Column: The fall of Saddam

By Craig Colbrook

Remember when Saddam Huissen was a terrifying madman and an imminent threat to the United States? Yeah, me neither. But I do remember when he could fake it – as opposed to the circus freak routine he’s going through now.

Huissen, of course, is currently on trial in Iraq for crimes against Iraqis. It hasn’t been going well for him. His entire defense team walked out on him Monday. They were back by Tuesday, though, just in time to hear Saddam say, “I will not be in a court without justice. Go to hell, all you agents of America,” according to CNN.com. He didn’t even show up in the courtroom Wednesday. Throw in his constant assertions that he’s still the president of Iraq, and you can see why a lot of us are having trouble keeping straight faces.

I think it’d be a mistake to say the trial is a farce, though. The court itself is working fine. Witnesses are testifying, but getting enough protection that they don’t fear reprisals. The chaos of the beginning of the trial is slowing down, but Hussein is still being allowed to speak in his own defense. The judges are performing admirably, especially considering the death threats that have surrounded them.

The problem is just Hussein. He’s pouted and ranted. He’s cursed and threatened. He has, in general, acted like a senile grandfather who thinks his dentures are transmitting CIA messages. In a way, it’s been an interesting little lesson in power politics. Hussein insists that he’s still the president, but he’s been stripped of his power (being found in a hole in the desert will do that to you). Plus, it was always kind of up in the air whether he actually had a legitimate claim to the power. So it’s easy to see why no one is listening to him.

Meanwhile, Hussein refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the court, but understands that it has power. It is, after all, backed by the interim government and the United States, and they’re the people with the guns. That’s why he’s playing by their rules, even if he complains about it every step of the way.

So, from a social science standpoint, it’s interesting to watch the shifting lines of power and legitimacy in this trial. But let’s face it, it’s a lot more fun to watch for the next crazy thing Hussein does. And I almost feel bad laughing at him. He was, after all, a mass-murdering dictator. What he did in Iraq was inexcusable, and it’s hard to see him as anything besides a monster. I may not have agreed with the war (and I could go on and on about why, but people much smarter than me have already covered it), but I can at least agree that there was nothing funny about Hussein’s brutal regime.

But I think making a fool out of Hussein might be the perfect punishment for him. I mean, he wanted to be feared. He saw himself as a badass or a gangster. He was the one man tough enough to stand up to the United States.

What better way is there to handle him than shattering that image? Proving that Hussein is just a doddering old coot with a tenuous grasp on reality takes away that last little bit of power – the fear he still holds over people. Don’t get me wrong, he needs other, more severe punishments, too, but this one is just too perfect for him.

And it’s not like anyone will have to do too much to make this happen. Every embarrassing thing that’s happened to Hussein, he did to himself. He’s imploding right in front of us, and the results are both hilarious and just, especially since we don’t have to lift a finger.

The funniest part is that Hussein always wanted to be like Don Corleone in “The Godfather.” At this rate, he’d be lucky to end up like Don Knotts in “Three’s Company.”

Craig Colbrook is a senior in Communications. His column appears every Friday. He can be reached at [email protected] dailyillini.com.