Like a figure you love to hate in Wrestlemania operas, Saddam is a pumped-up hyped reality whose intense wattage is useful to the extent that it gives a patina of heroism to the very people who have given him his star status on the international stage. His resume is downloaded daily – hourly – so that his capture gives honor and morality to the immoral and the dishonorable.
Saddam was a symptom caused by a condition. The condition remains - the symptoms will change names and locations – and the likes of Bush will dress themselves in white and mount the military like a mighty steed and sally forth to distinguish themselves by conquering the reality they themselves helped to create.
The war and occupation lay the groundwork for the next Saddam. Whoever it is will be installed, encouraged and harnessed and he’ll behave until he either gets a vision, a message from God, a delusion of grandeur or a better offer. Then his villainy, which at one point was characterized as an asset, will be billed as intolerable evil.
Saddam needs to be given stature so that Bush as conqueror will also appear to have stature. Saddamania and Wrestlemania use the same marketing tactic: make the villain fabulous so the hero is super heroic. When Bush talks about Saddam he drips with disgust and disdain. His ability to be moved by Saddam’s evil implies that he is the champion not only of the Iraqi people but also of all things good in the world.
It’s easy to join the fever pitch of the fight. It’s not unlike watching a cock fight. You can find yourself rooting for one bird over the other but the nagging question is what am I doing watching and investing in it in the first place.
Bush creates a primitive tug. He prefers you would be ashamed that you would question any tactic that would cause the desired result of bringing down the villain. To Bush, questioning how and who wanted the sociopath to become what he was is as irrelevant as the UN. Bush deals with symptoms not conditions. He sees evil as a proper noun.
Like throwing a piece of red meat to a hungry crowd the capture plays like a blockbuster. It’s irresistible, satisfying and climactic – but the Iraqi narrative will continue. As Michael Ware of Time magazine warns – this is not over – the insurgents, many of whom saw Saddam as a Western creation, care less about the capture and more about the occupation. This occupation they perceive to be a continuation more than an antidote to Saddam.
Saddamania is red hot. His billing is as preemptive as the war itself. The cover of Newsweek and Time bumped Howard Dean and Jesus Christ respectively for the image of the homeless dictator. Like Bush and company those venerable publications know what sells.
Bill C. Davis is a playwright.