[author’s note: from our deployment in Iraq.]
August 22, 2010
I just spent a week in Baghdad, Iraq, former home to a despotic, homicidal and now dead dictator. The first thing you notice are the palaces—large, ornate, sprawling structures of stone and marble. There is no other word than magnificent when you first see them. Saddam had many palaces; the palace our higher headquarters is located in has 95 rooms and has 450,000 square feet of indoor space (“Honey, let’s build an extra room on for company.”). This is a more recent palace that was built with “Oil for Food” money. Recall the program started when under an embargo we thought we could stop Saddam by withholding all imports and exports. We thought the people might suffer, thus the “Oil for Food” program. Unfortunately, the dictator translated it into the “Oil for New Palace” program.
There is a palace built for his mother-in-law (who knew he was sentimental?), a palace for a wife, one for a brother, etc. All I can say is his Christmas gifts had to be hard to wrap. One of the largest palaces is a double palace. It began as a single palace called the “Victory over Iran” palace after the devastating ten years war with Iran which ended in a stalemate. After the Gulf War in 1990 Saddam began building another palace attached to the “Victory over Iran” palace. This was to be called the “Victory over America” palace. In Saddam’s view of the world, if he wasn’t defeated and destroyed, he was the winner. It was near completion when in 2003 we invaded Iraq. Did I mention that all of these palatial buildings have one thing in common other than Saddam Hussein? They all have one or more holes in the roof, where our bombs entered.
I am of course very proud of our military members all over the world and even though there are a few bad eggs in every basket, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guard are insightful, dedicated people. This is what I heard dozens of times while wandering through one of the palaces, “What a magnificent building, too bad, the money could have been spent on the poor of this country and those who could use it; what a waste of money for people who needed medical treatment; what a waste on one man when so many were in need.” These statements were all from military members repeated many times over. These are people who have their heads on straight and see the responsibility that Jesus gives to all of us as brothers and sisters in Him.
I’ve often wondered in the past few days what Saddam’s last thoughts were when he fell through the floor with a rope around his neck. We don’t have any idea even though he was calling on the name of Allah. I like to think this might have crossed his mind in some form in those last moments, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”