In a few months, my workplace will be mounting a production of My Fair Lady, which is by coincidence the same production I found puzzling over a year and a half ago. This may have put me into a Lerner and Loewe mood when reading some recent articles about Saddam Hussein.
You may recall that our country considered Saddam the lesser of two evils (or maybe even lesser) when it came to the Iran-Iraq War, but, as that cartoon linked above shows, we managed to make anti-Ayatollah ally Saddam seem like a big threat in a manner of months. Then we did it again for Desert Fox. And Iraqi Freedom. And that Doomsday Gun movie with Frank Langella. Saddam has been more or less the same scumbag he’s always been, but it’s been our perception that changes.
But look at Saddam through the perception of a public relations consultant, the modern-day Henry Higgins. The man may not be so irredeemable. He was loved once (however begrudgingly), and everybody gets a comeback, even LL Cool J.
Look at the yo-yoing coverage of Michael Jackson (“He loves children!” “No, he loves children!” “No, he….”) Look at the scores of people who are continuously condemning or exonerating Kobe Bryant on the basis of absolutely no information. Opinions are emotional, and emotions change.
That is what I’m wagering, Colonel Pickering. I believe that it is possible to make a dutchess out of a dictator. You call him a tyrant? But isn’t he Poor Saddam, the tired old man who’s gone from riches to rubble, splendor to spider holes? Isn’t he wrongfully accused about all those bioweapons and terror connections? Isn’t he just, deep down inside, a regular guy?
Of course not. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make him look like one.
Today we see Saddam at the barber shop, wearing baggy clothes that look like something Bill Clinton would wear jogging. No more bowler hats or military uniforms; he’s been humbled by his experience. He’s ready to go on Oprah and tear up at the memory of his Caligula-esque sons. He’s ready to have his “anonymous” novel Unassailable Fortress in the Today Show Book Club.
America, Saddam is ready for your love.
Will we give it to him? I don’t think it likely, but I think it very very within the realm of possibility. We’ve grown accustomed to his face. Ask Rex Harrison how that can feel.