Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Bed of Nails

Yesterday, brutal murderous ex-dictator Saddam Hussein claimed that he has been beaten and tortured while in US custody. He has repeated those claims today, He dismissed Whitehouse denials saying "we don't lie. It is the White House that lies". He also said "When I hear that any Iraqi has been hurt, it hurts me too". Even the most earnest peacenik would struggle to work up any sympathy for the vicious torturing bastard.

Don't get me wrong, torture is abhorant and it's never justified. But if this did happen, and that's a big if, it's not something which is going to keep many people awake at night. A US state department spokesman said Saddam was "grandstanding" and that's certainly a highly plausible scenario.

It's clear that Saddam is not grandstanding for the benefit of a western audience. Saddam is a lot of things but he is not an idiot. This performance is aimed at Iraqi Sunnis particulary as well as at other Muslims generally. (If you've seen the report you'll know that Saddam made a point of praying while in court. "See what the evil infidel yankees have done to your devout Muslim brother" is obviously the message he's going for.) Will it have any effect though?

I'm afraid it probably will for two reasons. The first is mentioned in the BBC report as they describe how Saddam justified his claim that the Whitehouse lies.
The former president said the US could not be believed, as proved by its pre-war claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and the fact that none were found.
It's hard to disagree with the brutal murderer on this because he's basically right. Whether these were lies knowingly told is debatable, certainly, but the fact that the Whitehouse used a flawed justification for the invasion cannot be disputed. And Saddam's target audience will certainly be receptive to this argument.

The second reason is Abu Ghraib. Some of the people reading this might believe that the abuses at Abu Ghraib really were the work of "a few bad apples" but that really doesn't matter. There can be little doubt that most of Saddam's target audience believe that what happened at Abu Ghraib was sanctioned at the highest level.

With that in mind, it's not hard to see how Saddam's claims are going to look highly credible to those they are aimed at influencing.

Saddam almost certainly realises that he's going to be executed. Martyr status is about the best he can hope for now and he's doing everything he can to make sure it happens. He's probably going to succeed. Like Obi-Wan said "if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine".

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