FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How to Kill Saddam

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

The last time I saw pictures of a man in need of a haircut being displayed as a trophy of the American Empire it was Che Guevara, stretched out dead on a table in a morgue in Valle Grande in the eastern Bolivian mountains. In those edgier days, in late 1967, the Bolivian army high command wanted him dead, the quicker the better, though the CIA wanted him alive for interrogation in Panama.

After a last chat with the CIA’s Felix Rodriguez, George Bush Sr’s pal, a Bolivian sergeant called Terran shot Che in the throat and Rodriguez got to keep his watch. They chopped off Guevara’s hands for later checking to make sure the ID was correct. Years later, his skeleton, sans hands, was located and flown back to Havana for proper burial.

“It is better this way,” Guevara told Rodriguez at the end. “I should never have been captured alive”–showing that even the bravest weaken at times. At the moment of his capture by the Bolivian army unit, a wounded Guevara had identified himself, telling the soldiers he was Che and worth more to them alive than dead.

Back in 1967 most of the world mourned when Che’s capture and death seized the headlines. A million turned out in Havana to listen to Fidel Castro’s farewell speech. It’s been downhill all the way since then. The revolutionary cause has mostly gone to hell in a handcart and the next time America’s Most Wanted came out with his hands up, badly in need of a haircut, it was a mass murderer called Saddam Hussein, helped into power by the CIA a year after Guevara’s death. “I’m the president of Iraq,” he said, and then tried to cut a deal.

I went straight from Monday morning newsclips of the US Army’s film of Saddam having his teeth checked to have my own teeth cleaned by Tom, an oral hygienist in Santa Rosa, northern California. To try to deflect Tom from his stern rebukes for my own flossing failures I mentioned the footage of Saddam with his mouth open, while someone checked out his teeth.

Though he gave no professional opinions on the state of Saddam’s gums, it turned out Tom had spent a couple of years in Basra in southern Iraq imparting the elements of oral hygiene to the locals. “I’d point out to them that their gums were bleeding, and they’d sigh, and say it was Allah’s will.” Then, like millions round the world that morning we (though, of necessity, I did most of the listening) reviewed the various options awaiting Saddam.

There were plenty of pieties in the opinion columns that Monday morning about the need for a manifestly independent tribunal where Saddam could be accorded every legal courtesy and the administration of justice would be scrupulous.

It was impossible to read this claptrap without laughing since that same morning Wesley Clark was testifying in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), a body conjured into existence by the UN Security Council. As being anything other than the US’s puppet ICTY was looking pretty slutty that morning, since the US government had successfully bullied the court into allowing Clark to testify in the absence of public or press, in what the ICTY demurely termed a “temporary closed session” with delayed transmission of the transcript, to allow the US government to “review the transcript and make representations as to whether evidence given in open session [sic] should be redacted in order to protect the national interests of the US”. Further to protect the interests of General Clark, he would only have to endure limited cross examination by Milosevic, a feisty cross examiner.

All the US wants is for Saddam to be hauled into some kangaroo court and after a brisk procedure, in which Saddam will not doubt be denied opportunities to interrogate old pals from happier days, like Donald Rumsfeld, only to be dropped through a trap door with a rope tied around his neck, maybe with an Iraqi, or at least a son of the Prophet pulling the lever.

These pretenses at judicial propriety are absurd. I prefer the posture of the Arab-American woman who said Saddam should be put in a cage and drowned with spit. If it’s a demonstration of power we’re after, let’s go to the history books and check on an execution in 1571 that set the Christian world abuzz with horror for decades thereafter and helped give Islam (Turkish division) a somewhat undeserved reputation for oriental refinement in the cruelest arts of killing. (Undeserved? Check out the method by which Christians finished off Joan of Arc, in effect a pioneering exercise in slow cooking.)

For months the Ottoman hosts of Islam had being trying to capture the city of Famagusta on the island of Cyprus. Under the brave leadership of their Venetian commander, Marcantonio Bragadino, the garrison held on, but finally came the moment of surrender. Pledges of fair treatment of prisoners were made and Bragadino led out his defeated forces, to be greeted with courtesy by Lala Mustafa Pasha. It’s unclear what happened next. It may well have been an impolitic crack by Bragadino, taken the wrong way by the sensitive Turk. At all events the Pasha decided to make an example of Bragadino, just to remind the world who’s boss–the message the US wants any trial of Saddam to demonstrate.

Three times Bragadino’s decapitation was ordered, the sword flourished then laid aide. His ears and nose were cut off, his bodyody mutilated. For ten days he was forced to carry baskets of dirt in front of the pasha, and then kiss the ground. Finally he was taken to the main square of Famagusta, tied to the stocks, skinned alive, the skin then stuffed with straw, paraded around on a cow, with a red umbrella over it as a sign of contempt. When the pasha returned in triumph to the Golden Horn, the stuffed skin was tied to the bowsprit.
Now that’s what I call a robust demonstration of political power. (The Christians got their own back later that year at the battle of Lepanto.) No nonsense about “tribunals”, international law, dispassionate judges. It’s actually the plain blunt approach George Bush affects to favor. He should pick a skinner from one of the Texas abattoirs and head for Baghdad.

 

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obamacare
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail