Sealed in a Jar
(2006-Saddam Hussein’s Kill File)
It was a strange, and ear-chilling, the last days of December, of 2006, so everybody told me in Minnesota, the winter they executed Saddam Hussein, hung him by the neck; I had moved from Minnesota, to Lima, Peru, March 9, of that year with my wife—life in Minnesota had lost its flavor, for me, likened to salt, which is no better than sand once it has lost its taste… And I wasn’t too sure what I was going to do in Peru, other than write. I’m crazy about strange happenings though, and I suppose Hussein’s hanging was as strange as they go. The idea of being hung made me wary, I had only seen them on cowboy shows, or read about them, now they had live videos on the internet of the hanging. And that was all there was to him—goggle-eyed as his executioners put the noose around his neck, staring at each and every one of those fellows with black masks on. It had nothing to do with me for the most part, but it made me think what it would be like to be hung, once alive then a jerk and thump, and that’s all she wrote, it made my nerves jitter a bit.
I thought it must be one of the worse ways to die man has come up with, other than crucifixion or buried alive.
Peru with all its thieves and political corruption was bad enough. Then I got thinking, was it fake, but there seemed to be a live freshness that somehow seeped into the marrow of my bones, saying it wasn’t. In a way, it was a sweet dream for the world. A Mirage to some I suppose. The hot streets of Baghdad, under its sizzling and glittering sun, were packed with people, I kept hearing, hurrahs, and joyous laughter, and applause, as the dust blew into their eyes and down their throats—cheering, they couldn’t get it out of their minds that he was dead, they just couldn’t get enough of it, enough of seeing him hung—as if in disbelief, half numb in their minds that he was now under their heels, not the other way around—if anything America had gotten rid of one tyrant, and left a vacuum—as Alexander the Great would have said: for the strongest to take.
It was like the first time I saw a Christmas tree, all lit up, I went bugged eyed. For weeks afterward, there seemed to be news coming out about that event, from India, and America, and of course every country in the Middle East, and CNN, and BBC, it was their top stories. I heard it at breakfast, over my eggs and bacon and coffee—seemingly for the whole following year; and behind those faces that walked in front of me, down every street in Lima, they were talking about this event, a world event, I couldn’t blame them in Baghdad, but in Lima, and the world over. It was as if Zeus had cut off the head of Darius the Great; and it was on display, as they had displayed the corpse of Alexander the Great in a gold plated hearse with half a dozen stallions pulling it, in those far-off days, taking it from city to city throughout Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Attica, then bringing him to Alexandra to rest in peace, perhaps smelling as bad as Saddam had, in those days before he was captured and hiding in those underground holes, and tunnels in Iraq, trying to avoid the NATO forces, especially the United States Military.
To most everyone he became the dark-eyed, nose-less, stinking bearded old dictator, alligator feeder of human flesh, to those who mocked him, from Baghdad. And there he lay, peaceful, his eyes shut—cemented into his eye sockets once and for all, Saddam, who was responsible for killing two-million human beings, so says his ‘Kill File,’ in his rise to power.
I felt odd all that winter, I suppose it was because of Saddam Hussein’s hanging, limp as a fish, and how all those little successes gained him notoriety, trotting down happily those old Babylonian Roads, until he owned them, cutting the country up like a piece of sausage until he had the whole sausage.
I had thought after Nazi Germany, and then Stalinism, that the modern world had had enough of genocide, and then came along Pol Pot, the concept was still alive on planet earth, and the world looked away again; I had thought, that such atrocities, would not be permitted, overlooked, allowed by the World Body, called the United Nations, but it was—as often it is—and here we go again, and how did it happen—slowly: first Saddam, gets involved in the Arab nationalist movement, joining the Baath Party in 1957, recruited by his uncle to assassinate a prominent communist in Tikrit; in 1967, Saddam escapes from prison; in 1977 he becomes head of the Government, and thereafter the US Government courts him, until they no longer have use for him, in his long spree of killings, to the point of where he could nearly have bought Madison Avenue, with his incoming revenue (of which he built palace after palace).
I was supposed to be putting together my new life, semi retirement.
I was supposed to be getting away from the fast pace of American life, public opinion, which nowadays is quite different than in my younger days—that being: some kind of new respectability has been given to the unacquainted, uninformed, ignorant and opinionated populace. I wanted nothing, but to write and to be left alone for the most part—write about life, simple things. I bought an apartment up in the Andes, about seven-hours from Lima, and with pen and paper wrote to my heart’s content.
Only I wasn’t steering up anything big. Much too often I felt I was moving dully along the underground corridors of hullabaloo, especially that first year, that year Saddam was hung. Yes, indeed for that whole year, Saddam crept in and out of my brain, as if he was sealed in jar in some back chamber of my mind.
No: 727 (2-5-2011)