So, History happened. Reactions were mixed.
The Arab world’s values are driven largely by pride and shame (it’s a “face” culture, as the jargon goes), so Saddam’s humiliation naturally caused quite a stir: this disheveled, unkempt man looked less like a madman who strikes fear into the hearts of millions and more like a madman who falls asleep on the street talking to himself, stinking of dirt-cheap liquor. He had two AK-47s and a pistol, but went without so much as firing a shot before being dragged out of his “spider hole” (and oughtn’t that join “shock and awe” in the buzzword file?). “He disappointed a lot of us, he’s a coward,” noted Yemeni teacher Mohammed Abdel Qader Mohammadi to the AP. “They say he’s been captured, do you believe that?” went the refrain at an outdoor market in Cairo, and many couldn’t. Those less invested in Saddam as an Arab icon took the news better. “Saddam should not be spared, he should get the death penalty, which is the least he deserves,” said 22-year-old Saudi student Rasheed al-Osaimi.
It might be said that American newscasters live in a face culture of their own, albeit with a different connotation; it is the non-facial portions of their heads that seem the most undernourished. Case in point is CNN’s Aaron Brown, who, noting Saddam’s meager end, seemed to reduce Saddam’s long reign of terror to a class-warfare, calling the dictator “a man who had lived in enormous luxury and wealth.” That was slightly more coherent than Dan Rather’s early-morning warning that “We’re in the school of ‘you trust your mother but you cut your cards.’” (Those Ratherism are said to be Texan. Have any of our Texan readers actually heard that expression?)
Of course, for sheer malevolence, few American journalists can possibly compete with their colleagues in the left-wing press across the pond. Reuters, the British news service that won’t use the word “terrorist” outside of quotes, chose for its lede, “U.S. troops captured Saddam Hussein near his home town of Tikrit in a major coup for Washington’s beleaguered occupation force in Iraq.” (“I’m actually HERE and I don’t consider ANY of us ‘beleaguered,’” responded Major Sean Bannion in Baghdad.)
John Simpson of the BBC called the capture “a remarkable end to an extraordinary life.” Perhaps to British ears that doesn’t sound so bizarrely fawning, but there’s no mistaking the anti-Americanism of his bewildered colleague Guto Harri: “We all imagined that if the Americans got a tip off they would just bomb somewhere off the face of the earth.” Imagine how shaken Harri must be to learn that Saddam, not Bush, is the genocidal coward!
Meanwhile, in Iraq, the bloggers provide the best copy once again, having recently been filling out the front-of-the-book of conservative magazines (the current National Review’s “This Week” quotes The Mesopotamian, and the current Weekly Standard gives over its “Scrapbook” section to photos of an under-reported pro-democracy rally by Zeyad of Healing Iraq.) Perhaps the purest expression of joy comes from the blogger at Iraq at a Glance, to whom I’ll give the last words (ellipses in original):
“I don’t know what to say.. I am confused.. no … I am very happy.. I am very happy.. .. I am very happy.. .. I am very happy.. .. I am very happy.. .. I am very happy.. .. I am very happy.. This is the end of tyranny.. congratulations .. a great day.. for Iraqi and all the good people.. share us our great day.. I can’t express my feelings.. thanks to the coalition forces and all the honest people who helped in that great operation….thank you thank you thousand times..”
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