Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The Breakfast of Baghdad
Authoritarian rulers have large appetites: for power, for prestige, for influence, and for Raisin Bran Crunch. His “Butcher of Baghdad” moniker notwithstanding, Saddam Hussein’s were decidedly dairy druthers: cereal with milk, eggs, and French toast. No pork (he was Muslim), no Fruit Loops (he couldn’t stand them), and Cheetos were OK, but not quite Doritos. While awaiting his fate inside a US-controlled penitentiary, Hussein personalized more than his commissarial intake; according to a cnn.com report from June 2005, he also gave his overseers advice on women, American intelligence, and how the Allied Forces might have better decimated the Iraqi capital.
“Find a woman not too smart, not too dumb, not too old, not too young,” Hussein reportedly instructed Spc. Sean O'Shea. Peculiarly caring advice, considering its barbarous provider, but, as far as all sources are concerned, he conveyed this directive of his own free will, with no corporeal coercion. As for President Bush’s unyielding insistence that this Doritos-laden dictator harbored weapons of mass destruction, Saddam was slightly less understanding.
“"He knows I have nothing, no mass weapons,” he told his guards, all of whom were just a fraction of Hussein’s age. “He knows he'll never find them."
Bush, however, did not just err in military premise, but also in logistics. For on the fateful night in 2003 when the President initiated the “shock and awe” sequence in Baghdad, Hussein was hailing a cab outside of his palace—the one in which he was actually situated, and not the one Bush mistakenly bombed.
“America, they dumb. They bomb wrong palace."
America, we dumb. We bomb the wrong palace, we upholster a mass murderer with Kellogg’s, and our cardinal news-reporting agency humanizes the principle target of a four-years-and-counting military campaign. These subtle immolations of our foreign policy are novel efforts, phenomena unconscionable and unpardonable under Roosevelt and Truman. Those Commanders-in-Chief of yore would have negotiated a compromise between freedom of the press and wartime sensibilities, and would have kept a similar story about Hitler or Stalin from casual dissemination. They didn’t have to contend with the internet or Wolf Blitzer, but they also wouldn’t have bombed the wrong presidential residence had they access to those advances.
Even Hussein comprehended the competence hierarchy evident in American socio-pop culture.
“The guards said Saddam showed an affinity for Ronald Reagan and Dan Rather, but is not too keen on the Bush family,” Brian Todd related in the same cnn.com article.
With that particular personnel ranking, and his affinity for American breakfast—and preference for manageable women—the animal takes on a human hue. Butcher becomes benign.
Maybe Saddam wasn’t so than us different after all.
Stay Sated, Saddam