FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
New Iraqi Museum to Stand as Reminder of Saddam’s Decades of Brutality, Counter to Anti-War Movement’s Attempt to Rehabilitate the Late Tyrant
Torture chambers. Rape rooms. Chemical and biological warfare conducted by a government against its own people. Limbs cut off. Political opponents slaughtered. Wetlands converted to uninhabitable desert to punish inhabitants for their sectarian affiliation. International-level athletes burned and scarred for underperformance in competition. Villagers and tribesmen indiscriminately murdered or mutilated simply so their dictator could demonstrate the awful extent of his power.
This, along with the successful international bribery scheme known as Oil-for-Food, is the true legacy of Saddam Hussein, the late tyrant of the newly democratic Republic of Iraq – not that he deserves to be remembered at all.
In the time of the Roman Empire, unworthy leaders and those who brought dishonor upon their country fell victim to the damnatio memoriae, an act which involved an erasure of the offender’s name from all monuments and histories in the hopes that he would be eternally forgotten. There is no question that Saddam personally, like Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, and so many others before him, deserves no better a fate than to be wiped from memory forever in payment for his crimes.
However, the regrettable human habit of forgetting the lessons of history (and thus allowing mistakes and atrocities alike to be repeated), combined with a years-old effort to rehabilitate the late dictator’s image, means that attention must continue to be paid not only to the late tyrant himself, but to ensuring that his true legacy remains clearly and publicly commemorated.
Revising Saddam’s Legacy
Thanks in large part to the efforts of groups like “Code Pink,” “Not in Our Name,” “Why War?,” and several others, in the years since the invasion by a coalition of 38 nations deposed him, Saddam Hussein has been transformed, at least in liberal public opinion, from a ruthless dictator and serial violator of the most basic of human rights into an icon of the anti-U.S., anti-George Bush movement.
These groups, along with their allies on the left side of the Congressional aisle, have spent a great deal of time since the initial invasion of Iraq was conceived denouncing President Bush’s decision to depose Saddam, and protesting military action in Iraq on the grounds that it was illegal, a terrorist act, a ploy to seize Iraq’s oil reserves, and/or the result of a deliberate misinformation campaign by an administration that hasn’t been able to communicate the tying of its shoes for eight years, but somehow managed to wage such an effective PR campaign that successfully pulled the wool over the eyes of nearly the entire Congressional Democratic contingent (111 of 258 Democrats voted in 2002 to authorize Bush’s action in Iraq).
As a result, in the minds of far too many, Saddam’s legacy has now ceased being that of a murderous tyrant, and instead has become that of a martyr who was wrongfully chased from his palace, yanked out of his spider hole, and tried and executed by a kangaroo court which was simply mouthing the words George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld were whispering in their ears.
Ensuring the Right Memories Survive
Now, nearly six years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and two years after his conviction and execution for slaughtering millions of his own citizens, the Islamic nation’s High Tribunal is trying to ensure Saddam’s memory is kept alive in a new way: with a museum featuring artifacts of, and documents recounting, the myriad atrocities the former Iraqi dictator committed during his 24 years in power.
The museum, set to open to the Iraqi public at the beginning of March in Baghdad’s International Zone, will serve as a permanent home for – and an expansion of – a collection of physical and documentary evidence of Saddam’s atrocities which has been criss-crossing Iraq for the public’s view since March 2008.
The museum will exhibit the evidence of Saddam’s atrocities, both physical and documentary. Hanging apparati – hooks and bloody nooses – used to asphyxiate countless Iraqi men, women, and children will be displayed, as well as torture devices like “a man-shaped metal cage where,” according to reports, “Saddam’s son Uday used to lock underperforming athletes for weeks at a time – and set them naked under the burning sun, the metal searing their flesh.”
Also on display will pictures of hangings and of victims’ bodies, as well as the personal effects of some of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis murdered and dumped in one of dozens of mass graves by Saddam’s regime. These artifacts, according to a report, “include combs, identity cards, a rosary…and bloodstained clothes.”
According to a museum worker who spoke with reporters on the condition of anonymity, the museum’s display will include documents from Saddam’s 2006 trial, including “the final decision and the execution order,” so that “people will be able to see his guilt for themselves.”
The facility will also include a research center with a virtual library housing nearly 26 million documents detailing Saddam’s atrocities while dictator, from his orders to exterminate the Kurds in northern Iraq with chemical weapons, to his command that nearly 150 Iraqis – including children – be tortured (some by being put through flesh-ripping meat grinders) and slaughtered in response to a failed 1982 attempt on his life.
“We thought that people might forget the works committed by dictators who committed horrible acts against them,” said Judge Arif Abdel-Razaq al-Shaheen, chief justice of the High Tribunal, which sentenced Saddam to death two years ago and which is currently trying Ali Hassan al-Majeed (known as “Chemical Ali” for his role in gassing thousands of Iraqi Kurd civilians) and former Iraqi vice president Tariq Aziz for their roles in slaughtering opponents of Saddam’s ruling Ba’ath Party.
Protesting a Liberation from Tyranny
“Anti-war” protesters have shown their support for the late (illegitimately-elected) president of Iraq, and their hatred of the outgoing (legitimately-elected) President of the United States, in several distasteful ways, from calling for Bush’s impeachment and, in extreme cases, execution for “war crimes,” to spraying Chicago churchgoers with faux blood while accusing them of supporting the murder of civilians, showering the floor of the House of Representatives with blood-soaked dollar bills, and calling for enlisted soldiers to shoot officers who ordered them to carry out their missions in Iraq.
In mid-December, Code Pink members present at a press conference held by the new Iraqi Ambassador to the United States to show their support for the now-infamous shoe-throwing “reporter,” responded to an admonishment by the Arab official that under Saddam the offender would not have been arrested but would rather have been tortured or brutally executed for his action by dismissing the talk of Saddam and demanding that the ambassador denounce Bush for supposed atrocities against the Iraqi people.
Remember the Real Saddam Hussein
All of this has supposedly been done in the name of “peace” and of a humanitarian concern for the Iraqi people, “millions” of whom have supposedly been killed by barbaric Americans who shattered the utopia that was pre-2003 Iraq when they charged in, guns blazing, and began indiscriminately killing everything that had brown skin and moved.
The man who slaughtered millions of his own countrymen – and brutally tortured millions more – deserves far less than the legacy of a martyr. Perhaps, rather than wasting more taxpayer cash to bail out failing corporations or to fund frivolous pork barrel spending projects, the Bush administration should seek to make one of its last acts sending the thousands of “anti-war,” pro-Saddam protestors to Baghdad’s International Zone, where the museum dedicated to maintaining awareness of the murderous tyrant Saddam Hussein’s real legacy will be housed.