Did he or didn’t he?–Saddam’s Procurer of Hair Dye Spills his Guts

saddam72.jpgThat burning question about Saddam’s hair color has finally been answered in an official military inquiry. Reuters new service reports that, “The U.S. military bought Cuban cigars and hair dye for deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein while he was held before his execution because they were ‘mission essential'”.

Ooohh, but where are the details? What brand? He didn’t use henna?

Not the henna they use to color the palms of the hands and soles of the feet for weddings. That’s red henna.

henna-left-hand72.jpghenna-right-hand-72.jpgHere is a picture of a very fancy henna design my friend ‘Asma did for me during a break at school. It was done with some premium Saudi henna she got from her sister who married a Saudi.

In the souq they sell both red and black henna. The black henna is the reason the old bedouin women have black hair under their scarves.

Some years ago Saddam’s alleged mistress claimed he used a black French hair dye.

I just can’t imagine the military issuing Saddam French hair dye at the same time the congressional cafeteria was serving Freedom Fries. They must have procured…Freedom Dye!

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Hot New Saddam Ringtone from Baghdad: All I Need is Chili Fries

Life in Baghdad is a real drag these days. No one goes anywhere because of the private death squad militias, restaurants are closed, and there is nothing to do but text message your friends on your mobile.

USA Today reports the latest hot ringtone from Baghdad is a voice like Saddam’s rapping in English: “I’m Saddam, I don’t have a bomb/Bush wants to kick me/I don’t know why/smoking weed and getting high/I know the devil’s by my side.” The song concludes with: “My days are over and I’m gonna die/all I need is chili fries” as a crowd yells “Goodbye forever, may God curse you.”

How ghoulish. I thought they would be tired of that sort of thing by now.

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The Price of Capital Punishment-another child dead in copycat Saddam game

The fallout from Saddam’s hanging is not over yet. Arab children are killing themselves while re-enacting the execution.

Last week rumors of childrens’ deaths started to surface about the same time two Saddam loyalists were executed by hanging. This exection was filmed by the Iraqi government and the film shown to reporters–again without sound–but this time the event quickly faded from the public eye.

Then today The Jordan Times carried an article about the death of an 11-year-old boy in Morroco who died playing the hanging game. So far, the deaths of five children have been reported. A twelve-year-old boy in Saudi has died as well as a child in Algeria. This weekend two more died in Azerbaijan.

Isn’t anyone rethinking the value of capital punishment as a tool of the state?

The Jordan Times keeps stories posted for a week; here is the article in its entirety:

RABAT (Reuters) — A Moroccan man returned home to find his 11-year-old son hanging dead from the ceiling, a newspaper said on Thursday, the latest victim of a macabre game in which children mimic the death of Saddam Hussein.

The boy decided to copy the former Iraq leader’s execution while playing with his younger sister at their home in Khemisset, 80km east of the capital Rabat, newspaper Al Ahdath Al Maghrebia reported.

“The girl then went to school and left her brother playing his deadly game,” it said, adding that local officials had opened an enquiry into the death.

Saddam’s execution on December 30 came as families gathered for the religious feast of Eid Al Adha and the images of the former Iraqi leader on the gallows shown repeatedly on Arabic news channels spurred indignation among his fellow Sunni Muslims.

Since then, several stories have emerged of children dying or being injured after being captivated by the manner of Saddam’s death or by family conversations about the execution.

One 12-year-old Saudi boy died after using a chair and a metal wire to hang himself from a door frame, while another in Algeria was found hanging from a tree, papers reported.

Two boys in different regions of Azerbaijan hanged themselves at the weekend and may have been influenced by Saddam’s execution, a security source in the country said.

Many were impressed by Saddam’s dignity on the gallows in the face of insults hurled at him in his final moments and some praised him as a hero.

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Iraq improves execution coverups

Two more members of Saddam’s inner circle were executed at 3 A.M. local time. Reporters were shown a government videotape of the execution.

No taunts accompanied this execution. How do we know? A spokesman for the Iraqi government said so. Like the government tape of the Saddam execution, this government tape also had no sound.

Apparently it has now become U.S. policy to declare publicly what actions it wants from the Iraqi government. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, commented on the Saddam execution from Egypt:

“There is no doubt that this should have been handled with dignity,” Rice said during a news conference with her Egyptian counterpart.

“I hope that those who are responsible for the way that came out will be indeed punished,” she added.

So the punishment should fall, not on those who made the event undignified, but on those who exposed the truth to the sunlight.

And for those who have wondered whether the U.S. is controlling the Iraqi government from behind the scenes, I guess that question is cleared up too.

Round up the usual suspects.

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Saddam Execution Cartoons from the Arab World

What happens in the world is something completely separate from how it plays in the world. Every once in a while I like to look at the Arab press to see how something is playing. Here are a couple of Saddam cartoons I ‘m still trying to figure out. This one from Emad Hajjaj.

emad-hajjaj-cartoon-saddam.jpgA number of individuals are standing with nooses around their necks looking at wristwatches. Does this refer to the two codefendents who were supposed to hang with Saddam whose sentences were postponed? But why so many? Maybe Saddam’s Baath party?

I have always been intrigued by Hajjaj. Superficially, the art reminds me of Doonesbury. His work used to appear in a Jordanian paper, but he was in trouble repeatedly for political reasons. Eventually he was banned from publishing. His cartoons feature an ordinary Arab guy with a big chin and a red and white kafiyyah head dress who comments on life, but that doesn’t seem to be the problem. If you look at his banned comics published on his website (somehow they don’t seem to get translated) they seem to depict rumors on the Arab street, but are a bit irresponsible with facts. For example, early in the march on Baghdad, there was a rumor about American troops sexually assaulting Arab women which turned out to be false. Before the factuality of the event could be determined Hajjaj drew a comic depicting this non-event. When this was proven to be a false rumor, the comic was not removed from the website but merely marked as censored. For now, I am displaying the icon to the site, just because it seems to be close to the “Arab street”, but I have some definate misgivings about the artist and the way he plays with the truth.

This one is by M. Hindawi:m-hindawi-sadam-cartoon.jpg

The country Iraq is spelled ألعراق in Arabic. The ل on the right and the ر on the left are attached to the ع “ein” with the noose around it and have become straightened and illegible. Clearly without the letter “ein ” the word “Iraq” falls apart. I thought that was pretty subtle.

And there are a few threads about the funeral of Saddam that mourn him. After all he was Sunni and not an enemy of other Sunni nations like Egypt and Jordan. People have posted photographs of him, some pictured within the map of Iraq. Here are a couple of the emoticons people have posted in his memory.

cry-emoticon.gif candle-emoticon.gif

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Who is Moktadr?

In the bootleg cellphone videos of Saddam’s execution you can hear someone chanting “Moktadr, Moktadr.” The reference is to Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr, sometimes spelled Muqtada, Muktada or Moktada.

In an opinion piece for the Jordan Times titled ” The rise and fall of Sadam Hussein”, Michael Jansen attributes the quick execution of Saddam Hussein to pressure from Moktadr.

I suspect we will be hearing a lot more about Moktadr Al Sadr in the next few weeks.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki also needed a boost with the Shiite public which has been losing faith in him because he has been unable to quell the sectarian violence gripping the country’s capital or restore electricity and other services. Maliki has also become increasingly dependent on the movement of radical cleric Moqtada Sadr who was determined to execute Saddam at the earliest possible moment and conditioned the return of his 32 legislators to parliament and his six ministers to their offices on this event.

They began a boycott of the government after Maliki met Bush in Amman in November. By putting immediate-term petty political priorities ahead of the long-term interests of Iraq and the Iraqis, Bush and Maliki have done serious damage to the prospect of Sunni-Shiite coexistence.

Even in Saddam’s brutal Iraq, executions were banned on religious holidays. Killing him on the Eid guarantees that he will be regarded by many Sunni Arabs and Muslims as a “sacrifice” and “martyr” to the cause of Arab and Muslim freedom and independence. He must have been pleased to die on this day. It was a day suitable for the death of an Arab hero and Saddam was a man who modelled his reign on the careers of heroes of Mesopotamian and Islamic history.

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Saddam’s execution would have gone differently had the Americans been in charge. Duh.

The other night I caught a fragment of the cartoon “Family Guy”, which as far as I can tell is about a guy who works for the CIA and whose family has a pet alien which they have to hide from everyone. In this particular episode, the family has been transferred to Saudi Arabia, where they have a series of adventures which leads to them all being sentenced to execution. Just as the Saudis are going to start pelting them with stones, someone’s cell phone goes off and the execution is postponed while the Saudis all dig out their cell phones to see whose it is. Boy did they get that one right. I guess the Arabs just can’t go to an execution without their cellphones.

Now the Iraqis have arrested two guards and their supervisor for having cellphones at Saddam’s execution. Never mind that witnesses saw two big-shot governmnet officials recording the doings with their cellphones. Oh, and there were outside agitators who gained entrance to the execution. That’s where all the hubbub came from. Yeah, right. Round up the usual suspects.

The most sensible thing was said by the military spokeman:

Caldwell said no Americans were present for the hanging and that the tumultuous execution would have gone differently had the Americans been in charge.

Sounds a bit pompous, like we know the right way to do it. But if you read the statement again, well, they did it their way. Characteristically it was the Brits who broke the story first on BBC News (after the video had already aired on al-Jazeera) and made the biggest fuss. The stuffy, proper, stiff upper lip Brits. And the Americans, well, we like things to have a little decorum, especially something like an execution, so we can think profound thoughts and make moral computations.

But the Arabs? They just like to run right out and embrace life. None of our sterile, impersonal, push-button culture for them. No, the Arabs engage. While Americans get sticky about little details like waterboarding, Saddam’s regime engaged in drilling through people bones with hand drills, and dissolving them in bathtubs with acid. Well, okay, maybe that’s not a real good example. How about their tea rituals? The Arabs are hospitable and never miss a chance to socialize. We have efficiency. They have hiya–life.

So when Saddam went to his death, did they hang back politely, waiting for someone else to breathe for them. No, they engaged. Saddam had been a bitter enemy and was about to be killed, but he wasn’t about to become an unperson. They didn’t ignore him, they engaged him on the level they knew about, the level of two peoples that have had much bitterness between them. “Saddam you destroyed us”, one said. How heartfelt. “No, I save you from your enemies”, was the response. Saddam defending his legacy. How?, you have to think. But it was an automatic reaction. And the “taunting” had a bantering character about it–if someone had not been about to die, it would have had a comic book quality. And when the exchange started to get out of hand, Saddam himself, still larger than life, asked “is that how men act?”, and someone else with a voice of authority stopped it.

So what if someone had a cellphone and someone else chanted Moktadr and someone else expressed sectarian bitterness. So what. That’s Iraq. The Iraqi government would do better not waste their time arresting little guards who make awkward things public. Those issues–sectarian bitterness, the militias’ infiltration of the military–need to come out into the sunlight now, and have a nice public debate.

No they didn’t have a polite, antiseptic American execution or a detached, stuffy British one. They had a rambunctious, heartfelt Arab one. They were in the moment. They engaged. They were alive. And Saddam, in the last few moments of his life, was fully alive and engaged, too, as an Arab ought to be.

No, the Iraqis did not live up to western expectations of what a lovely execution should be like. They did it all in their own unique way, making their own unique heartfelt history.