse! The fact that he was murdered by an unjust and unlawfull court only adds insult. Reason being of course is in a real court at the Hague he could of aired all of Americas dirty secrets. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like the guy but my dislike for Sadam pales into insignificant irrelevance in the face of my hatred for Bush and what he’s done to America and the rest of the world. God help America, you truly need him now.

  3. samia
    Posted 12 years, 5 months ago // Permalink

    Hi there. Great piece. One of the few times i felt Americans truly understand Arabs. Saddam was an able leader of Iraq for many years. Sure, he may have killed some of his opponents, but don’t many third world leaders do that without incurring the wrath of the free world? Saddam is a hero to the majority Sunni Muslims of the Arab world. He is a hero to me. I can only hope that his death does not inspire a massive war between Sunni and Shi3a that will destroy whatever Bush left of the Middle East.

  4. Alister
    Posted 12 years, 5 months ago // Permalink

    @Grey – I am sympathetic to your position more than you realise. Just go thru my posts of previous years to see that. BTW I’m an Aussie.

    @samia – I can’t agree with you that Saddam is a “hero”. All I want to suggest is that he may have been little more or less than what it took to hold Iraq together at the time. However I certainly hope and pray (with you) that there is no greater bloodshed after his death, and yet is this not such a key test of what is at the heart of the issue for Iraq in the future: how Shi and Sunni Muslims can cohabit the same “space” over there. I am afraid, in the light of history, that Iraq is in for a very rough ride.

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