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December 14, 2009
A night with SaddamBy Mrs Greyhawk
This past weekend marked the sixth anniversary of the capture of Saddam Hussein.
"Six years ago this weekend," writes Dr Mark Green, "I spent the first night of his captivity with the most infamous patient I've ever attended -- Saddam Hussein." Dr. Green was the first doctor on scene when Saddam was captured.
More from Dr Green:
Night guarding Saddam was night watching evil
Six years ago this weekend, I spent the first night of his captivity with the most infamous patient I've ever attended -- Saddam Hussein.
The Iraqi dictator had been pulled out of his hiding place just hours before. Looking disheveled and unkempt, filthy and bearing several months' growth of beard, he emerged from the now-famous "spider hole" near his hometown of Tikrit.
He was taken to an Army detention facility, where, after being examined and cleaned up, he was photographed and videotaped to prove to all the world that, indeed, as Paul Bremer told a packed news conference the next morning, "we got him."
The commander of the task force responsible for the capture took no chances, and as an Army physician, I was assigned the duty of sitting with the prisoner his first night.
By pure accident of fate (or, as I prefer to believe, divine intervention) I was able to share his first night in prison with a man whose brutality had caused untold death and destruction.
I'd seen statues and paintings of Hussein on almost every street corner in Baghdad. Yet here he was, alone in a cell, awaiting the inevitable justice of a world that for years had witnessed his crimes.
When we walked into his cell and I introduced myself, he told me that, as a young man, he, too, had wanted to be a doctor. Ironic that a man so devoted to death and destruction had once wanted to heal.
I've been asked many times what he was like. My answer is always the same: Hard as it is to believe, I found him to be incredibly charming.
I had to remind myself that, if our circumstances were reversed, this man would happily have killed me and my entire family. I'd heard of the evidence of his atrocities, in the torture chambers below the Olympic Committee Headquarters Building in Baghdad and in the eyes of the people he'd terrorized.
I couldn't stop thinking of the waste he'd made of the gifts he was given.
As the hours passed and we spoke of so many things, I asked him about Iraq's war with Iran. Why had he waged such a brutal war on his neighbor?
"Khomeini broke our deal," he replied.
In the late 1970s, well before the fall of the shah and while he was second in command, he claimed he'd sought out Khomeini with a proposal: He would help hide Khomeini in Iraq in exchange for Iran ceding a portion of its coastline to the Iraqis.
He explained that Khomeini's tacit support could help him avoid the prospect of a Shiite uprising and that his new government needed access to the patch of Iranian coastline along the Persian Gulf to help Iraq's oil shipping.
So, he said, a deal had been struck, but Khomeini reneged, unleashing a brutal eight-year war between them -- one that took an estimated half million lives on both sides.
If only ...
I've thought back on that conversation many times, of the meeting of the brutally ambitious and cunning men who were plotting even then to take over their governments.
How different the world would be today if, instead of coastal access and suppressing religious rebellions, these two men had talked of joint efforts they could make toward improving the lives of their peoples -- if, instead of war, they'd spoken of education, agriculture and peaceful scientific advances.
On this anniversary of that night, I think of all the opportunities the world has lost because of the pact between these two ruthless men: the clinics and schools that could have been built, the cures that could have been found. Instead, the world has seen three decades of near-constant warfare in the region.
Saddam Hussein was a fascinating man, to be sure, but at the core an evil one. I was glad for the opportunity to spend time with him, to be a part of his being brought to justice. The world is better for his absence.
Dr. Mark E. Green of Ashland City, author of the book A Night With Saddam, is an emergency medicine physician practicing in Panama City, Fla.
Posted by Mrs Greyhawk / December 14, 2009 9:14 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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