May 19, 2007

A Saddam obsession...

The online dictionary defines obsession as "a domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc. " and as "a compulsive, often unreasonable idea or emotion..."

Now Sami (I never use real names by the way) is a prototype of someone obsessed. However, Sami's obsession has a peculiarity of its own. His obsession is Saddam Hussein (the legitimate president of Iraq.)

I have known Sami for over 15 years now. I have known him "before" and "after".
"Before" and "After" have become code words amongst Iraqis to refer to that cursed day - the day of the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq.

When Iraqis discuss something, anything, almost always someone will ask this question: "Was that before or after?"

Sami before and Sami after and his obsession has not ceased...

Sami is originally from what is now called the Adhamiya Ghetto. Apart from our common attachment to this ghetto, we share nothing else.

Before, Sami would blame everything that went wrong in his personal life, in Iraq and in the world on Saddam.

He went prematurely bald - like very bald (mind you, I have nothing against bald men, some can look quite sexy - not Sami though.) He blamed Saddam for his alopecia. He said it was due to stress and Saddam was responsible for his stressful life.

Sami's girlfriends would dump him - for what I consider obvious reasons to do with his personality - He blamed Saddam for it. He ardently believed that women would flee him because he had no money to take them out on a date and of course it was Saddam's fault.

During his periods of abstinence due to lack of girlfriends, again he blamed Saddam for his libidinal frustrations.

When Sami could not hold a job for more than 2 months because of his utter laziness, he justified it as the job market simply having no place for a genius like himself. And it was all because of Saddam, of course.

When no one would buy Sami's lousy art or what he considered as "art". He firmly believed that no one appreciated his works because of the general cultural atmosphere. And again Saddam was the culprit.

If Sami got up on the wrong side of the bed, it was because of Saddam. If he was having a bad day, Saddam...If he farted sideways, again Saddam.

Naturally, the blame did not stop there. It went to encompass everything else.
The initial Iranian aggression on the Iraqi villages and the ensuing Iraq-Iran war was Saddam's fault.
The so-called "oppression of the Kurds" (incidentally one of the biggest lies in contemporary history), all because of Saddam.
The so-called "repression " of the Shias, (another blatant lie- a broken record rehashed till this very day even though all evidence point that the sectarians from this sect were armed, financed and trained by Iran - look at Iraq now!) was also because of Saddam.
Gulf War I - Saddam.
The 13 years of a draconian embargo - Saddam.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq - Saddam.

I forgot to mention a very "interesting" point about Sami's political inclinations.
He is a self proclaimed atheist who quoted the Koran when the invasion took place saying : "It may be something you hate but which is beneficial for you".

He is a also a self labeled "progressive", a so-called "communist" who voted for the butcher of Fallujah, Allawi. And at times, a hardcore capitalist who would get terribly excited at the sight of raw cash.

After the occupation, Sami was jubilant, elated.
To be fair, he was not the only one. I knew a whole bunch of Iraqis sharing his political inclinations being as exalted. However, they were more discreet about it and did not flaunt in public the way Sami did. But they did vote for the butcher of Fallujah. Of that am sure. And some even voted for the death squads militias of Sadr and al Hakeem!

A few days ago, I had the misfortune of bumping into Sami. And I will let you in on our brief "conversation".

Him : Layla! Long time no see.

Me : Yes indeed. How are you and how is your family?

Him : You mean in the ghetto? Did you know they are making them wear badges, scan their irises and take their digital prints?

Me : Yes I know.

Him : Did you know that they are not allowed to leave the ghetto during certain hours. And if they don't make it back by 9 pm they are deliberately targeted by the sectarian militias.

Me : Yes I know. We have become the new Jews of the occupation or the new Palestinians.

Him: Yes we have indeed.

Me : (playing dumb) Who do you think is behind all of this?

Him: America, Iran and Israel through the kurds of course.

Me : Iran and the Kurds? But I thought the shias were repressed and the kurds oppressed?
(funnily enough Chomsky and Co. hold the same discourse).

Him: All Saddam's fault!

Me : The man is dead. You are still at your usual scapegoating.

Him : Yes it is because of him. He should have finished these sectarians of al Dawah, Al- Sadr, Al Hakeem, Al Jaafari once and for all...

Me : And the kurds? I guess you must be happy now?

Him: Happy? Again it is Saddam's fault. He is to blame. He should have never given them autonomy back in 1974. Their status in Iraq should have been like their current/present status in the neighboring countries like in Iran, Turkey and Syria. Why sign a treaty and give them autonomy. It's all because of him.

Me : Give the man a break. He is dead.

Him: And did he have to die this way? I mean why did he not accept the Rumsfeld offer? Did he have to support the resistance? Do you know that I have invested 1 million dollars in real estate and now the buildings are occupied by the militias and the resistance and my money has gone down the drains.

Sami paused to catch his breath, wipe beads of sweat from his forehead and pass his fingers through his invisible hair...

At that point I started feeling very nauseating. Something in my facial expression must have been a give away.

Him: Are you ok? You look a little sick.
Me : I suddenly feel rather queasy. Maybe Saddam has something to do with it. Do excuse me I better rush off before I throw up on... you.

I walked away, quickening my pace and took one last look at Sami, as if to draw this ultimate, definitive frontier between him and this category of Iraqis and...myself.

I saw his shining bald head reverberating in the sunlight like a cracked mirror and I walked even faster almost running...

As I saw the distance separating Sami (and his ilk) growing wider and wider, I slowed down and at one point, I could have sworn, I saw Saddam smiling at me as if to tell me : "I told you so ".
I caught myself replying out loud : "And as usual, you were right."

A passer by noticed me talking to myself. I saw him slightly shaking his head in dismay and most likely thinking to himself, here is another case of a woman gone mad.

Well occupations do that to you. You either start talking to the dead or talking to yourself.
I guess you can call it an obsession. And it can get to be a very lonesome place too.

Painting: Iraqi female artist, Betool Fekaiki.