Saddam’s magic gem won’t help him |

Saddam’s magic gem won’t help him

Barry Smith

OK, I’ll play. Where’s Saddam?

I don’t believe we’ve seen him since the war started, and I don’t think he’s dead yet.

This guy’s too much into self-preservation and egotism to let himself get caught like that. My guess is Damascus, and I’ll tell you why.

Here’s a dictator with more palaces than I have shoes. He has his statues and pictures plastered all over the country, even on the money.

Saddam has created myths about himself to make his subjects believe he is some kind of superman. Have you heard these?

The most gullible Iraqis believe he has a special gem implanted in his arm that repels bullets.

The gem is either red or blue, depending on the telling, and was tested on a chicken. When they shot the chicken at point-blank range, all it lost was a few feathers, according to an article about Saddam myths by Mark Magnier of the Los Angeles Times.

Another legend reported by Magnier is Saddam’s mother’s magic aura.

“He’s in touch with the occult,” said Saad Abdel Reda, 19, a farmer. “And he has fortunetellers tap into the spirit world and tell him when people are trying to kill him.”

Of course, it wouldn’t have taken much of an oracle to predict over the last few months that somebody would try to take him out. I wonder if he had a vision of a burning Bush.

The stories also include his reputation for ruthlessness.

In one, Magnier wrote, a soldier standing five rows behind the president attempted to kill him, but his gun jammed. Saddam calmly walked over to the soldier, grabbed the weapon and said, “This is how you do it,” before shooting him dead.

Then there is the tale of the citizen who spat on his television screen whenever the president’s face appeared. This went on for years, until the man and his daughter saw the president in person, at a parade. “That’s the man you always spit on,” the little girl said, at which point soldiers within earshot supposedly took him away and executed him.

These are the kind of fables spun by megalomaniacs to keep people in fear.

“I wouldn’t believe he was dead even if I saw his body on television,” said Aboud Muttar, 60, a shepherd. “I won’t believe it unless I see it with my own eyes.”

I know how Aboud feels. We can’t even tell for sure which guy with a mustache and beret is Saddam, because I’m convinced the tapes we’ve seen the last three weeks have shown at least three different men.

With this type of personality, Saddam won’t stand and make a final fight. I don’t think he’s in Baghdad or Tikrit. I think he bugged out at the first sign of trouble — maybe days or weeks before — because his ultimate goal is to survive.

This isn’t Osama bid Laden living in a cave. This is a powermonger who’s been pillaging his own land and people for decades and growing fat and wealthy.

He has only one cause: Saddam.

So I wouldn’t expect him to gather his best buddies around him for a symbolic stand, like the Iraqi version of the Alamo, and allow himself to become a martyr. A martyr for what?

He would also be taking too big a risk even then. Remember, this man doesn’t trust anybody, and shouldn’t. He hasn’t set out a vision for his people to follow, a calling greater than themselves to which to aspire. So there’s nothing to keep them loyal but fear.

Were he trapped in a bunker like Hitler, would he take his own life? No. More likely would be that someone inside his circle — even one of his sons — would decide the best way to come out of the whole mess would be to bag Dad and drag his body out the front door for his enemies to see.

So Saddam has gone to someplace like Damascus, where they encourage barbarians, and is gathering as much of his wealth around him so he can ride out this war.

He’s telling his pals to be patient, let the Americans and British sweep through his own country and liberate the Iraqi people. Sometime in the aftermath, when the troops have pulled out and the world’s attention is elsewhere, he can begin to craft a strategy that will bring him back to Iraq.

I hope I’m wrong.

I hope that first bombing three weeks ago got him. I hope the bombs dropped on the restaurant this week got him. I hope one of his generals, or maybe that brown-nosing information minister, watched the statues being toppled and came to a sudden realization they would be better off with Saddam dead.

I suspect, however, that like most bullies Saddam is a coward. He wasn’t going to be anywere near the battle. He wasn’t going to lead his troops; he was going to sacrifice them.

Saddam doesn’t have the courage to be a hero. He doesn’t have the guts to be a martyr.

The one person who knows for sure he doesn’t have a magic gem in his arm is Saddam Hussein. He’s not about to take a bullet for anybody.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal.