Saddam Hussain has been remade into a modern myth, reminiscent of him 2 millennia ago who was nailed on the cross by those god-botherers who thereafter suffered with the Christ-sickness and deified a carpenter. Saddam was no carpenter, but was the CIA-installed puppet of cold war skulduggery in the middle east – and now, having offended his gun-toting buddy Rumsfeld at some point perhaps, this martyr for a new millennium is set up with a founding narrative that repeats, as farce, a history with which we have already much conjured.
Think of Saddam’s palaces – the pay-off for his earlier compliance before he went rogue – they were often seen on news reports in the early flush of the arrival of US troops in Iraq. Beautiful palaces with ponds and the like. I have observed such scenes on screen somewhere before have I not – yes – at Herod’s place. In the Superstar version of Christ, there was talk of ‘walking across swimming pools’ and ‘turning water into wine’. JC Superstar was more all-singing, all-dancing cinematic than Saddam’s rope trick ending, but PM Blair’s reluctant, forced and late condemnation of the way it was done was very much like a rerun of Pilate washing his hands of dereliction and delegating the case elsewhere. And Bush is guilty too – whether we want to call those that hung Saddam US patsies, or if we recognise a certain modicum of vicious revenge, it is, as Slavoj Zizek has said, strange that there was no talk of dragging Saddam to the Hague tribunal. Instead we got a show trial and a show-business hanging, on prime time TV over the New Year when we were all at home with the family to watch.
Zizek has also compared the US to Rome, and found them lacking: “recall the common perception of the United States as a new Roman Empire. The problem with today’s America is not that it is a new global empire, but that it is not one. That is, while pretending to be an empire, it continues to act like a nation-state, ruthlessly pursuing its interests” (NYT 5.1.2007). The trouble seems to me that, rather, the timing is all too convenient, such that the troubles of Rome 2000 years ago do resonate with the troubles of US as faulty empire today. It took a good while for the Christians to extricate themselves from the lions and topple Caesar and all that, and of course there was the nasty middle ages and inquisitions and all sorts to get through… But what has been achieved with the televisual hanging of Saddam is perhaps a glorious sequel. An epic story of struggle and the next greatest story ever told – but instead of Max von Sydow (Christ in the 1965 version) or Cecil B. DeMille directing, we are likely to get Mel Gibson, as director and hopefully star (Mel as Saddam doing his own stunts – you’d have to laugh). Opening soon at a cineplex near you.
Lets remind ourselves of some of the lyrics:
Prove to me that you’re divine; change my water into wine.
That’s all you need do, then I’ll know it’s all true.
Come on, King of the Jews.
Jesus, you just won’t believe the hit you’ve made around here.
You are all we talk about, the wonder of the year.
Oh what a pity if it’s all a lie.
Still, I’m sure that you can rock the cynics if you tried.
So, you are the Christ, you’re the great Jesus Christ.
Prove to me that you’re no fool; walk across my swimming pool.
If you do that for me, then I’ll let you go free.
Come on, King of the Jews.
Pilate’s refrain (slower):
Don’t let me stop your great self-destruction.
Die if you want to, you misguided martyr.
I wash my hands of your demolition.
Die if you want to you innocent puppet!
Every time I look at you I don’t understand
Why you let the things you did get so out of hand.
You’d have managed better if you’d had it planned.
Why’d you choose such a backward time in such a strange land?
If you’d come today you could have reached a whole nation.
Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.
Don’t you get me wrong.
I only want to know.
Now we do have mass communication, but it seems we also need long memories. And, I’ll wager, ear-plugs.
[pic – from the audition: Much hand-washing needed, Rumsfeld leads the way, but Bush, Blair, Brown and Prescott also need a scrub. ‘What’s the buzz, tell me what’s happenin, what’s the buzz…’.
Disclaimer: Please note that I do not endorse any carpenters in any form, not even Richard and Karen; nor musicals, unless they star Barbara Stanwyck (“Lady of Burlesque”, “Roustabout” – with Elvis Presley, and “US Canteen” to name a few)]