The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Hanging Saddam

by Antonios Maltezos
I wonder if Saddam let his beard grow on purpose, on advice, so he would look more like a grandpa than a dictator. Gone was the paint-by-numbers face, as expressionless in life as it was in the posters that are mostly destroyed now, or kept hidden by some, I’m sure. I was horrified by his hanging, horrified by the guts he showed. I won’t say he was brave or courageous. The guy who saved a young man from being run over by a subway train was brave and courageous. I choked up on that one. He jumped down onto the tracks even as his young daughters were standing there watching. My eyes didn’t tear up at the sight of a stoic Saddam alone in a room full of executioners. I was too much in shock. It was like watching a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat, for the first time. Where was the elderly man whose only defense was to try and drown out the voices of his judge and prosecutors? In court, gone was that dangerous twinkle in the eyes that said he knew the adulation was always out of fear, the same twinkle that caused us concern when he’d wave a sword over his head for a photo op. I’m sure his executioners were just as horrified, especially when he cracked a faint smile trading taunts with them. No remorse. None at all. As a writer, it’s in my nature to try and figure out what he was thinking as they were placing the noose around his neck. Had I been Saddam at that moment, I’d have thought about my boys, how I’d misguided them their whole lives. I’d have thought of my precious life, how it was about to be taken away from me. How sad it was that I was alone, without my loved ones to comfort me. I should say I’d have thought about all the lives I had a hand in destroying, but that’s nearly impossible, even as a writer. I’m no Saddam, and he was no grandpa. I said he showed guts those final moments, but what I should have said instead, explaining why I was so horrified at the sight of his execution, was that he seemed not to get it even in the end. However botched and improper the execution, however unjust the American presence in Iraq, Saddam should have come undone on the gallows, if at least for his own life’s end. That wouldn’t have been a cowardly display, not in my books. It would have left me with a bit of hope. Know what I mean?


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I'm glad you wrote about this, Tony. Washington, DC, would have us forget it as soon as possible, I imagine. I suspect that one of the reasons you don't know how Saddam felt is that his trial was never meant to get at that. I suppose his pride kept him defiant to the end, at least in public.

Thu Jan 04, 12:16:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

That whole scene was terribly disturbing and you've hit on the worst part of it - his final reactions. I found myself wondering about his loved ones, their reactions now and how this day will be remembered not by his supporters, but by his family members.

Thu Jan 04, 01:56:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger tamara said...

Those photos were too disturbing for me; I couldn't even look at the CBC website until they were gone. But I'd not expect him to have any remorse, or to show it. In fact, those taunters got it wrong; they gave him an opportunity to step out of the situation in the last minutes of his life. Plus, it provided a diversion for US media, instead of having to point out the hypocrisy of it all. It's difficult to fathom, all around.

Thu Jan 04, 02:40:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I didn't watch any of it. I would have been a lousy Roman, never showing up at the Colliseum.

Thu Jan 04, 04:33:00 pm GMT-5  

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