On January 16, President Bush warned, “Time is running out. At some point in time, the United States’ patience will run out. In the name of peace, if he does not disarm, I will lead a coalition of the willing to disarm Saddam Hussein.”
(As an aside, when performing a Google search to get that quote right, I found that, according to CNN, Bush also said time was running out for Afghanistan to hand over Osama Bin Laden on October 6, 2001. Al Gore said time was running out for ballot recounts in Florida on November 30, 2000. And we all know how far those idle threats got both of them. OK, sure, we bombed the hell out of Afghanistan and deposed the Taliban. But we’re still playing “Where’s Waldo?” with Osama, and the promise of the “liberation” and “democratization” of Afghanistan is little more than a cruel joke. Meanwhile, Al Gore went on a Ben and Jerry’s binge and wimped out on even trying to get elected again.)
“In the name of peace” we’ll start a war. I am reminded of President Merkin Muffley‘s desperate cry, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the war room!”
Anyway, I’m not here to criticize the President. (Really! I mean it!) I agree, time is running out. Saddam Hussein has some serious questions to answer. Does Iraq have chemical or biological weapons? Has Iraq illegally imported weapons technology and raw materials? Is Iraq developing nuclear weapons?
Does Saddam dye his hair, or is that a toupée?
Of course, some of these questions carry more weight, a greater sense of ominous foreboding, than others. But all have merit, in their own way.
I mean, look at the guy! Look at those jowls! He’s 68, for cryin’ out loud! The only 68-year-olds I’ve seen with hair that black were Ronald Reagan and Bob Barker! And even Bob Barker eventually realized the Just for Men wasn’t fooling anyone!
(Another aside: Is it just me, or does Saddam somewhat resemble George Orwell’s description of Big Brother in 1984: “The enormous face [because of constantly seeing it on posters he always thought of it as being a metre wide], with its heavy black moustache and the eyes that followed you to and fro….”)
You know, I’m very reluctant to get into the kind of grandiose moralizing President Bush seems to slip into with ease. The word “evil” crosses his lips far more vigorously, enthusiastically, and frequently than it does my own. And so I must ask, is Saddam really evil? OK, he lets Iraqi children in desperate need of medical attention die in crowded hallways of dingy, dilapidated hospitals. Sure, he summarily executes underlings who merely whisper the slightest hint of dissent. Yes, he beats down all opposition, stages fake “spontaneous” demonstrations by the people in his honor, and builds glorious palaces with grand entrance halls with poetry expounding upon his greatness written on their walls in foot-high gilded letters. If you’re inclined to use a word like “evil,” I guess maybe Saddam fits the bill.
But I think, by and large, the world (at least, places where right-wing talk radio and extreme right-wing talk radio do not constitute the range of public discourse) has moved beyond the simplistic moral dualism that can accommodate an absolutist concept like “evil.” Pinky-finger-to-lower-lip, six-years-in-evil-medical-school, hold-the-world-hostage-for-one-million-dollars, sharks-with-frickin’-laser-beams-attached-to-their-heads EVIL!!! Come on… today the very notion of “evil” is a bumbling caricature of the already exaggerated action movie villain!
Sure Saddam is a sadistic bastard. But maybe he just doesn’t have the proper outlets for his frustrations. Seems to me, he’s merely feeling the creeping malaise of old age, the icy breath of the Grim Reaper on the nape of his neck.
So what’s an aging dictator facing his mortality to do? Those ho-hum, down-in-the-dumps, life-gotcha-down, rainy-day blues are easy enough to fix. A little nip here, a little tuck there, a visit to Sy Sperling, a red convertible Porsche and a trophy wife 40 years his junior, and Saddam’ll be feeling like he’s a young, invincible dictator again!
Maybe deep down, he really is just jealous of America after all! Let’s give him exile over here, and he can take over as CEO of a major corporation. I hear there are a few job openings….
OK, all of that said, I really do think Saddam’s a dangerous sort — a menace to the international community who needs to be dealt with unflinchingly and unanimously by the United Nations. If “evil” really does exist, then he’s just this side of “evil” from the likes of Stalin and Hitler. But I also think that it would be prudent, now and in the future, for us as Americans to question our leaders a bit more about their full motivations for going to war against Iraq, and about some of the nagging issues of the timing involved and its relevance to other matters, both foreign and domestic. America’s still a country where we have the freedom to raise a stink if we don’t like how things are being done. And that’s something worth fighting for!