I admit to having a slighted skewed view of the world, let alone this country of my childhood. However, bear with me when I say this story has a certain resonance with the general tenor of events in Iraq.
It came from The Sunday Telegraph 28 March 2004. A certain Mr. Khadom Sharif Hassan, well known to most Iraqis as Iraq's weightlifting champion, was the man seen by the whole world delivering the first blows to Saddam's statue in Firdos Square on 9 April 2003. According to the Telegraph account, "the beefy hero" was, at the time the article was written, languishing in jail, accused of stealing a 50 year-old Norton motorcycle, made in England, from Baghdad's National Army Museum. It was, it seems, one of the former dictator's most treasured exhibits. It is reputed to be the vehicle on which the young Saddam fled to Syria in 1959 after the infamous failed assassination attempt on Iraq's then Prime Minister.
Mr. Hassan explained, from his prison cell, he felt he had a right to the bike. As chief mechanic to Uday Hussein, he had spent many hours lovingly maintaining the priced Norton.
Mr. Hasson said he had not stolen the item, but bought it from a looter.
" I knew he has stolen it, but I has a duty to take it and look after it. I love that bike. I course, I hate Saddam, but what he did wasn't the bikes fault. It is a special thing in Iraq's history."
Indeed it is. I wonder if Saddam will be asked about his cowardly early life when he is on trial? Will he be asked to explain how different reality was from the film about the attempted assassination he has made with the help of a western film director? I truly hope so.
The fantasy that Saddam created around himself has been a large part of the reason for the suffering of the Iraqi people. If all this is not thoroughly aired in court, then the long suffering people of Iraq will not be able to fully put the past behind them, after Saddam has been duly tried and sentanced, and move on to the better life that they deserve.
Has Mr. Hassan been released from prison yet, or does he still languish in prison?
memories of a childhood in Iraq in the 1950s * thoughts on events in the Middle East