Why is it that decades after their deaths, people are still writing songs and books and plays about Eva Peron and Huey "Kingfish" Long? And why is it that I don't think the same thing is going to happen to Saddam Hussein?
Both Peron and Long, while they still have their millions of admirers, certainly had dual personalities. And people tend to remember the good and forget the bad in others.
Eva loved the poor, helped raise money for them, but she certainly didn't dress like them. She liked the fine clothes and furs and food and wasn't shy about acquiring them. Did she divert some of the money intended for the poor to pay for these extravagant items? Who knows? Kingfish Long certainly brought free textbooks and bridges to an impoverished Louisiana and allowed as how "every man is a king." But Long certainly believed if every man was a king, he was the head king. It was Huey's way or nothing. And he certainly enjoyed his liquor and women and the power of belittling those he didn't like. And did Long have his "deduct box" in which diverted public money was contributed to pay for these things? Most probably.
What makes bigger than life personalities interesting is that two people can look at them and see two different things. People tend to hate villains and love rogues (and you wouldn't be a rogue unless you had some flaws).
I must admit that I don't know a lot about Saddam Hussein. I know the public Hussein and I believe he killed a million and a half of his own people and killed his own relatives and didn't put up with any dissent. It is clear he liked to live well with expensive palaces. I can't point to any charities he founded or little kids he flew to hospitals to have treated or any jokes he told. I look at him and see a poor carbon copy of Stalin, cold and ruthless and humorless.
And it is this single personality that is going to make sure that Andrew Lloyd never pens a "Don't Cry for Me, Baghdad."
I know I say it so often that people are sick of hearing it, but I will say it one more time. I am fascinated by personalities and why people do what they do. My great regret is I didn't take more psychology courses.
No one can surely believe that Hussein, even surrounded by his ?yes men,' thought for a moment that his forces would repel and beat the American and British forces. He saw what happened in the Gulf War, he saw what happened in Afghanistan, he knew we had sophisticated weapons that are so much better than even the first Gulf War, he knew if Sr. Bush hadn't been such a whimp he would have been gone years ago.
When push came to shove, why didn't he take the easy option n leave the country, set up in a nice villa with gold-fixtures and million of dollars and write a book and ferment a little turmoil here and there?
There are only two answers. He had eluded capture and harm so long, he thought he could rattle sabers, stay as long as he could and then flee to a villa in a friendly country. Or he wanted to be remembered forever by the world as this Eva Peron character who was loved by his people and unlike Peron faced down "Satan America" as long as he could, dying with his boots on.
The problem is I and millions of others know Evita, Evita was a friend of ours and Saddam is no Evita.
But there is a character who might eventually have a book or play or song written about him. That is Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. He is so much more interesting. He was a devout Christian and rose to the top echelon in the regime in a land of Muslims. He had something going for him that made him survive in the midst of the black widow spider, even though he is not related to Saddam's Tikriti clan. He had a kind of Adlai Stevenson personality that made you want to sit down in a bar and have a few drinks with him. I suspected and maybe I was wrong that if he had been in charge of Iraq it would have been a very different place.
Aziz was born in 1936 in the northern city of Mosul to a family with little. Originally he was named Michael Yuhanna but changed his name to Tariq Aziz (which means "glorious past") in an effort to be more acceptable to the Muslim majority.
After studying English literature at the Baghdad College of Fine Arts, he began a career as a journalist in 1958.
After meeting Hussein while Aziz was chief editor of one of the Ba'ath Party's newspaper, he began to rise through the ranks of Iraqi politics when his party came to power in 1968. He was named Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq in 1979 and survived an Iran-backed assassination attempt in 1980. Aziz's primary role was to be Iraq's voice and face to the world. Make no mistake about it. He was no lover of the United States and blamed us, rather than his boss, for Iraq's problems. But he is just two-dimensional and interesting enough to write about. He would have been my choice to help set up a post-war Iraq, but I fear he may have perished alongside Hussein. And, if he did, this sudden death will only add to his mystique and lead to someone writing a play or book or both about him.
Bob Paslay is the assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext 257 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.