"Holmes!" I cried. "Is it really you? Can it indeed be that you are alive? Is it possible that you succeeded in climbing out of that awful abyss?" -- The Return of Sherlock Holmes.
To find a parallel to the saga of Saddam, one has to look to genre literature and film. His deaths and reappearances are so driven by the Bush administration's script that one wonders if the movie will ever come out -- perpetual re-writes seem to be holding up the production. Dead at the beginning of the war -- and smug the American journalists were when anybody mistook that man on tv for anything but a shabby interloper, an amateur double, ha ha, those Al Jazeera amateurs -- he's needed now more than ever. If it isn't an arch-villain directing ambushes at our troops, could it be (gasp) a grassroots insurgency prompted, perhaps, by the trigger happy crowd control techniques that are, alas, all too necessary to secure these excitable but loveable Muslim types? Impossible, my dear Watson. Now, it is true, Holmes's reappearence, as opposed to Freddie's in the Friday the 13th series (which seems to have seriously effected Bush's whole Weltanshauung), was the return of the hero, not the villain. But the narrative motif is about the same -- the series must go on, for economic reasons, if not artistic ones, and so explanations must be made. The NYT, with the straight face with which it doles out administration pap, tells us that Saddam's escape is due to the vast size of Iraq. And in some ways, we are prepared for this: where, indeed, are the escapees of yesteryere? Osama bin, remember? And the terrorist cell who mailed anthrax to various Democrats? And remember all the detainees, whose names, for reasons of security, we don't even need to know? So of course, Saddam lurks on the outskirts. Here's the graf from the NYT:
"WASHINGTON, June 19 � American intelligence analysts now believe that Saddam Hussein is much more likely to be alive than dead, a view that has been strengthened in recent weeks by intercepted communications among fugitive members of the Saddam Fedayeen and the Iraqi intelligence service, according to United States government officials.
The officials said the recently obtained intelligence had re-intensified the search for Mr. Hussein along with his sons, Uday and Qusay. The search is being led by Task Force 20, a secret military organization that includes members of the Army's highly specialized Delta Force and of the Navy's elite counterterrorism squads, with support from the Central Intelligence Agency.The intercepted communications between some of Mr. Hussein's supporters have included credible discussions indicating that the former Iraqi president is alive and must be protected, two Defense Department officials said."
And we know, from recent experience, how trustworthy those Defense Department intelligence people are. On the mark, those guys! Bloodhounds!
Actually, Conan Doyle is less hoaky. Here's Holmes explaining his escape:
"This is indeed like the old days. We shall have time for a mouthful of dinner before we need go. Well, then, about that chasm. I had no serious difficulty in getting out of it, for the very simple reason that I never was in it."
"You never were in it?"
"No, Watson, I never was in it. My note to you was absolutely genuine. I had little doubt that I had come to the end of my career when I perceived the somewhat sinister figure of the late Professor Moriarty standing upon the narrow pathway which led to safety. I read an inexorable purpose in his grey eyes. I exchanged some remarks with him, therefore, and obtained his courteous permission to write the short note which you afterwards received. I left it with my cigarette-box and my stick and I walked along the pathway, Moriarty still at my heels. When I reached the end I stood at bay. He drew no weapon, but he rushed at me and threw his long arms around me. He knew that his own game was up, and was only anxious to revenge himself upon me. We tottered together upon the brink of the fall. I have some knowledge, however, of baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me. I slipped through his grip, and he with a horrible scream kicked madly for a few seconds and clawed the air with both his hands. But for all his efforts he could not get his balance, and over he went. With my face over the brink I saw him fall for a long way. Then he struck a rock, bounded off, and splashed into the water."
I listened with amazement to this explanation, which Holmes delivered between the puffs of his cigarette."
And one imagines, too, Judith Miller, NYT's ace reporter, listening to the Defense Department officials, the ones that had pointed her to Saddam's nefarious lab for creating the End the world bomb -- the one's that had told her about Saddam's x-ray pistol -- the ones who had told her how a vast conspiracy, an interstellar conspiracy, had been hatched between Saddam and the inhabitants of Venus -- but never before had the immensity of his evil and his genius been revealed in such terrifying detail! It was like being pushed into the abyss! Immediately she lept in her car, and sped to her favorite unnamed source, who will go under the name A*** Chalab*, to ask whether it could possibly be true! An elegant man of the world type (who, Miller ruefully remembered, had a careless habit of picking her pocket -- those credit card bills that came in from that Saville Road tailor! Luckily, the World's Greatest Paper could afford a few silk jackets.). Chalab* pulled out his cigarette holder, screwed a peculiar cigarette in it -- Judith couldn't help thinking that its smell reminded her of something she'd smelled once in high school, when she'd accidentally turned into that hall with the burnt out bulbs where the bad girls hung out, but what was it?...- and said you Americans, always underestimating our little Iraqi Stalin. Yes, bien sur, I happen to have the details of his escape in my coat pocket. First let me explain about the car he had made with... VANISHING PAINT! Yes, my dear, Saddam's super powers have been augmented by an ancient Chinese formula that allow him, and vehicles in his entourage, to seemingly disappear, as it were, into thin air -- while all the while retaining the mass and density of a visible object. Imagine the horror! Walking down a seemingly empty street, suddenly you are smashed by an object whose presense has not been indicated by any disturbance to your retina. My countrymen are, alas, addicted to the superstitions of their forebears, as you must have noticed. Imagine the impact upon minds all too inclined to attribute the workings of causality, directed by science, for the intervention of spirits, directed by magic. Staggering! Of course, it all has to do with lowering the refraction level of material surfaces... but I won't bore you with the details, except to tell you -- the only POSSIBLE way the Western World will avoid a holocaust is to IMMEDIATELY attack Iran! Or at least plan an attack to coincide with the Republican Presidential Convention. Are you sure you don't want a puff?
PS -- In the WashPost, a story that reveals, a little late, that the morale of US forces is being impacted by the fact that they are being deployed with the most callous disregard for their environment since the Korean War -- although of course it doesn't go to such radical lengths. We liked this quote from an unnamed soldier, since it succinctly summarizes our attitude towards Iraq:
"What are we getting into here?" asked a sergeant with the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division who is stationed near Baqubah, a city 30 miles northeast of Baghdad. "The war is supposed to be over, but every day we hear of another soldier getting killed. Is it worth it? Saddam isn't in power anymore. The locals want us to leave. Why are we still here?"