On Digging a Hole and Crawling In It

by DAVID VEST

American troops found a guy who looked a lot like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn hiding in a spider hole in Iraq.

The word "grotesque" means "out of a cave."

"Good riddance," said an oddly prescient G. W. Bush, employing the same phrase millions will no doubt utter the day he leaves office. If he returns to his ranch in Texas sooner rather than later, voters all over the country will run through the streets wearing T-shirts emblazoned with G.W.’s likeness over the words "We got him!"

Saddam may have looked like a displaced Russian novelist on Thorazine, and why not? We are told he spent his last days in power putting the finishing touches on a new novel about himself leading an underground resistance movement to victory against an occupying force.

Forget Solzhenitsyn, Saddam is straight out of Nabokov, who knew more about the psychology of the self-deluding fool than anyone (with the possible exception of Henry James). Go and rent Fassbinder’s 1979 film of Nabokov’s "Despair" and let Dirk Bogarde explain the likes of Saddam to you without of course ever mentioning him.

No one will ever mistake G. W. for a novelist, nor is he much of an actor. Indeed, no president has had less to say and more trouble saying it. He has dared come forth from his own hiding place to confront the press only four times this year. Bush, who overwhelmed a crumbling, virtually defenseless opponent only to begin behaving as though he had just won the War of the Worlds, was wearing no disguise when last seen, not even a borrowed flight suit. He looked exactly like himself as he smirked his way through a press conference and a victory lap with Diane Sawyer.

While G. W. witlessly gloated ("when the heat got on, you dug yourself a hole, and you crawled in it"), others were scowling on his behalf. William Bennett, the chain-smoking former drug czar and easily the most dishonest-looking man in America, turned up on cable calling outright for Bush to torture Saddam, put sharp sticks under his fingernails, and so forth, until he comes up with weapons of mass destruction. (If they really wanted to torture Saddam they would force him to read The Book of Virtues.)

So what if Saddam is getting no better than what he had coming to him. I’m more worried about what we’ll all get, down the road, as a result of the administration’s actions.

Whether or not he is a prisoner of war, Saddam is, or was, after all, a Head of State.

Is it inappropriate to ask how we would want an American president to be treated if he or she were ever to fall into enemy hands and be accused of crimes against humanity?

(I agree, it is unthinkable. Still, let us think it.)

Would not Americans demand that even the worst commander-in-chief be treated with respect, and not a hair on that old gray head harmed?

Would we not also feel that however they were treating our president, they were treating our country?

Twenty years ago Donald Rumsfeld was photographed grinning and hugging his friend Saddam Hussein. Now Rumsfeld’s army is holding our former employee incommunicado at an undisclosed location, interrogating him without witnesses. Assuming that the arrangement is not, contrary to appearances, designed more to keep him from telling what he knows than to encourage him to unload, can information produced under those circumstances have a shred of credibility?

One imagines Saddam sitting there, even now, dreaming of Mars bars and salami and outlining his next ghastly novel in his head, no longer able to distinguish his life from his dissociated legend.

Meanwhile people with close ties to the administration go on television and call for the prisoner to be tortured. No one in authority is telling these people to shut up. Why should they? Their leader has already expressed his preference for the "ultimate" punishment.

It’s pretty hard to get worked up about humane treatment for Saddam Hussein. I’m not too worried about it myself. Frankly, I don’t care what happens to him.

However, here’s the thing. If the worst have no rights, neither do the best.

By his own testimony, G. W. Bush’s favorite philosopher is Jesus, who said "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The Buddha said that, too. So did Dr. John the Night Tripper ("what goes around comes around").

"You dug yourself a hole, and you crawled in it." Words that Bush used to describe Saddam’s attempt to hide from capture. Words that sadly may also be used one day to describe Bush’s adventure in Iraq.

* * *

(Apologies to William Faulkner, who said of Dreiser, "No writer ever had more to say, and more trouble saying it." And thanks to "outfidel," who first suggested Saddam’s resemblance to Solzhenitsyn in a newsgroup posting.)

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, just released a scorching new CD, Way Down Here.

He can be reached at: davidvest@springmail.com

Visit his website at http://www.rebelangel.com


Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal