Tuesday, November 23, 2004
I have been waiting since the fall of Baghdad, and the subsequent failure to find WMD, for someone to ask questions about Saddam's role in his own demise. Barry Levinson does this. To my chagrin, however, the Hollywood director revises history in order to cast his villain as a foolish victim, instead of the violator of international disarmament agreements he really was.
In an amazing twist of historical events, Levinson portrays our foe as having complied with UN Resolution 1441. I think Mr. Levinson needs to take a second look at what actually happened. I don't know anyone who concluded Saddam was anywhere near full compliance of that resolution. Remember the bogus weapons report? The arguing over surveillance flights? Even Hans Blix himself made sure to describe Saddam's actions as neither in compliance or non-compliance. There was a long way to go before determining the former, which many believed was diplomatic-speak for concluding the latter. Saddam was hardly cooperating in what was supposed to be his last and final chance. That's not the way Levinson sees it.
The director tries to weave together a plot line, one in which our Saddam acts nice only to be amazed at the verdict of non-compliance given by his foe: George Bush the son. That's why Saddam ends up in a "hole in the ground with a rug and a fan." You see, Saddam didn't see himself as doing anything wrong, so having to survive his own ouster never did occur to him, the rational player that we know Saddam to be, of course.
And that perhaps is where Levinson falls off the boat, because he desperately tries to piece together a rational justification for what he sees as an irrational war. But even a slightly sober desire for the facts would lead him to the conclusion Bush and supporters arrived at: that Saddam was given one last chance only to treat it like all the rest. In other words, the idea that Saddam was complying with international disarmament requirements was as likely as the idea that most people in Hollywood actually give their Republican presidents the benefit of the doubt. In other words, like heck Saddam was complying.
So, I'll again ask the question Barry Levinson so desperately tries to answer: why did Saddam end up in a hole in the ground with a fan and a rug, instead of on a yacht on the sea with a cigar and a drink? Levinson decides the answer lies in Bush's irrational decision to go to war. My own answer, while not anywhere near conclusive, dissents because it attributes irrationality not to the leader who debated, talked, and discussed, but to the one that lied, hid, and deceived. I know people like Levinson like to think the deceiver was Bush. That might explain why they ended up on the wrong side of this last election.
It's amazing the extent to which Hollywood minds will twist themselves in order to come up with the perfect plot. Too bad for Mr. Levinson that his idea of that plot has him confusing friend and foe and, in the process, seeing facts that just weren't there. Yes, he finally asked about Saddam. I think we need to do a lot more of that. Unfortunately, I don't think the answers will make for much of a movie, at least not the one Mr. Levinson apparently has in mind.