Saddam Hussein was, among other things a man of fetishes. However, a murderous tyrant with fetishes reveals a more dark side than one can really imagine, or would even want to imagine. Saddam’s fetishes took the form of various acts of torture, humiliation, and bodily mutilations.
He apparently changed his fetishes constantly. In 1994, his torture fetish was to cut off ears. It didn’t last long because the “doctors” or quasi doctors who were forced to perform these operations started protesting (just how they didn’t themselves get tortured is not hard to explain given that they were needed for subsequent tortures).
I imagine the brilliant United Nations inspection teams will also fail to find any evidence of unattached ears in buildings marked with huge neon signs reading, in English, “Sliced-Off Ears Located Here – Please Come In And Feel Free To Make The Case For Invasion To Free These People”.
Nofal Dawoud could no longer take belonging to Saddam’s Iraqi Army in 1994. Possibly, he was growing tired of killing and torturing his friends and neighbors on command, or beating children in front of their parents, which was one of Saddam’s favorite weapons of mass destruction—which amazingly has also not been discovered by the crack U.N. teams.
When Dawoud was caught after defecting, he was dragged into what passed for a hospital in Basra by Saddam’s Baath Party officials. Needing no treatment for anything, he knew immediately that he was among the countless others who were there to be tortured or mutilated.
His hands were tied behind his back, he was injected with almost enough anesthetic to cover the pain, and the “surgeon” proceeded to saw off his left ear as prescribed by the dictator’s latest whim.
However the “surgeon” then realized he’d made a mistake. He was actually instructed to cut off the right ear, not the left. So he proceeded roll Dawoud over and sawed off his right ear.
“I was taken to the hospital in the morning, and in the afternoon I woke up to find that I had both ears cut off,” said the 29-year-old, as if not quite believing his own hideous misfortune.
“After that, I just wanted to die. I was depressed, I didn’t care about life. I wanted them to kill me, but they wouldn’t.”
But at least he was out of the Army, right? Of course not. Thrown right back into “service”, he was beaten, ridiculed and tormented by other soldiers and officers, until finally released since he was but a burden at this point.
He stayed at home with a keffiyah scarf wrapped around his head, unable to even look at himself and his hideous infected wounds on both sides of his head. He would not venture out for fear of humiliation, and nobody would employ him nor marry him. It was well-known that men such as him were mutilated as a result of being a deserter.
Dawoud would have no way of knowing he wasn’t alone.
Ali Waheed, 29, who deserted from the army in 1994 because, he said: “I was fed up with one war after another.” He was soon caught, taken to Kindi hospital in Baghdad and in the same chilling routine was bound, blindfolded, nearly anesthetized, and mutilated.
Waheed reacted slightly differently, saying that with all his anger and resentment he went completely over the edge—he lost his mind. He began to slash himself with razor blades. Pulling up his shirt, he revealed to Reuters reporter Luke Baker his scarred arms and chest, marked with hundreds of cuts that have healed poorly and disfigured him still further.
Quite a few other men had that exact same mutilation performed on them that year—in all, an estimated 3,500 Iraqi soldiers had the whole or part of their ears cut off following Saddam’s 1994 edict, an effort at using fear to clamp down on increasing army desertion.
But the measure drew so much wrath, inside and outside the country, with many “surgeons” refusing to perform the operation, that the procedure was rescinded altogether and men were lashed with whips instead. Saddam would soon dream up other fetishes.
In 2004, now that Saddam Hussein had been removed from power by the United States and its many coalition partners, and freedom has begun to reign, the victims of mutilation are gradually emerging from their hovels, and are looking for a new opportunity—perhaps a job, and a normal life to which all humans are naturally entitled, while also praying that their hideous deformity might one day be corrected.
In May, that dream already became a reality. A group of Iraqi surgeons, backed by the new Iraqi Health Ministry, announced that they would perform free reconstructive surgery on victims of Saddam’s 1994 mutilation spree.
Dr Ridha Ali, a plastic surgeon at al-Wasati hospital in Baghdad, was one of the pioneers the decision to offer the service.
So far about 50 amputees have come forward seeking an operation to reconstruct their ears, including Dawoud and Waheed. Advertisements for the procedure are being broadcast on new Iraqi radio stations.
“These are people who are desperate to feel normal again,” Dr. Ali said of Dawoud, who in early June underwent the first of several operations over many weeks.
“Giving them back their ears is part of that process—it’s something that can change their lives.”
Since Saddam’s fall, Waheed’s life has already changed. Unable to work for years because of his mark of shame, after the war he got a job as a driver for a human rights organization.
“Before people would discriminate against me and treat me badly, but now that’s changed,” said Waheed. “I’m so glad I didn’t kill myself. I nearly died, but I thank God for keeping me alive. Life is normal now and it’s such a relief.”
I imagine he’s not as ticked-off at the United States as John Kerry and other liberals are.
Based on an excellent report by Luke Baker of Reuters news service in Baghdad.
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