donderdag, december 19, 2002

Saddam, Literary Pioneer
"Don't be attracted to easy paths because the paths that make your feet bleed are the only way to get ahead in life."
Saddam Hussein in his Book of Wisdom

I'll keep that one in mind, Saddam. Bloody feet are the way to success. In the meantime, Saddam's new bestselling pamphlet is one most Iraqis were already familiar: 57 quotations drawn from speeches made by Saddam, including one in 2000 marking the 12th anniversary of the end of the Iran-Iraq war. The most recent speech, delivered in August of this year, is chock-full of enlightening mouthfuls like the unforgettable "Nay, we hurl the Truth against falsehood, and it knocks out its brain, and behold, falsehood doth perish!"

And lest you think this to be merely beginner's luck, you should know that this isn't even his first novel. "Zabibah wal-Malik" (Zabibah and the King), was purchased by the CIA in a London bookstore after the Saudi-owned, London-based Al Sharq Al Awsat daily identified its author as the Iraqi leader -- on the book’s cover only appear the words "by its author." And the pro-Iraqi Arabic daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi wrote that the fact that there was no criticism following news of the book "strongly" suggested that Saddam Hussein did write it.

CIA officials have read between the lines to find what they claim is an intriguing window into Hussein’s thinking. They believe Zabibah represents the Iraqi people. "In the book, Saddam is the king, and the king is apologetic to the people. He says: ‘I’m a great leader. You must obey me. Not only that, you must love me’," said one US official.

"The book is a kind of dirge," another official critically panned. "The king is talking about his death. Every time I read the book I feel for the king. This is what Saddam wants the people to do -- to feel for him."

As I've said before, one of the primary benefits of a looming war against Iraq, or any other Middle Eastern nation for that matter, is the staggering, metaphorical palavers foisted upon us by our "enemy" governments. Do you think Bush's speechwriter is clever enough to come up with such megahits as :

"The forces of evil will carry their coffins on their backs, to die in disgraceful failure, taking their schemes back with them, or to dig their own graves, after they bring death to themselves on every Arab or Muslim soil against which they perpetrate aggression, including the Iraq, the land of Jihad and the banner.

Fat chance. And now comes the officially titled: “Saddam Hussein: Great Lessons, Commandments to Strugglers, the Patient and Holy Warriors.”, another plush serial of Saddam's commandments to cover all aspects of life. He advises against making decisions in anger or humiliating an enemy after defeating him. He calls for doing good, depending on brains as well as brawn, ruling fairly, planning well, keeping people's secrets and learning from others' mistakes.

Oft-compared to the irascible Chairman Mao's literary standard, The Little Red Book, Hussein's speeches and text is an almost inexhaustible exuberance of insight and acumen filled with good advise like "Don’t let he who thinks you despise him get close to you.".

If only he were my neighbor! When he writes: "Don’t treat your friend and your enemy equally even if you reconcile with the second. That way your enemy doesn’t scorn you and your friend doesn’t look down on the meaning of friendship and its rights.", I feel like nominating him as leader of my condo board! I mean who else can provide us with such insight and perspicacity?

Haven't heard enough engaging and delightful prose yet? Saddam writes in much the same vein of a hipster melodrama full of anger and hope: "Don’t provoke a snake unless you have the intention and power to cut off its head.", which, were it written as a popular soda jingle, could have become the mantra of our generation.

Nevertheless, someone may be ghostwriting for Saddam in the near future. He has, according to his enemies, failed the crucial United Nations test by supplying an untruthful declaration about weapons of mass destruction. Mais naturellement! What would one expect from a tortured artiste??

Is his alleged scorched earth work a potential masterpiece? Here we confront an avant-garde, unique and uncommon interpretation of defying commercialism which, in the process, developes a stroke all its own. Of course! But as Saddam always says, paints, brushes, sketchpads, pencils, crayons, photo albums, and leatherbound journals in hand, "Keep your eyes on your enemy and be faster than him."

He may have to. Some might find parts a this new work a little touchy-feely for their tastes and once one of the most famous men in the world, Saddam is quickly on the road to becoming nothing more than a ghost - a shrill, disembodied voice heard only in faraway countries. The literary community will mourn him.

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