KNEADED REPORTAGE

By William Markiewicz

On August 4th, CNN presented the story of an Iraqi who went to Kuwait to escape Saddam Hussein after many in his family were massacred, was admitted to the USA, became a citizen, then participated in the invasion on Iraq as a translator and ended by personally arresting Saddam in his hiding hole. I didn't retain his name because I didn't think I'd write on the subject. Only later did I start to ponder the discrepancies, which I present for your judgement:

The young man was charming, spontaneous, intelligent -- a star. He described his escape from Saddam's terror. The reportage was interspersed with films from U.S. archives of executions shot in Iraq. I don't remember if the commentator indicated that this was stock footage but the effect was striking which is obviously the most important point. He talked about Saddam's repression of the Iraqi people but he didn't mention that it was during a civil war initiated by rebellious Shiites. He was surely a Shiite himself but he didn't mention it.

Back in Iraq, the Americans took him to his family and the emotional reunion after many years was shown, but one detail struck me: where were the women? Among many men only one was present, and, as they were Shiites, she had to be veiled. It wouldn't have been pleasant for Westerners to look in on an intimate family gathering with a crowd of veiled women among men, faces exposed, free to breathe normally. In Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan it would look all right, but, as everybody knows, Saddam's Iraq was a secular country. The Shiites' revolt was, in the first place, jihad against secularism: women to chadhor and harems, heretics and non-believers to death. So, in order not to awaken unpleasant associations, the women had to be absent as a group and represented only by one, and this one had to be veiled and unveiled at the same time. How did they achieve this? By blurring her face so she seemed made of paper mache, showing her very fast, so she looked like a defective fragment in the film. I'm sure that few among the viewers paid attention. Then came the most important moment in the reportage, the capture of Saddam. The captor and his prisoner were photographed together; the young vibrant captor and his captive with puffy ruined face, the very symbol of total defeat. This picture will remain in history. The captor gave amusing details of Saddam's capture, with the panache of an experienced conversationalist. From the hole came a voice: "Don't kill me, I give myself up!" - "Who are you?" A moment of silence, then the reply: "Saddam!" - "Saddam who?" After a moment: "Saddam Hussein!" - "Come up, and show your hands!" He shows one hand. -"Another hand!" He shows another hand but again only one. It was all very entertaining. Finally Saddam shows up with both hands in the air and the grand moment of the capture is finalized. The captor tells Saddam who he is, that his family was massacred, and Saddam replies: "You're a spy and a traitor!" The hero said: "It made me angry" and he took Saddam by his beard and shook it violently until Saddam screamed: "Enough!"

The story ends with the reporters' comments that the man remains a patriotic American and Iraqi, and he doesn't know yet where he'll settle for the future. I've probably forgotten many important details but my general impression is: the reportage was canny and uncanny, sleazy and manipulative, with pseudo-sincerity of the hero of the story, the boyish-faced Casanova. It was a chunk of propaganda for Bush's Iraq war. How Bush must love the naivete of the "political animals!" After seeing this reportage, votes for Bush may climb.

Why didn't Saddam find a place of refuge like Osama? Because Saddam and Osama are archenemies, Saddam is secular and Osama fundamentalist-extremist. There are not too many secularists in the Orient. By destroying Saddam, the Americans gave a royal gift to rigid fundamentalism for many years to come.

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