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Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Bollettino

The best account of Saddam's boys brief and one hopes brutish life in the ruins of the country they beset like Biblical locusts is by Patrick Cockburn, in the New Zealand Herald.


"Neither Uday nor Qusay, the sons of Saddam Hussein, were cut out to be resistance leaders. They were brought up in luxury. While other Iraqis were living in poverty in the 1990s Uday still employed two pastry cooks as part of his personal staff. Not surprisingly, if American claims about their deaths are correct, they were discovered in a large mansion in Mosul.

"In so far as Saddam Hussein ever trusted anybody he trusted his two sons, Uday, a sadistic playboy, and Qusay, more studious but equally violent. Both were entirely dependent on their father. They never contradicted him, restrained him or had any ideas of their own."

And here's an item typical Uday's beastliness:

"Uday, in particular, was even more loathed by Iraqis than Saddam himself. Uday was always physically the most striking of the two brothers. His enormous staring brown eyes dominated his face and he usually had five days' growth of beard. In a photograph taken in 1977, when he was 13, he wears a loud striped jacket and an enormous black bow tie. The impression is of somebody trying to assert his personality against almost overwhelming odds. Although he seldom turned up for lessons, Uday learned fluent English. Before the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980 he even had ambitions to study nuclear physics in the United States. But he also told school friends that his father took him to attend torture sessions "to prepare him for the tasks ahead". Uday's first serious political role was as head of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, which replaced the Ministry of Youth. Housed inside a building which, with machine-gun turrets guarding its walls, resembled a fortress. It even had its own jail. He swiftly showed that he had a uniquely brutal approach to Iraqi sportsmen who failed him. They were jailed, beaten on the feet and spectators could tell who had been punished because the player-prisoners had their heads shaved."

Alas, the American press is treating their deaths as though this was the next to last lap in the War. Saddam's death is to follow, according to the press, and then the attacks on Americans will stop. We think this is an interesting turn about from a mere two weeks ago, when the attacks were non-coordinated epiphenomena, much like the images a man gets in his head just before falling to sleep.

We doubt, however, that such headlines as the one in the LA Times (usually much better about reporting the news)
"Sons' Deaths a Turning Point in Campaign:
U.S. assault is likely to weaken motivation and perhaps coordination of Iraqi resistance as well as change the subject in Washington, or the NYT's

With Hussein's Heirs Gone, Hopes Rise for End to Attacks

By ERIC SCHMITT and THOM SHANKER

are going to look very good two week's from now.

That the news is being cast as being happy for the Republicans and unhappy for the Democrats is very bad news for the Dems, and it is surprising that they don't know that. We can all raise our Khalashnikov's in the air and shoot to celebrate the butchering of these men. Although LI does believe that there is something suspect in celebrating the agony visited against any human being, let's face it: Uday and Qusai never deserved celebration in life so much as they do in being done to death.

On the ground, however, in Iraq, we doubt this is going to make the massive amount of firepower in the hands of individuals pissed, to say the least, at Americans seem less like firing. Because the American media is addicted to dualisms, it has cast the resistance in Iraq as a struggle between Saddam and his old foe, Uncle Sam. But of course the resistance in Iraq has numerous motives and numerous backers, many of whom have explicitly disavowed the loser of Baghdad.

As if to underline this, two Americans were killed today, according to the BBC, and seven were injured. This makes the heaviest cluster of American deaths since the War itself.

...
It is an interesting question. How do you celebrate the death of evil men? In the Book of Kings, Jezebel operates much like Uday did, stealing Naboth's vineyard, killing the good, partying with the wicked and such. The word of the Lord comes to who the word of the Lord usually comes to -- the insane beggars on the street corners -- and they proclaim that Jezebel will be eaten by dogs. This is how her end came, according to 2 Kings 9

"9:30 And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard [of it]; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window. 9:31 And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said, [Had] Zimri peace, who slew his master? 9:32 And he lifted up his face to the window, and said, Who [is] on my side? who? And there looked out to him two [or] three eunuchs. 9:33 And he said, Throw her down. So they threw her down: and [some] of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses: and he trode her under foot. 9:34 And when he was come in, he did eat and drink, and said, Go, see now this cursed [woman], and bury her: for she [is] a king's daughter. 9:35 And they went to bury her: but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of [her] hands. 9:36 Wherefore they came again, and told him. And he said, This [is] the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel: 9:37 And the carcase of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel; [so] that they shall not say, This [is] Jezebel."

Now that is a pretty thorough desecration. We especially like the palms of the hand thing. The Lord was working in his metaphysical poet mode, obviously.

When Plutarch is comparing the deaths of Marcellus, a Roman Consul and Pelopidas, a tyrant, he writes:
"I cannot commend the death of either of these great men; the suddenness and strangeness of their ends gives me a feeling rather of pain and distress."

Marcellus was the commander of the forces who took Syracuse and killed Archimedes. He was finally brought down by Hannibal, who ambushed him:

Upon signs received from him, the men that were placed in ambush stirred not till Marcellus came near; and then all starting up in an instant, and encompassing him from all sides, attacked him with darts, struck about and wounded the backs of those that fled, and pressed upon those who resisted. These were the forty Fregellans. For though the Etruscans fled in the very beginning of the fight, the Fregellans formed themselves into a ring, bravely defending the consuls, till Crispinus, struck with two darts, turned his horse to fly away; and Marcellus's side was run through with a lance with a broad head.

As for Pelopidas, tyrant of Thebes, I believe, he was slain in battle with Alexander, challenging him on the field even as he was pierced with darts and arrows.

Perhaps, after Jezebel, the most iconic death was suffered by Heliogabalus.

Heliogabalus was an Uday kind of guy. Here's his idea of a great party, according to his biographer Lampidus:

"He had the custom, moreover, of asking to a dinner eight bald men, or else eight one-eyed men, or eight men who suffered from gout, or eight deaf men, or eight men of dark complexion, or eight tall men, or, again, eight fat men, his purpose being, in the case of these last, since they could not be accommodated on one couch, to call forth general laughter. He would present to his guests all the silver-plate that he had in the banqueting-room and all the supply of goblets, and he did it very often too. He was the first Roman emperor to serve at a public banquet fish-pickle [Garum was a preparation made from the entrails of fish, particularly the mackerel, which were salted down and allowed to ferment. The liquid thus formed was called garum. -- DM] mixed with water, for previously this had been only a soldier's dish -- a usage which later was promptly restored by Alexander. He would propose to his guests, furthermore, by way of a feat, that they should invent new sauces for giving flavour to the food, and he would offer a very large prize for the man whose invention should please him, even presenting him with a silk garment -- then regarded as a rarity and a mark of honour. On the other hand, if the sauce did not please him, the inventor was ordered to continue eating it until he invented a better one. Of course he always sat among flowers or perfumes of great value, and he loved to hear the prices of the food served at his table exaggerated, asserting it was an appetizer for the banquet."

And this is how Lampidus describes his end:

The prophecy had been made to him by some Syrian priests that he would die a violent death. And so he had prepared cords entwined with purple and scarlet silk, in order that, if need arose, he could put an end to his life by the noose. He had gold swords, too, in readiness, with which to stab himself, should any violence impend. He also had poisons ready, in ceraunites and sapphires and emeralds, with which to kill himself if destruction threatened. And he also built a very high tower from which to throw himself down, constructed of boards gilded and jeweled in his own presence, for even his death, he declared, should be costly and marked by luxury, in order that it might be said that no one had ever died in this fashion. But all these preparations availed him nothing, for, as we have said, he was slain by common soldiers, dragged through the streets, contemptuously thrust into sewers, and finally cast into the Tiber.

Sic semper tyrannis, what?

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