Killing Him Softly

(Washington Post) Charles Krauthammer - In the old days the conquered tyrant was dragged through the streets behind the Roman general's chariot. Or paraded shackled before a jeering crowd. Or, when more finality was required, had his head placed on a spike on the tower wall. Iraq has its own ways. In the revolution of 1958, Prime Minister Nuri Said was caught by a crowd and murdered, and his body was dragged behind a car through the streets of Baghdad. We Americans don't do it that way. Instead, we show Saddam Hussein - Lion of the Tigris, Saladin of the Arabs - compliantly opening his mouth like a child to the universal indignity of an oral (and head lice!) exam. Brilliant. Nothing could have been better calculated to demystify the all-powerful tyrant. It was a deeply important historical moment. At stake is the fate of an idea of singular malignancy that has cost the Arabs not just countless innocent lives but a half-century of progress. Hussein was the most aggressive and enduring exemplar of a particular kind of deformed radical pan-Arabism that appealed to the greater glory of the Arab nation, and promised a great restoration. It was important that the god-king of pan-Arabism be shown as the pathetic coward he was. The Arab media had to admit that this was the greatest psychological blow to Arab nationalist pretensions since the similarly vainglorious Gamal Abdel Nasser was routed by Israel in six days in June 1967.

2003-12-19 00:00:00

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