Kouross — Journalisms — The Tyrant is Captured

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Kouross — Journalisms — The Tyrant is Captured
“My first reaction, when I first the news of Saddam’s capture, was an overwhelming joy. But when I saw Saddam on television and the condition he was in, his beard and the crazy look on his face, I felt pain and sadness. And not for Saddam, but for myself; for this people who suffered and endured, for those who lived the pain of fear moments before being executed, for the women who suffered the loneliness of a bed emptied of the men who had been forced into the military, and for the children who went hungry and who never felt the joy of seeing their father walk in with a toy in his hand. All these scenes passed in my mind like a film Ö as if all these years have passed in vain, all in the hands of a mere cockroach or a rat whose only success was to instill this fear in people for such a long time.”
Letter to a friend Khaled Ali Iraqi Filmmakers and Actors Union Current employee of CBS News, Baghdad Bureau
Iraq is not a happy place right now. The gunfire celebrations have died down completely. And it’s only 10:00 pm. What has sunk in for people, and even those who went into the streets and celebrated for the cameras, is a feeling of shame. ‘Ihtiqaarî is what one person called it. Shame of humiliation. He didn’t even try to defend himself, he didn’t even have the courage to not be captured.
Alongside discussions about how he should be tried, punished and/or killed, there is a realization that this man who so controlled people’s lives for so many years, was nothing but a scared, crazed individual who, once left on his own, couldn’t even turn a gun on himself.
The hardest thing to hear in Iraq, up to today, was that only Saddam could run this country. This was usually said in moments of great frustration during a traffic jam, gas line, a heated argumentÖ. Everybody seems to have felt this at some point, and expressed it when pushed to it. And I would just cringe and see it as a product of a disturbed moment.
The hardest thing to hear now is that nothing has changed. That whatever caused a Saddam Hossein is still there and it’s a matter of time before it resurfaces. This feeling is here and it will not go away that easily. And I am sorry to be reporting it.
There is a catharsis in his capture. A purification and an ending of sorts. Even I, who have at best a largely obscure connection to this place, felt it. But in this cathartic moment, anger turned into great sadness. Anger at the dark houses, the long lines, and the abandoned streets and the destroyed city turned into: why are we here in the first place.
To those of you who I’ve talked to in the past few days, you have heard me sound a bit crazed. I have been feeling the great social divisions in this country and it has been a descent into mental hell. It’s easy to say that Saddam is responsible for it, he has. But what’s harder to see is that people have internalized it.
Memory is an incredible thing. Especially those memories that take a hold of you and remind you that you are nothing but a mass of bones, flesh, nerves and electronic mental processes cruising through time. You can go through your days feeling like you don’t have to be the same person from one moment to the next. Some version of ‘living in the moment.î It’s a euphoric way of being and I realize why so many people talk about it and make it their goal. Until you hit against those memories that make you realize that it’s actually a choice to forget. The kind of memory that makes you understand that your current condition is nothing but a re-experience of events that boil up and tumble down in random, for no other reason than the fact that they are in you and in no one else, that you experience them unlike anyone else, and that no one else is going through this moment twice the way you are.
To those of you who grew up in Iran, do you remember when you first heard that there are these people who are Sunni? Say it to yourself the way you first heard it. Sonnee. As in: ‘Mes-e Sonnee-a meemoonehî (‘he’s like the Sunnis): he is cruel, unjust and irrational, or, rather: his unjust cruelty is irrational. Here in Iraq, I physically remembered the revulsion this word produced in me the first time I understood it as a young boy in Iran. You need not be from a religious family to feel it: anyone who supports spilling the blood of innocent Hossein must suffer from a great moral depravity. I remember not understanding how anyone could be a Sonnee when the Sonnees stand for injustice. I forgot the sentiment soon after. My family, you see, was more Communist than anything else and these feelings where soon replaced with some vague notions of revolution, workers, and a classless society. The place associated with this understanding is my third grade class room. That’s where I probably first read about the tragedy in religion class. But the person I associate with it is my Grandmother who rarely, but definitely, went through the motions of commemorating and weeping for the Saints. Between these two, I must have heard about the Sonnee-s and was petrified at the world that harbors them.
The world that harbors them, you see, is Iraq. This is where that innocent blood was spilled many years ago and it’s where the sects that support both sides of that tragedy continue to live side-by-side. The rest of the Muslim world is Sunni. But the Sunnis in Iraq are the real deal. Whereas other Sunnis are just plain Muslims and have little understanding of the Shiis and the history that produced them, the Sunnis is Iraq have to constantly identify themselves against the Shrines, the pictures, the flags, the slogans and the Shiis whose existence is the living remembrance of the tragedy. Much like the way the Christians live the memory of Jesus’s martyrdom.
I cannot explain why I have been feeling this insignificant and childish memory, but I have been angry at the Sunnis and the way they treat the Shiis and feeling like the cruel irrational injustice that persists is more than just a product of Saddam’s maniacal regime.
Tonight I found myself asking people why they feel responsible for a man that the world produced. But only half-believing the question myself. And then falling silent at their answer for I have nothing else clever to say.
It was all or none of the guy who had told me that Saddam killed three times as many Shiis simply because there are three times as many Shiis to kill. Or the guy that had told me that the Wahhabbis (extremist Sunnis) kill Shiis because the Shii veneration of the Saints IS heresy. Or the guy who had told me that the Shiis could never be left to run a country because they are perpetual victims that need to be lead and who could never be trusted with too much responsibility. That’s why, you see, the Shiites support the occupation and the brave Sunnis don’t. Or the guy who had told me that the Americans wouldn’t be here right now if the Sunnis were in control and that it’s better to have a river of blood in this country than a day of occupation. One of whom is the man who I have translated and quoted above.
I have been cursing Sonnee-s for a while now. Been living what my body remembered for only the second time in my life. A descent into a mind frame that is alien to me, but one that I could not shake off.
And it took Saddam’s capture to snap me out of it. I am now just sad. Hopeless at the situation here and fearful of what it means to people whose reasoning, conditions, and history I can only skim in my experiences and fleeting memories. He was just one person. He was created by a world that needed him for its own benefit. And he was for 35 years the leader of 30 million people who tonight, for the first time, saw this symbol of absolute strength be checked for hair lice and mouth sores by a bald American doctor with plastic gloves and a wooden ice cream stick. And who asked themselves: How? And who asked themselves: Has anything really changed?
I wonder what the capture of Saddam does to the Iraqis. It is not a happy moment. That’s for sure.