Capturing Saddam: Surprise in the Night

Leila Montour

The name I?ve heard in nearly every conversation for the last eight years. All, and I mean ALL, of the Iraqi ex-pats and refugees in my community have peppered their conversations with this name over and over again. Not just the name representing the man, but the name as symbol of everything back home: every arrest, beating, torture, lost limb and life, humiliation, secretive whispering, paranoid thought, forced military service, tapped phone call, and missing family and friends. The stuff of division since the war began, the desire to be rid of him sometimes overcame the desire to stop the inevitable further rape and pillage of Iraq.

Big Brother, or an evil deity.

5 am

I went to sleep earlier than usual last night, around 3 am instead of the usual night-owl 4 or 5. Deep in sleep, curled up under my cheap floral comforter, sharing dreams with my husband and two daughters, heart rate steady and eyes flickering in staccato twitches, deep in the throes of REM images, the phone rings. And rings. And rings.

Answering machine picks up; I?m still sleeping. Message in rapid-fire Arabic is left on the recorder and is quickly hung up.

My husband, not asleep after all, leaps three feet in the air, levitating chaotically like Superman, or perhaps Inspector Gadget, through the comforter without creating a tear, up out of the hemisphere encircling our quiet planet of somnambulence to fly like a brown Superman genetically spliced with a falcon to press-that-button.
In happier times, his name was enough to strike fear into the most hardened political dissident.
“Are you awake?” He?s back in the room. I?m still sleeping. I wonder who has died.

“Yes.”

“They got Saddam”

“Alive?”

“I don?t know. I?m turning on the satellite.”

This is just a lucid dream. I drift back to sleep...

11 am

I?m dreaming again of going on hajj. This time, the nightmare involves being forced to wear a blood-red embroidered letter “meem” for not arriving with a close male relative, or mahram. Sounds of crying--it?s my two year old and four year old going through their daily ritual of who can annoy the other the most. An old family tradition indeed, images of forcing my younger brother into indentured servitude as water-bearer flick across my eyelids. I finally decide to get out of bed, musing over the strange dream that Saddam is gone.

Or was it a dream?

I speed to the TV set, then speed back to the bathroom so I don?t cramp over while peering closely at MSNBC. My husband isn?t around; he?s sleeping in the downstairs room where the satellite dish and its TV and receiver are located. His technological second wife.

It?s true. They?ve got him. Alive.

Film footage, unmistakably him and not a body double, gloved hands combing through his hair for lesions or lice, tongue depressor and penlight searching his teeth for hidden cyanide capsules.

Dishonourable to the end, Saddam?s long career of brutality, duplicity, and betrayal was epitomised by his failure to fight capture.

Dishonourable to the end, Saddam?s long career of brutality, duplicity, and betrayal was epitomised by his failure to fight capture.

Saddam. Hair dishevelled and ungroomed, stroking a heavy, thick, black and grey beard. Flashbacks in my mind, two faces combine in my head for an inappropriate thought: Tikriti unibomber.

Saddam. That name ringing in my ears, erupting like venomous spittle double-time from clean mouths and tired tongues. Eight years of this name for me, decades of it for others.

Big Brother, or an evil deity: Reduced.

Not found on a yacht off the coast of Torremolinos in the Spanish Riviera. Face not changed by plastic surgery and a new set of implanted dentures. Not underground in a palatial underground bunker off the Tigris in Mosul. Not taken in a blaze of fire fight glory; alive, not a fabricated martyr for those needing a reaction.

Found. With a drop of what he stole. With probably the first beard in his life. With probably the first time living in the conditions of his people. Tired, and old, he is taken. The Pharaoh is reduced, reduced, reduced.

Some will use him to justify the war of the almighty dollar. Some will use him to spur the support of other dictators. Some will use him for a grim and belated justice, the justice of closure, but not of the healing wound. Because then they will all realize, he was both more and less than the symbol name, Saddam.

I am filled with a mixed relief. He is reduced, reduced, reduced. And I wonder which symbol-name will be put in his place.


Published Monday, December 15th, 2003 - 01:34pm GMT

Article courtesy of Muslim WakeUp

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Leila Montour



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