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July 23, 2003


He knows. He's known now for hours, since an aide who once cringed at a glance insouciantly tossed the sweat stained notice of the end onto the desk before him and exited the room without a word.

His sons, dead, betrayed to the enemy by a man they once wronged, a man who in their arrogance they had gone to for shelter. A man who once claimed blood ties. A man who will use his new riches to buy power; who will forswear all connections to the tribe of Tikrit in future.

Just six months ago the fear of his sons covered an entire nation. Today they discovered it had shrunken so much that it no longer covered even a single household.

The Americans came for them, and first they shot the walls away, until only piles of dust lay between them and his sons. And then they shot the dust away, and his name and the last hope of his glory floated away with it.

"They fought like heroes!" he tells anyone who will listen, knowing full well they died like dogs, shrieking in agony and rage as the end they had brought to so many others came for them, cradling countless half familiar faces beneath its dark wings.

Faces twisted with hate, faces laughing with glee. Faces promising retribution.

Faces promising more.

He tortures himself with small, imagined details when no one is around, a happenstance that has occurred in recent hours with increasing, suspicious regularity. Did their host wave goodbye to them as they looked out the windows upon the sea of soldiers below? Did he smile and merrily gesture for them to come down and meet his new friends? Did he call them "Cousin," and laugh as the first bullets fired? Did he come to them in the last seconds before consciousness faded to taunt and revile, glorying in his victory and their defeat?

Where is his host, for that matter? The man who embraced him and shouted praises to Allah upon his arrival has not been seen since the afternoon, since the first celebratory gunshots and ululations of joy sounded on the streets just outside.

He shouts at the door, shouts again when it does not open immediately, a shrillness entering his tone. Eventually an aide comes in. The host will be located, and shot.

For a moment the man is placated.

They would have snapped photos of the bodies, the Americans, recording the mortal wounds of his sons so that in the days to come the least of the beggars in the marketplace will know the most intimate details of their deaths.

They killed carefully when they came for them, shooting so that his son's bodies could be identified immediately, so that they could show pictures of them to the people who once shouted, “Father” as his motorcade passed on the street. Now he is father to no one and no thing, and the same people weep with joy at the thought.

He desperately desires one picture for himself, to see the scene of his son's deaths, to judge the manner in which they met their end. He remembers them, snot nosed and crying after a beating, and fears that they did not meet it well.

He paces in the dim light, the black thing which drove him for years now gnawing from within, growing larger and harder to ignore with the passing of each moment. He issued orders earlier in the day, order after order after order, trying to drive it away with activity and rage, knowing even as he issued them that few orders would be obeyed, that few could be obeyed. He had stormed around the room, shrieking of betrayal and vengeance, to no avail. The orders flowed, people melted away, until at last he alone was left.

His sons are gone, and his hatred is a huge, swollen thing. But no matter how large his hatred grows his fears grow with it. He fears betrayal, and capture. He fears the derision and revenge of those who once groveled before him in the dust. He sees them, crowding in around him, spitting, screaming and cursing, covering him with sputum before ripping him apart with their bare hands, capering and showing off pieces of his flesh before tossing them into the sewers.

"All of Baghdad is Saddam's grave," they would tell the fat, pink tourists in the years hence. "Every urchin who shits on a street corner helps to bury him."

The cries outside have at last faded away. He sits in the dark, stifling room, idly rubbing the holster of the handgun in his lap. He knows. He's known now for hours, dying a thousand deaths in his mind since the news came. One by one those who traveled with him have slipped away, on the excuse of some errand or other, until only a pitiful few are left.

Noise again from the outside, machinery on the streets below. Cries of alarm from the rooms outside, a frantic pounding on the door.

Faces begin to appear in the darkness before him.

Faces promising more.

Posted by Bigwig at July 23, 2003 01:10 AM | TrackBack
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This is beautifully written, Bigwig. A prose poem. One of you best. Even the cruel Saddam loved his sons and mourns their loss.

Posted by: Yomamma at July 23, 2003 10:37 AM

I wouldn't conclude that Bigwig thinks Saddam loves his sons, only that his legacy is dying like his sons died, victims of a miserable vengeance they brought on themselves.

Good @#$%ing riddance.

(And great writing.)

Posted by: James Dasher at July 23, 2003 12:30 PM

Nicely done! It's a vivid portrayal of the tyrant's last hours.

Posted by: Greg W at July 23, 2003 01:29 PM

Excellent writing! I'm looking forward to Part II, where Saddam reacts to being dragged down main street Baghdad, spat upon by the same people that once cowered in fear of his wrath.

Posted by: Clint at July 23, 2003 01:31 PM

Great piece. I have the feeling that, as with Hitler, we'll be cheated out of killing him ourselves.

He'll put a pistol in his mouth, if he hasn't already....

Posted by: John Farrell at July 23, 2003 01:41 PM

Well done, sir!

Too bad we won't, as James Coburn put it in Hudson Hawk, torture him so slowly he'll think its' a career.

Posted by: Andrew at July 23, 2003 02:43 PM

Like many from the past, he too will show his true mettle in the last minutes. He will remove his pistole from its holster, look at it for a moment, place the barrel in his mouth, almost gagging on it, and with trembling hand squeeze the trigger. He will never hear or feel the bullet penetrate his brain and smack againt the wall behind him. He will cheat all of Iraq of visiting on him some of those most terrible things he did to his country. Once again he will withhold from his country the justice they so rightly deserve. True to all despots he will be the coward in his last moment and feeling nothing at all.

Posted by: Pop at July 23, 2003 03:36 PM

An "Ozymandias" for our day. Encore!!

Posted by: Jeffersonian at July 23, 2003 03:51 PM

Most excellent!

Posted by: SayUncle at July 23, 2003 03:59 PM

Are you channeling Peggy Noonan, perchance?

Posted by: Mike at July 23, 2003 04:50 PM

That's a vivid picture.

Posted by: Tony S. at July 23, 2003 05:46 PM

Bigwig, I bow to your writing skills.

Posted by: Kathy K at July 23, 2003 06:57 PM

You need to publish this in print somewhere. Get it beyond the small crowd of the internet and before the world.

This should be read on both US and Iraqi television.

Posted by: Fred at July 23, 2003 06:58 PM

Thanks guys. Glad you liked it, though I should admit I wasn't too sure of it. I was kind of suspicious of the style.

Posted by: bigwig at July 23, 2003 09:32 PM

Great stuff.. Definitely you should put it print somewhere. :)

Posted by: RedClaw at July 24, 2003 01:15 AM

Bigwig: I was struck by your suspicion of the style...I was dubious too as I read it up to "His sons are gone." Then it seemed to take off..move from flirting with the melodramatic to something clearer, sharper. As best as I can see there is a shift from a bit too much speculation about Saddam's inner world to something grittier, more grounded in outside fact, but it is a subtle shift. Coming at the end it is well timed - a strong finish. I lost a son 4 years ago and was in business with a psychopath at the time. I know something of grief and rage. I too have been thinking of what Saddam might be feeling. Your take is damned good - helpful and touches an aspect of this incident that might not otherwise be dealt with. Thanks

Posted by: lgude at July 24, 2003 10:52 AM

To quote from the Shawshank Redemption:

"I'd like to think that the last thing that went through his head, other than that bullet, was how the hell Andy Dufresne ever got the best of him."

Replace "Andy Dufresne" with "Georgie Bush" and you've got it......

Posted by: Richard Molpus at July 24, 2003 11:41 AM

well done.

Posted by: Ara Rubyan at July 24, 2003 12:15 PM

Many have suggested Saddam will eat his pistol--something tells me he won't. I suspect he's too much a pussy to do that. Poison, probably.

Posted by: Victor at July 24, 2003 01:07 PM


Imagine the celebration when photos of Saddam's lifeless, battered mug are released.

Posted by: Steve H. at July 24, 2003 01:58 PM


Posted by: TC Lynch at July 24, 2003 05:41 PM

Excellent, it provoked feelings on the graphic reality level.

Thank you.

Posted by: Seth at July 24, 2003 08:33 PM

Good job, man!

Posted by: David Block at July 24, 2003 09:55 PM

Very, very good. You gots a future in this writin' bidness, son.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin at July 24, 2003 10:31 PM

Ever since I heard the news yesterday I've been thinking of this post.
He had the pistol but he didn't use it...

Posted by: Kathy K at December 15, 2003 07:13 PM
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