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The Saddam show

At first, I thought they’d nabbed Nick Nolte for DUI again. But no, the ravaged, bewildered face on my TV screen was that of Saddam Hussein — captured, apparently, by the US Dental Corps. I was shocked. There are two things in this world that I never thought I’d see: the inside of Cameron Diaz’s pants, and the inside of Saddam Hussein’s mouth. Weirdly, watching the so-called Butcher of Baghdad sitting there looking like a hairy carp, I actually felt quite sorry for him, but then that was probably the point — pity being the opposite of fear.

But if the aim of this "say ‘Ahh’" moment was to humiliate the former Iraqi dictator, then why not go the whole hog and subject him to an on-screen proctologist’s exam? Why not get him to sing "Oops! ... I Did It Again" while having his eyebrows shaved? Surely, in the whole of Iraq, there must be a pink, Saddam-size tutu we could have utilized. Are we really that lacking in imagination?

Actually, the most degrading moments of Saddam’s incarceration are said to have taken place off-screen. He was subjected, we are told, to an "invasive" body search — and we all know what that means. Somebody wielded the lubricated finger. (Now, there’s one for the grandkids.) But you have to ask yourself what they were looking for up there. Weapons of mass destruction? Osama? And if the person doing the searching had found an enlarged prostate, would he have given Saddam a heads up?

There are other important questions raised by Saddam’s capture. If he had indeed been hiding in a hole in the ground, where did he get the hair texturizer? If he had, as some reports suggest, been living on a diet of candy bars while on the lam, why were his teeth in such excellent condition? If he really did have $750,000 cash on him, couldn’t he have afforded a nicer hole? Finally, what’s with this taxi US troops reportedly found nearby? Saddam may be a vicious killer, a paranoid sociopath, a diabolic, pitiless asshole, but give credit where credit’s due — he is no cab driver.

Many of these questions, thanks to the grinding meticulousness of our television newscasters, have already been answered. Over the course of the day on Sunday, I must have watched that video footage of Saddam a hundred times. I now know the inside of that man’s nostrils better than I know my own. And yet the drama of the occasion began to wane as the news shows trotted out ever more extraneous experts to comment on the capture ("Coming up after the break, renowned hole expert Terrence Clegg ..."). By nightfall, even the footage of Saddam’s head being checked for lice began to lose its sheen.

But we can learn from this. Should Osama bin Laden ever fall into US hands, the American public will demand far more elaborate and demeaning insults than a quick trip to the dentist. I, for one, would like to see authorities set up a secure television studio somewhere in Afghanistan, where the Al Qaeda leader can have his nose nibbled on by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, his beard crimped in the style of Christina Aguilera’s hair. We should put Liza Minnelli on a retainer, forcing bin Laden to do a song-and-dance number with her in the minutes after his capture. Maybe Ashton Kutcher could get involved — "Osama, dude, you’ve been punk’d!"

Issue Date: December 19 - 25, 2003
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