Ever since Saddam Hussein was found hiding under the hovel where he lived in conditions only slightly less squalid than those of the average American college student, he has been subtly intruding into our national discourse. ("Mom! The Butcher of Baghdad doesn't clean up his room, so why do I have to clean up mine?")
Recently leaked photos of the former Iraqi dictator showed him firmly in one camp in the boxers-vs.-briefs debate. And they showed that, however rough our interrogation techniques might be, we draw the line at depriving him of hair dye.
And now comes more detailed revelations in the current issue of GQ (whose cover shows Jessica Simpson getting some wear out of her star-spangled bikini before Congress outlaws it) by five young Pennsylvania National Guardsmen who were his jailers.
In a story titled "Tuesdays with Saddam," the quotidian details of his life sound humdrum until you begin to notice a clear pattern.
In custody, Saddam plays ping-pong, washes his own laundry in the sink, smokes Cuban cigars that his daughters send him from Jordan (What? No shout-out from Fidel for a fellow tyrant?) and dances alone in his cell. Dances alone?
He promised the guards, "I will show you all around my country. You are like sons to me. It is not beautiful now, but it will be when I am back in charge."
Does this not sound delusional? Perhaps with a touch of megalomania? And if by some miracle he did get put back in charge, do you think his ex-jailers would be crazy enough to visit him?
One of the guards said that Saddam seemed to have "germaphobia," that he meticulously wiped down his tray and utensils with diaper wipes before eating. You don't have to be a regular viewer of "Monk" to know what this means.
An unmarried guard said Saddam "started telling me what to do. He was like, 'You gotta find a good woman. Not too smart, not too dumb. Not too old, not too young. One that can cook and clean.'" He embellished these injunctions with a spanking gesture.
The average Iraqi wife is probably not all that different from the average American wife, and if you were Mrs. Saddam, how would Mr. Saddam's marital advice make you feel? Exactly. Now, consider: His wife, Sajida, in Jordan with the daughters, is in charge of his legal defense. She assembled his legal team. And she and her husband share certain interests since the new Iraqi government wants her on charges of murder, torture, theft and embezzlement. You'd be crazy to get on Sajida's bad side, right? Now you're seeing the pattern.
The Twinkie Defense
Saddam, it seems, loves Raisin Bran Crunch, a sugared cereal, for breakfast. (Surely somebody at Kellogg's is considering whether a celebrity endorsement like that will help the company break into the coveted ex-dictator demographic.) Saddam shuns Froot Loops. What do you bet he knows at least some American slang?
Here's the capper. According to the guards, Saddam would "get grumpy" when the prison ran out of his favorite snack, Cheetos. To allay his junk-food jones, the guards substituted Doritos and -- bingo! -- "He'd eat a family-size bag of Doritos in 10 minutes."
Are you thinking what I'm thinking? The Twinkie Defense!
In an infamous 1978 murder case, defense lawyers argued that their client's massive consumption of Twinkies and other junk food was evidence that the defendant was nuts. Pleading diminished capacity, they got him off on a lesser charge.
I think the wily old despot is laying the groundwork for copping an insanity plea. He might get away with it. How sane can a guy be who took on the mightiest military on the planet? Twice.
Unless he was serious about what he said about Sajida, in which case he's a dead man walking.
Scripps Howard News Service