Monday, September 18, 2006

Saddam: Thanks

In the recent developments in the trial of Saddam Hussein, the leading judge of the tribunal told Saddam that he was not a dictator, but that those surrounding you had turned you into one. These remarks by judge Amiri, someone who has been accused of being sympathetic to the former president, deserve attention.

Until recently, it was believed that only Iranians believed that their leaders were usually ordinary people and that it was those that surrounded them who were corrupt and evil. Now it looks like others too see things similarly.

But Judge Amiri and those who point the finger of blame on ‘surrounding’ individuals have a problem. It appears that they expect a dictator to call a spade by its name and confirm that he is a dictator! The reality is that dictators are like everybody else in many ways. They love their children and are kind to their own family, just as is everyone else. Saddam, who has the blood of thousands on his hands, is no exception in this regard. We recall the images when he would visit charity houses and be kind to people during the war with Iran. Have we not heard of Hitler’s kind heart as well? Or of Gering’s love for painting and classical music? And has Saddam Hussein not written two romantic novels thousands of which still sit on many shelves in Iraqi houses? Eastern versions of Daniel Steele’s novels. Don’t we know of Saddam Hussein’s kind family relations from Jordanian King Hussein’s descriptions of the Kebabs that Hussein used to personally make on the banks of the Dijlah River (the Tigris) during the 8-year war with Iran?

Many dictators have such a side. We should not forget the slaughter that Iran’s Nader shah committed during 2 days in India’s Delhi but turning into the kindest person after falling in love with an Indian girl, in whose arms he eventually faced death.

In one sense the judge is right when he says that people surrounding a dictator see him as such, but not himself. A dictator is someone without whose opinion people will not do anything, and who do not let others do anything. A dictator is someone whose views cannot be challenged and not without cost.

But what is the Iraqi judge searching for to show that Saddam was a dictator? The 100% votes that he received in his last elections just before American soldiers marched into Baghdad is perhaps the best proof. Until he secretly left his palace to hide, everyone around him including Tariq Aziz denied that that Americans were on Iraqi soil. And no one dared to challenge that, even though they had heard their guns and footsteps, or even seen them in their battle gear.

A dictator does not mean someone who is necessarily a strong person and a murderer. Most of the dictators did not have the will to kill even a bird but they protected a system that easily found justification for violence. Haile Selassie of Ethiopia was like a chicken hanging from a string.

Those individuals that the Iraqi judge mentions are responsible for creating a dictator. But they are not different from the dictator himself. They are intertwined. They all believe in the same thing and surround the dictator so he can breathe freely. These very individuals that the judge mentions are those who dropped chemical bombs on thousands without any hesitation. They did not have to wait for his approval to do this. They knew very well how he thought what he wished for. They believed that doing what he wished was being patriotic. And after their murderous deed, the dictator would pat them on their back in praising them.

Another feature of dictators is that they are always creating epics. None of their decisions and acts is small deeds. They constantly create pride among their followers by announcing and claiming to be superior in race (look at the Slavs, Germans, Arabs, French, British, Serbs, Samurai, etc).

So find and see a dictator one should not search for some cosmic beings such as those described in One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. We find them in our own very houses where they bring the bread but do take away all rights from their children and spouse. In their relations with their superiors they appear timid and obedient, while in their dealings with their followers they are violent, hard and harsh.

A French writer once wrote that the Egyptians were creating and destroying a dictator at the same time, which he said was their most pleasurable activity.

But the good news is that this circle of violence has not power to continue. It has lost its most important requirement, which is darkness and ignorance. The world today is clearer and more transparent than ever before. It is the world of news and awakening. Even though Milosevic may wear the most expensive suits in his court, or Saddam may wear a beard to disguise his true face.

Let’s not forget that with every kiss that the loyal individuals around a dictator bestow on the superman, they are in fact pushing him closer to the precipice.