Archive for January 3rd, 2007

Send In The Clowns

Prince Harry will be off to Iraq.

Says the report:

The desert patrols last up to 10 days with supplies being dropped from aircraft. The work is said to appeal to the soldiers as a mixture of Lawrence of Arabia and the early SAS long-range desert patrols of the Second World War.

Lawrence of Arabia eh? Not quite the first name to spring to mind when thinking about sending Prince Harry into the desert.

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In other news, 90% of Iraqis think they were better off under Saddam Hussein. But with the likes of crack officers such as Prince Harry, a new dawn must surely be fast approaching.

Given my failure to do anything much about last year’s resolutions, I didn’t bother giving much thought to stuff I could do this year.

One thing that I did mull over doing, however, as I ran up mountainsides to regain fitness after a lethargic autumn and winter was to stop filling my head with garbage from news reports and websites. I was in Spain for a week, and I didn’t look at the news or the internet once. And it felt rather good.

Then, going through the airport the other day, I looked at the newspapers on the stands to see pictures of Saddam Hussein with a rope around his neck. The British press had used the black borders that they use for events involving significant death.

I’d stayed up the night before to watch Unforgiven. I wouldn’t say that I’m a huge fan of Clint Eastwood’s films – his direction can be leaden and rather pious, but Unforgiven is a powerful film within the limits of its genre. A key scene in the film has the town sheriff, Little Bill Daggett (played by Gene Hackman), place the cadaver of Ned Logan (played by Morgan Freeman) upright in an open coffin outside the town saloon. Little Bill does this as a demonstration of his power, and as a warning to anyone who would dare to go against the law he claims to uphold.

This put me in mind of the framed image of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi that had been put on display at a US military briefing after his destruction in a US air raid, along with that of a woman and a child (a framed picture of them was presumably surplus to requirements). The photo of Al-Zarqawi’s head was replicated on thousands of TV bulletins and internet sites, and became a totem of celebration for certain people. It later emerged that the figure of Al-Zarqawi had played an important role in a US military propaganda campaign long before he provided the US forces with the money shot to illustrate that things were looking up. Which, of course, they weren’t.

Not that any such thing was going on with Saddam, you understand.

Even for those of us not in Iraq, it will be strange to get used to the world without Saddam Hussein. Ever since he invaded Kuwait, he had been a foreign devil par excellence. I recall, back in 1990/91, reading a Sunday Sport report on how a 100-year-old Hitler (whose ‘bunker incident’ in Berlin had, it seemed, been a mere montage) was on his way to the Gulf in a secret craft to lend his expert assistance in evil dictatorship to Saddam Hussein. They even had an artist’s impression of how Hitler might look. It all seemed so fitting and convincing at the time. Shortly after, I realised that that story was a fabrication, as was the one about the WWII bomber found on the moon.

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January 2007