Sunday, December 31, 2006
While You Were Sleeping
There are apparently new bridges to cross, even at the wizened age of thirty-seven. I know this only because a few hours ago, I awoke from a premiere event in my long and adventurous life: A 24-hour straight sleep. My wife and I went out on Friday night with the understanding that we had nothing important to do the following day, came home without turning on the TV, went through a bottle of pinot noir, crawled into bed -- and when we fully awoke, it was 9pm on Saturday night. As she works on Sundays, we figured there was no sense in trying to go anywhere, so we said the hell with it and rolled over and went back to sleep.
The next thing I knew, it was 6am this morning; Saturday had completely vanished into a black abyss of slumber.
I have to admit -- it ruled.
This extended tour in dreamland was made possible by the fact that, while our living room has large windows which look out onto the backstreets of the Upper East Side and the buildings surrounding ours, our bedroom is completely windowless. It features one exposed brick wall, and a signed Picasso lithograph adorning the opposite wall -- which we've painted a light bluish color called "Morning Mist" or something which sounds equally grandiose -- but if the door separating the bedroom and bathroom from the rest of our apartment is closed, it's almost impossible to judge the time outside. Our bedroom basically becomes its own little time capsule.
The reason I bring this up is not so much to taunt those who feel as if they never get enough sleep, or to prove that my wife and I are essentially lifeless -- it's to illustrate the fact that I slept through the execution of Saddam Hussein.
I awoke this morning to find that -- not surprisingly -- Saddam had been taken to the gallows late Friday night, and that his body had already been transported to its place of burial in his hometown of Tikrit. My wife and I were curled up on the couch in our own little world as Saddam was hanged, we were happily in bed with the covers pulled up to our necks while the news networks assuredly went batshit with wall-to-wall coverage of the event and while the hawks and doves battled it out for airtime commentary supremacy. I have no doubt that Fox News brought in Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly to bukkake each other with unabashed self-satisfaction, or that its sister publication, the New York Post, came up with some clever headline in 80" font, gleefully proclaiming that a tyrant had justly gone to his grave and that, as usual, America kicked ass.
I missed all of that.
Instead, I woke up just in time to see the actual video of the execution -- as photographed by a cell phone camera.
There's something to be said for cutting out all of the superfluous nonsense -- the opinion, the chatter, the bloviation, the self-righteousness -- and seeing this event for what it really is: a frenzied lynching. As I mentioned a few days ago, no one in their right mind will mourn the loss of Saddam Hussein, and yet as I watch his execution, what strikes me is that he's the only dignified presence in the room. The dictator -- the Butcher of Baghdad -- goes to his death with a quiet defiance. It certainly isn't the unhinged madman we've seen in recent court appearances. On the contrary, it's difficult not to feel a certain amount of sympathy for Saddam as he's taunted by a chaotic cadre of masked men, then strung up and unceremoniously dropped to his death. A civilized proceeding it absolutely is not.
That's the first problem.
Once again, as I mentioned a few days ago, we've witnessed the barbaric bloodlust indigenous to that region many times before -- we've even been the target of it on more than one occasion. Yet for some reason, many in this country -- from our idiot president on down -- are willing to look the other way this time, simply because it's directed at someone we don't particularly care for. I'm inclined to think that if we're really trying to bring a level of civility to Iraq not seen under Saddam Hussein, a kangaroo court verdict followed by a hanging at the hands of an angry mob more interested in revenge than justice isn't a step in the right direction.
Then there's problem number two.
If the brutality of frenzied, masked executioners isn't enough to strike fear into the hearts of Americans, what these executioners shout at Saddam as they put the rope around his neck should be. They're shouting allegiance to Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraq's new religious and political demagogue -- leader of the formerly-oppressed Shia Muslim sect in Iraq and a man once considered public enemy number one by our troops on the ground. Essentially, the only concession to the propriety of the modern world being made by these men is the fact that they're forced to hang Saddam as opposed to sawing his head off with a machete. If you believe that the latter isn't their preferred method of execution, you need to have your own head checked.
For all of his faults, and they were many, Saddam Hussein was a secular leader -- a man who, despite paying lip-service when he felt it could benefit him, rarely invoked the name of Almighty Allah in his decision-making. The weed which has sprouted up in Saddam's absence and will certainly continue to grow -- as evidenced by the loyalties of his executioners -- is a true believer; he's a man who wants nothing more than to see Iraq re-created as a fundamentalist Islamic nation. That eventuality should terrify this country far more than the actions of a dictator who at the very least followed the trusted paradigm of most dictators -- namely that his main goal at all times was to remain in power.
Maybe you celebrate the death of Saddam Hussein; maybe you find it sickening. It barely matters, because the videotape of his execution proves that what's taken Saddam's place in Iraq is infinitely worse than the dictator himself.
Somebody wake me when it's over.