Triumph of the Thugs

“But Saddam knew and had already announced his own ‘martyrdom’: He was still the president of Iraq and he would die for Iraq. All condemned men face a decision: To die with a last groveling plea for mercy or to die with whatever dignity they can wrap around themselves in their last hours on earth.”

Robert Fisk

To welcome in the New Year, the United States goon squad currently dismembering Iraq murdered its president. Mr. Hussein spent his last night being taunted by his jailers and executioners. Reportedly, he asked only that he be allowed to sleep. But instead he was heckled, and the reputed noose which would soon break his neck brought to his cell and displayed. Early in the morning he was taken from his cage, his hands bound and his legs hobbled so that he could only shuffle to the gallows.

The AP quoted Iraqi appeals court judge Munir Haddad. A witness to the spectacle, Haddad told the BBC, “Saddam was normal and in full control. He was aware of his fate and he knew he was about to face death. He said ‘This is my end, this is the end of my life, but I started my life as a fighter and as a political militant so death does not frighten me.’ ” The “official” puppet state video endlessly looped through gloating US TV reports showed only silent images of a stoic Hussein, his neck being wrapped in a black scarf and the massive hemp death-warp tightened. The AP noted that about that time, Mr. Hussein announced: “God is great. The nation will be victorious, and Palestine is Arab.”

I saw the thing on TV only once. But I was struck by the image of this guy, this dignified guy, surrounded by these other burly guys who were all dressed up to Knock-over a liquor store. They had the black leather jacket thing going, the black ski masks—-you know, they looked like “our kinda guys.” Yes—Freedom Fighters. But it got worse. Shortly, another video surfaced. Its quality was crude and jumpy, apparently shot by a cell phone camera, smuggled into the death chamber.

And , this puppy had audio so you could hear the hit-mob cat-calling and chanting for their favorite theocrat: “Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada!” Translations of the secular president’s retort vary, from “Is this manly?” to,” Does that make you feel like a man?” Mr. Hussein was speaking (apparently reciting a religious incantation) as the trap door was sprung and he suddenly dropped from sight. In the dim light beneath the scaffolding, the video occasionally captured a glimpse of the president’s upper body and head, swinging and twisting. His neck stretched and bent impossibly, as the flash bulbs popped and the excited shouting and tumult echoed off the concrete and steel, the murdered man’s suddenly lifeless body swung silently.

According to US officials and Respectable Opinion, this was justice. It was stately and inexorable. The pageant strung out over fifteen years as Reagan and Rumsfeld’s favorite “strongman” was suddenly transformed into “Hitler” in 1990. As Eric Margolis noted in the December 31 Toronto Sun, “Once he touched the West’s oil in Kuwait, he was marked for death.” Come-it-must, and come-it-did. After 12 years of US-imposed genocidal sanctions and bombing, the Iraqi state was finally obliterated in an invasion illegal under international law. Its main political party was banned from political life, and its members thrown out of work, if not into jail. An illegal occupation force then imposed a massive and complete privatization regime on the formerly sovereign nation and installed a puppet administration of collaborating kleptocrats, revenge seekers, and toadying place-holders. It was called Democracy and Freedom. A fawning and stenographic US media system seldom questioned the official script.

But it seems to me that the furtive video (combined with the official one) offer a provocative window through which the uninitiated and distracted American public might get a sense of what the $1.25 TRILLION being spent on this campaign has bought.

There’s some interest. Former Pfizer Vice President Peter Rost, M.D. was one of the first to post the cell phone video. He reports, “Out of the thousands of visitors viewing the video on my site, those visitors included CBS News, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security. After all, they couldn’t view what happened through any official channel.” And predictably, there’s now great enthusiasm for tracking down the culprit who revealed the state secret that our national treasure has brought to power a brutal mob of knee-cappers, assassins, and yes-men.

A picture is worth a thousand words, it’s said. And these pictures, revealing as they do the assertive composure of Mr. Hussein—-surrounded by our entourage of creepy jackals and stone killers, all hopped-up on their dark work—- ought to tell us something. If, that is, we still have any capacity left with which to comprehend reality.

RICHARD RHAMES lives in Biddeford, Maine. He can be reached at:


Richard Rhames is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine (just north of the Kennebunkport town line). He can be reached at: