Life as Saddam

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 June, 2004, 12:00am

Put yourself in Saddam Hussein's shoes. Well, to be accurate, let us pretend that he is allowed shoes by his American captors, and that we are wearing them in his place.

In fact, just for the moment, we have been spirited into his prison cell in an unknown location in an unknown country and he is us, reading this page. Spooky stuff.

From the inside, life is not great. Apart from not knowing where you are, the promised luxury apartment did not materialise. Instead, you perhaps have a tiny room without windows painted in a colour best described as hint of brain. The door is metal and locked at all times. A single, naked bulb in the centre of the ceiling stays on all the time.

There is no furniture. You have to sleep on the bare concrete floor, without pillow or covers. There are two plastic buckets, one green, one red. One is your toilet, the other your bath. Your requests to have it fitted with gold-plated taps have been ignored.

A television, out of reach and behind a glass shield, constantly shows images of the Iraq you once ruled. The pictures are not a pretty sight.

Your beard is long and shaggy because no one will give you a razor. Fresh clothes would be nice, but all you get are excuses that there is no washing powder because the truck that was carrying it was blown up by a suicide bomber.

The food is terrible. It is pushed through a hole in the door once a day and is generally limp and brown. The American soldier who brought you here six months ago was not joking when he said that French cuisine had been taken off the menu because of the war. He should have mentioned that all other cuisines were off as well.

You have complained endlessly to the surly man who brings your meal; ranting that this is no way to treat the democratically elected president of a country. You deserve the finery and eloquence of someone of your standing - and a little respect. All he does is laugh.

Some reading material would be nice. A little soft music would not go astray now and then. Life has been so solitary since the visitors stopped coming.

They used to arrive just as you had dozed off to sleep. They would put a black hood over your head and do unmentionable things. Throughout, there was a clicking noise, as if photographs were being taken. Then they would leave. For some reason, their visits stopped recently.

Then there were the interrogators. They have stopped coming, too, because you have told them everything they wanted to hear. They seemed to especially like the part about when Osama bin Laden dropped by for tea one day and together you dreamed up a plot to take over the universe.

That was all in the past, and now there is something new and scary to worry about. You saw it on the television. It seems that the Americans and interim Iraqi government are fighting over who gets to have you after the so-called handover of sovereignty on June 30. Either way, the future does not look good.

Interviews with people in Baghdad shown on the television had them unanimously baying for you to be given to the interim government so you could be found guilty by a court and hanged once, twice, three times - however many times they wanted.

American custody would not be much better. To put it bluntly, the past six months has been nothing short of torture, and a further six would be akin to a slow, painful death.

In short, it is rather a strange way for a civilised democracy to behave. Society can hardly call itself civilised if its way of dealing with brutality is with more brutality.

With those morbid thoughts, it is time to abandon these make-believe shoes and step back into reality.

There, it looks so much better from this side of the page, doesn't it?

Peter Kammerer is the Post's foreign editor