"I did not attend his funeral; but I wrote a nice letter saying I approved of it.”
-- Mark Twain
As a general rule, I am against capital punishment. In America, earning the death penalty depends on your race, your class, your geographic location and who happens to be the governor of Texas. When the state executes an innocent man, there are precious few remedies available.
However, in the case of Saddam Hussein, I am willing to make an exception. But before we dispatch him to the hangman’s noose, we should be gracious enough to give him a little time to pen his memoirs. May I propose that we immediately condemn him to death then hand a yellow pad and give him thirty days to give us a last testament on the life and times of the Butcher of Baghdad. May I further suggest that we do it now -- before the November elections?
As the old adage goes “nothing quite concentrates the mind like the prospect of getting hanged in the morning. Before we measure Saddam’s collar for a noose, let us agree to give him the creative space to set the record straight for the history books. Unlike other death row inmates, he should be able to appear on Al-Jazeera or the BBC at will. Give him the right to conduct interviews with anyone he pleases. Let him have his own TV show. We can call it “Dead Dictator Talking.”
Saddam is narcissistic enough to jump at the chance of having access to an international audience. One can only imagine what a ticket to “Saddam Hussein Live and Uncensored” could go for. Barnum and Bailey will be drooling from the great beyond at the lost prospect of hosting this circus. Michael Moore will certainly figure out a way to get the movie rights. Half the proceeds could be evenly divided between his family and his victims. The other half will eliminate Iraq’s foreign debt.
As can be expected, certain groups and individuals will be less than eager to watch “Saddam and Gomorrah.” Human rights groups will certainly make a fuss. But I bet George Bush will scramble to obstruct the death warrant. It will be a first for old Dumbya. As Governor of Texas, Bush didn’t have the compassion to give clemency to a single death row inmate. His sudden discovery of legalistic scruples regarding the death penalty should be cast aside. Iraq is now “sovereign” and should be allowed to work out a plea bargain agreement with the former dictator. They can make him an offer to confess his guilt in return for thirty days at the mike.
If he accepts, I want the first interview. After all, it was my idea.
I can almost predict Saddam’s answers to many of my questions.
Q. Are you well rested? Did you get enough sleep last night?
Saddam: Not really. I’ve been busy signing exclusives with the networks and working on book deals. I narrowed down the short list of biographers that will be considered for this unique project. To be honest, I really haven’t had the chance to just kick back and relax. My public relations people are making sure that I don’t over schedule myself. The whole experience feels like one long “Iraqi Idol” roller coaster ride. But I must admit that the public’s interest has been very gratifying. And I do want to leave something for the kids. I especially want to make things right with my grandkids after taking out their daddies.
Q. What is your biggest regret?
Saddam: I wish I had chemical weapons when I really needed them. The moral of this saga is if they accuse you of having WMDs, cook up a batch as quickly as possible. In that respect, I still have a little “WMD envy” of the North Koreans and Israelis.
Q. If you had been given the choice of a different career, what would you have liked to be doing other than being a dictator?
Saddam: Listen, there is no business like the dictator business. It's like no business I know. As a narcissist, it is a very rewarding career path. You get to shape the world in your own image. I wish I had been given a chance to be like Stalin. Fifty years after passing on, he still strikes fear in the heart of every Russian. No one likes to mess with a full size dictator. With only Iraq to rule, I was pretty much relegated to the role of a pint-sized wannabe. It was like spending your life starring in off-Broadway shows or being the under study for an actor who never calls in sick.
But if I were forced to make a second choice, I would have liked to be a Sicilian godfather. Running a criminal syndicate is just second nature to me.
Q. Do you have anything to say to Bush?
Saddam: Adios amigo. You won’t have Saddam Hussein to kick around any more. I guess it’s time for George to get a real job and go after Bin Laden. By the time my thirty days are up, he’s gonna really wish I was still buried in that hole in Tikrit. Just let him know I intend to spill a whole mess of beans and he should prepare himself for a strict vegetarian diet. I suggest his daddy put in an advance order for some heavy duty pacemakers. Watch their jaws drop in the coming weeks. Beans are like money. You can’t take them with you when you go. Now that the judges have diagnosed me with a terminal condition, I really want to let it all hang out before I hang.
Q. Why should they worry about your beans?
Saddam: Listen, until the invasion of Kuwait I was just an errand boy. I invaded Iran with the promise of full support from Washington. And I have to say they were extremely helpful. That’s why they never made a fuss when I sent Chemical Ali to teach the Kurds a lesson. At the time, the Americans viewed the slaughter at Halabja and the Anfal ethnic cleansing campaigns as just a bit of untidy business. I didn’t get so much as a reprimand. Now, they want me to hang for it. All I have to say is: c’est la guerre. War is a dirty business and they knew how dirty I played when they gave me my assignments. When we were lobbying mustard gas shells at Iranian troops, we had American advisers giving us intelligence on where best to direct our artillery. Besides, where was their concern about the welfare of the Kurds when the Turkish army was destroying their villages and killing thousands of their people in the late nineties?
We Iraqis were big heroes so long as we were beating up on Khomeini. We didn’t drop out of favor until we went in to reclaim Kuwait for the Iraqi people. In my estimate, we earned Kuwait after spending so many resources containing Iran for our American patrons and the shaky sheikh of Araby. Of course, the Americans didn’t see things that way. In their eyes, I was just an ambitious capo trying to sit at the table with the other godfathers. What did they think I was going to do with the oil? Drink it? My only ambition was to be a solvent dictator after bankrupting Iraq with a war that that they encouraged me to enter.
Q. It sounds like you had pretty healthy relations with the Americans in the eighties?
Saddam: I don’t like to boast about it, but I was considered a real asset in Washington circles. Early in my career, when the Baath first came into power, the CIA was kind enough to provide me with hit lists of Nasserites, Communists and Dawa party members. You know, that was my first real taste of the major leagues. I organized death squads that went around picking up these pathetic subversives and making them disappear -- but not before we made them beg for their mothers and curse the day they were born. The ones that were lucky enough to escape had to settle for permanent exile. For the Americans, it was all part of the cold logic of a very cold war. Those were the good old days when they appreciated my talents. All they had to know was that I was taking out commies.
Q. Could you give us a short preview of what you will say to the Iraqi people before they march you off to the gallows?
Saddam: Nice try. But I am saving that for my last show and I am still negotiating with quite a few major media players who are putting in some really lucrative bids. As of now, I still feel that the sky’s the limit and I expect better offers to come in as I get closer to the noose. But I would advise every Iraqi and every Arab to watch my shows and keep up the ratings. This is a one-season gig. I am not doing this just for the money. It’s my way of giving a little back before I go to meet my maker. In the next thirty days, my people will get a detailed accounting of what happened to Iraq in the last thirty years. I don’t expect they will be very fond of me when all is said and done. But I won’t be the only one they will want to hang.
Q. Could you give us just a little bit more? Just spill a few more beans to whet people’s appetite?
Saddam: Your time is almost up. I have six other interviews to do before I get a little sleep and prepare for my evening show. But since this whole circus was your idea, I am inclined to be a little generous. I want Iraqis to know that it is not in my power to reverse any of the damage that I have inflicted on this nation. Many of them will be deeply satisfied to see me expire before my time. Believe it or not, I understand where they’re coming from. I feel their pain. But I was just a tool -- an instrument -- easily manipulated by those who knew how to tweak my deficiencies. The Americans have been kind enough to provide me with a therapist and she has helped me work on my inner demons. I now understand that I was a deeply flawed man with an acute case of narcissism. But If I committed unforgivable crimes, I had quite a few accomplices, domestic and foreign. They too should be held accountable. Put that noose to good use. Don’t let me hang alone.
Q. I know you have to go now. Could we ask for another interview?
Saddam: Try me in five weeks. You can call me long distance.
Q. But won’t you be dead by then?
Saddam: Don’t you get it. It was a joke. I’ve been thinking of trying a little stand up comedy to spice things up or maybe doing a fireside chat routine on the radio.
Q. Do you have a last thought to share with our readers before you leave us?
Saddam: Mamas don’t let your kids grow up to be dictators.
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