The Spine

The Mourning Of A Tyrant


Eve Fairbanks' tough-minded Plank post expects too much of the race: "While Saddam won't be laid to rest with the mixed feelings that accompanied Pinochet's death..." Alas, there will be more mixed feelings than Eve anticipates. More important, there will also be--there already is--enormous sorrow and wailing for the probably the cruelest tyrant in the postwar world, barring (but only possibly) Pol Pot. Much of the Arab world actually took Saddam to its heart, in Jordan, for example, where the late and noble King Hussein somehow felt he had to be in the dictator's court. Actually, there's no mystery as to why a truly civilized man like him found himself where he was. First of all, his great uncle was the monarch who had sat on the throne of modern Iraq. And the Hashemite house still had restorationist dreams. Second of all, he had much to fear in Syria and Assad for which and for whom Saddam had little patience and less love. Third, and most important, the majority of the Jordanian population is Palestinian. And Palestinians who do not appreciate that Jordan is the one country in the region to have given them citizenship and very broad rights, except the right to be treasonous. Since the tyrant's execution there has already been much ululating, Allahu Akbar, for his, well, it is a soul of a sort.

The same is true in what will some day be a state of Palestine. In fact, in the West Bank and Gaza, there was apparently deep mourning for Saddam. He and Arafat were the only heroes the Palestinians had, and now they are both in their graves. It is true that, for every shahid, every martyr who was killed, Saddam paid the family $25,000 or, more accurately, paid the family off at a rate of $25,000 per death. If you were a suicide bomber, that's the sum your kin received. If you were only a fighter with a gun, your family got only $10,000. Apparently, you need some kind of cash incentive to want to murder yourself while you murder Jews.

An Israeli Arab member of Knesset, Ahmed Tibi, said that the hanging of Saddam was "sadistic." It's a curious word that Tibi used. For Saddam Hussein's sadism was so systematic and so individualized, so fiendish and so ferocious that having him hanging from a noose seems somehow civilized.

And now the legend has been spread that the mass murderer's last words were "Palestine will be Arab." Is that not a threat--or promise--of mass murder?

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