Saddam in Heaven
For those who think that a quick death is too good for the bastard, fret not. Because in the next life, he’s got a big surprise coming.
By Mary Beth Crain
The Saddam proceedings were such a travesty that it made one question the entire notion of justice. Was the world’s biggest butcher since Stalin really entitled to a fair trial when we already knew the awful things he’s done? Did we really have to sit around proving his guilt and putting his victims, not him, on trial? Were we really compelled to let him rant and rave and wave the Koran in everyone’s face?
And now that he has been put to death, the next big topic of conversation is, what is justice? How do you adequately discipline someone who willfully, not to mention gleefully, disposed of enough victims to populate a whole other Iraq? Can we hang him a few million times? Once is surely not enough. An eye for an eye seems, on the surface, simple divine justice. But this is vengeful humanity talking. God, I suspect, is far more subtle in his methods.
The following is a scenario—a parable, if you will—about the mysteries of the human soul and a reminder not to worry about evil people getting away with anything. Rest assured that bad things do happen to bad people—and that good things also happen to bad people—in the next world, where the concepts of “bad” and “good” may not be quite as black and white as we think they are.
The Death of Saddam
Before his capture, Saddam had clung to life with the manic tenacity of an alligator in quicksand, clamping onto the nearest man’s leg to keep from going under. The number of people he destroyed in his desperate attempt never, ever to die was of no consequence. And if the end were to finally come, he was determined to go out in a blaze of vainglory—the blaze of burning oil fields and missiles lighting up the night sky like shooting stars gone homicidal.
Instead, his trial came and went, the sentence was proclaimed, and he was executed like a common criminal, an ignoble end indeed for such an uncommon man. His lungs full, his body limp, he choked on the air that had once sustained him and cursed Allah for the bad joke he’d played on him. He, Saddam, was supposed to be immortal. And now here he was, gasping and gurgling like one of his own helpless victims.
Ordinarily, thoughts of those he had murdered would have brought him great, even ecstatic pleasure. But now they were bitter analogies to his own suffering. He did not regret that he had done such things, however—only that his joy in them was coming to an end as, one by one, the memories flickered and then went out, like the city lights during an air raid or the spitting embers of a dying fire.
His sight was going now, and his hearing. He could no longer even make the effort to breathe. He opened his mouth in one last tortured effort to scream for help. Then silence and darkness descended.
As his physical body expired, Saddam’s etheric body rose and stood beside it. What is this? he thought. Am I dead or am I not?
Well, if he could be asking that question, he certainly was not. He could think, see, hear. He touched his hair, his face, his beautiful moustache. He could feel! He was alive again—alive forever. He was immortal! Allah had not betrayed him after all. That was a good thing; he would not have liked to have to dispose of him as he had so many of his false followers.
But where was he? He looked around and could not make anything out. He seemed to be enveloped in a dense fog that reminded him of smoke-choked Baghdad. Was he back there? But there was no smell of smoke, and no sound of bombs. It was quiet, very quiet.
Suddenly he was seized with terror. He had no bodyguards to defend him, no weapons with which to defend himself. Was this a plot? Would swords and bayonets reach out of the fog, to skewer him to a bloody end?
Then, instead of a sword through his heart, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He could see no one, but he could hear a voice. A gentle voice.
“Saddam Hussein, come with me.”
“I go with no strangers!” he barked.
“I am your friend,” the voice replied.
“That’s what they all say!” Saddam laughed, an ugly, rattling cackle that sounded like a ghostly machine gun. “If you are telling the truth, then proclaim the password.”
There was a secret phrase known only to his most loyal henchmen, because it was so blasphemous that the entire Muslim world would have risen up against him had it ever become public: “Allah is the servant of Saddam.”
“Allah is the servant of Saddam,” said the voice.
Saddam breathed a deep sigh of relief. “Who is it?” he addressed the darkness. “Which of my most trusted advisers are you?”
“You will know shortly,” said the voice. “For now, take my hand.”
A hand, delicate but strong, touched his. Childlike, he gripped it tightly and began to walk.
An Annoying Conversation
They walked and walked. Although he was loath to admit it, Saddam was frightened. He had always insisted on knowing everything ahead of time, on elaborate planning and plotting to keep one step ahead of his assassins. In the days before his capture, every possible escape route had been mapped out in advance, every bunker equipped with anything he needed to survive weeks, months of hiding.
Now, however, he had no idea where he was going, or who was taking him there. Blind in the endless, mocking fog, he clutched the unknown hand and prayed to be delivered from the torment of uncertainty.
Prayed—to whom? Allah was his servant! He, Saddam, was the Supreme Being. He did not need to pray; he merely needed to command.
“Protect me, Allah, and guide me to safety,” he muttered. “That’s an order!”
“What did you say?” asked the voice.
“Nothing,” Saddam growled. “And must I remind you that no one in the presence of Saddam speaks until spoken to?”
“Forgive me, I forgot,” said the voice, still as gentle as ever. There was not a trace of either fear or hatred in it. It was as even and calm as a cloud floating across a bright summer sky.
“Who are you and where are you taking me?” Saddam demanded. “I command you to tell me.”
“I am your friend, and I am taking you to God,” the voice replied.
“God?” Saddam exclaimed. “You mean we’re going to heaven?”
“Ha ha ha!” Saddam uttered a gleeful cry. He could not wait. He knew what heaven held for him. Twenty-nine virgins? Hmph! His underlings only got 29. He, on the other hand, would receive as many virgins as he could ravage, forever and ever. And palaces! They would be vaster and more opulent than any of his earthly dwellings. Servants? All the angels in heaven would be at his feet, and God himself would bow before him.
“Hurry, hurry!” he commanded his unseen companion. “I am already getting excited, thinking about my virgins!”
“We will soon be there,” the voice replied.
Suddenly, as if a hand had parted it like a curtain, the fog lifted and Saddam found himself in a blaze of breathtaking light. At first it was so bright that he was forced to shield his eyes. Then, as he grew accustomed to the unearthly luminosity, he saw great beauty all around him. Everywhere were fields and meadows greener than any green he could imagine, with flowers of spectacular colors and scents so intoxicating that he felt as though he were in a heavenly brothel. In the distance towered the massive gates of a great city that sparkled as if it were adorned with billions of diamonds.
And now, for the first time, Saddam beheld his companion—a small, dark-haired man with a welcoming smile and eyes that were far too trusting. Who was this weasel?
“You say you are my friend,” sneered Saddam. “But I’ve never seen you before in my life.”
“That is true,” the stranger smiled. “But even if you don’t know me, I know you. And I am here to help you.”
What are your demands?”
“Demands?” The stranger looked bewildered.
“Yes, demands! What do you want in return?”
“Why should I want anything?”
“What do you take me for, that idiot Bush?” Saddam roared. “I am no fool! No man offers another help for nothing.”
“Ah, you are right,” his companion nodded.
“Naturally! I am always right! I am Saddam! So, state your terms. I haven’t got all day.”
“What I want in return is…your gratitude.”
“Gratitude?” bellowed Saddam. “What the hell is that?”
“Do you really not know?”
“No! Is it another word for gold…or oil? That’s it—you want my oil!”
The stranger laughed and shook his head. “Poor Saddam!” he murmured.
“Poor?” Saddam was rapidly becoming apoplectic. “I was the richest man in the world! I had more palaces than any king! Why, just one of my gold toilets cost more than you’ve probably ever made in your whole miserable life! How dare you insult me, you peon? Wait till I get into heaven and organize my forces. You’ll be the first to hang!”
“Well, then, we’d better be on our way,” the stranger calmly replied. “Or you’ll never get to heaven.”
Saddam Meets God
They resumed their journey. As they neared the great city, Saddam was surprised to see a ticket booth outside the majestic gates. His companion went up to the booth.
“Two, please,” he said.
He received two passes, and handed one to Saddam.
“What is this?” asked Saddam. “Since when do we need tickets to get into heaven?”
“Purely for accounting purposes,” the stranger explained. The gates opened and they walked through.
As they made their way through the Celestial City, Saddam had the nagging feeling that he’d seen it somewhere before. It was very lively, giddy with neon lights, colorful shops and restaurants, and pulsing rock music. In fact, it looked and sounded for all the world like Universal City!
For many years, Saddam had been secretly obsessed with Universal City. He was forever visiting its website, dreaming about the day he would invade the U.S. and take it over. It was there that he had planned to set up his government as ruler of the entire cosmos, for what better capital could the universe have than Universal City? What good fortune, that heaven should be a replica of the metropolis of his dreams!
“What do you think?” asked his companion.
“It is fabulous!” Saddam exclaimed. “Just as I had imagined it. But where are my palaces?”
“You’ll find them shortly,” said the stranger. “But first you must meet God.”
“Why?” said Saddam indignantly. “This is my kingdom. God is my servant. It is he who will meet me, and it is I who make the appointments.”
“That is not quite how it works here,” the stranger smiled.
They stopped at a very modest little house, on the outskirts of the city.
“Why are we stopping here?” asked Saddam.
“To meet God.”
“God? You mean he lives here? In this hovel?”
“It is perfectly adequate for him. As he is often fond of saying, “I have no wife, no children, no pets. Why would I need three or four bedrooms?”
The stranger rang the bell. A man of average height, with graying hair and ruddy complexion, answered the door. He was dressed in blue jeans and a work shirt.
“Come in, come in,” he smiled. “Please excuse the way I look. I didn’t expect you quite so soon.”
“You look fine, Lord,” replied the stranger.
“Lord?” Saddam was dumbfounded. “You are God?’
“Yes,” God nodded.
“I don’t believe it!” Saddam sniffed contemptuously, as he looked around at the simple furnishings. “Where is your uniform? Your medals? Where are your palaces, and your golden toilets?”
“I don’t need any of those things,” God replied. “They just mean more to clean.”
“Well, and why do you not bow down before me?” Saddam thundered. “Don’t you know who I am?”
“Indeed I do,” God replied. “You are Saddam Hussein.”
“You dare to utter my name and not pay me homage?” Saddam continued to rant.
God was silent for a moment. Then he knelt down on one knee and bowed his head.
“Say the password!” Saddam ordered.
“Allah is the servant of Saddam,” God replied.
“That’s better,” Saddam muttered. “Now, let’s get down to business. Where are my palaces?”
“We have no palaces here,” God replied. “Unless our residents desire them. Then they will instantly materialize.”
“I want 10—no, make that 20, no 100—palaces, with 1,000 rooms each, and every room full of gold and silver and jewels, and an oil well in every back yard!” Saddam barked.
“They are waiting for you,” God replied.
“And where are my virgins?” Saddam continued.
“Now that is a bit of a difficulty,” said God. “You see, we do have quite a few virgins here. But they are not available for use.”
“WHAT?” Saddam screamed, jumping up and down. “I was promised an endless supply of virgins when I arrived in heaven!”
“Who promised you, if you don’t mind my asking?” said God.
“The Koran!” screamed Saddam.
“I beg your pardon,” said God. “But I have read the Koran at least a trillion times, and I don’t recall ever coming across that passage.”
“Who are you to argue with me?” bellowed Saddam. “You will die in one of my torture chambers for that!”
“That is another slight difficulty,” God sighed apologetically. “Torture chambers are not allowed here.”
“WHAT?” By this time Saddam was turning an ominous shade of purple. “No torture chambers? And you call this heaven?”
“I’m sorry,” God replied. “But those are the rules.”
“Well, there are going to be some changes around here,” yelled Saddam. “For now, give me the keys to my palaces. And call my bodyguards.”
“Oh, we don’t need keys in heaven,” smiled God. “Or bodyguards.”
“WHAT?” Saddam was practically dancing with rage. “How do you expect me to be safe?”
“You have no enemies here,” God put a friendly hand on Saddam’s shoulder. “Except yourself.”
“You will pay for that insolence! Take me to one of my palaces at once!”
“Mohammed Mohammed,” God turned to Saddam’s guide. “Do as Saddam commands.”
Mohammed Mohammed nodded, bowed, and motioned for Saddam to follow him.
“I’m not through with you yet!” Saddam delivered a parting shot at God as stomped out. “Not by a long shot!”
The Tyrant Social Club
They soon reached a gorgeous palace that took up at least half a mile. It was made of solid gold and marble and in heaven’s bright light, it seemed to blaze like the sun itself.
But Saddam was in such a bad mood that he barely noticed its splendor. As soon as he was inside he went into one of his thousand bedrooms and plopped down on a bed the size of Texas. He closed his eyes; it had certainly been the longest day of his life and he needed rest. But he was too nervous to sleep. At any minute an enemy could burst in, and he was completely vulnerable. No guards, no police, no weapons, not even a lousy lock on the doors.
“What is the matter?” asked Mohammed Mohammed.
“I’m bored!” Saddam hollered. “Get me a woman!”
Mohammed smiled and snapped his fingers. Out of the air, a stout old lady appeared. She was a commanding presence, with blazing eyes, stark white hair and a no-nonsense air.
“Look at you!” she screamed at Saddam, wagging her finger at him. “Lolling about and bleating like a newborn calf! Get up! Wash your hands! Make something of yourself!”
Saddam jumped up in horror. “Not this kind of a woman! A beautiful woman, with breasts like warheads and an ass like the full moon!”
“In heaven,” Mohammed Mohammed patiently replied, “You get only the kind of woman your soul needs, for its improvement.”
“Make her go away!” Saddam whined. Nodding, Mohammed Mohammed snapped his fingers again. The old hag vanished.
“I need distraction!” Saddam sobbed. “Take me somewhere where I can have fun!”
Mohammed Mohammed thought for a moment. “There is a social club here,” he said, “that would be perfect for you.”
He led Saddam outside, where there was a long gold limo waiting.
“Very nice!” Saddam was impressed.
Mohammed drove them to a bar on the City Walk. When they entered the bar, Saddam was surprised to find that nobody looked very happy, especially a group of tough-looking men sitting glumly at a table in the corner.
Mohammed led Saddam to the table. “Welcome to the Tyrant Social Club,” he said. “Gentlemen, meet Saddam Hussein.”
Saddam stared. If his eyes did not deceive him, there sat Hitler, Mussolini, Papa Doc, Pol Pot, and his idol, Stalin.
“Have a seat,” Stalin motioned to an empty chair that seemed to be expecting him.
Saddam sat down, a big grin on his face. Finally—something to enjoy in heaven!
“I am honored,” he addressed Stalin. “I never dreamed I would ever meet you. You are the one man I admire above all others. You killed so many, and were so efficient at it. I can only hope that I have carried on your impressive tradition.”
“You didn’t do too badly,” Stalin replied. “Of course, nothing could equal my gulags. They were unparalleled models of barbarism.”
“Uh, not to be disrespectful,” Saddam countered. “But I think my wood chippers and acid baths win the award for barbarism.”
“What about my gas chambers?’ Hitler cut in.
“Too quick,” Saddam sniffed. “What was there to enjoy? The victims were dead before they could really suffer.”
“Well, then, what about my meat hooks?” Hitler persisted. “They were nice and slow, believe me.”
Saddam shrugged. “I had meat hooks too,” he bragged.
“Boys, boys,” Mussolini interjected. “There’s no use arguing. Where will it get you?”
“We’re not arguing,” said Stalin. “We’re reminiscing.”
“Ah, the good old days,” Hitler sighed. “What have we got now? An eternity of sitting in this bar with nothing to do!”
“Surely there are ways to enjoy oneself in heaven,” said Saddam.
“Name me one!” Pol Pot grumbled.
“Well…” Saddam struggled to come up with a worthwhile activity, but he could not. No torture, no war, no sex…”
“You can eat!” he said at last. “There are many restaurants here.”
“Yes, we can eat,” grunted Mussolini. “But that gets old, believe me. Eating and sleeping. When your soul thirsts for blood. And reminiscing gets old too. If I’ve heard Joe’s story about the time he purged the whole Politburo once, I’ve heard it a million times!”
Saddam began to get a sick feeling and his muscles began to twitch. If what his fellow tyrants said was true, he would quickly go out of his mind here.
“Why don’t we revolt?” he suggested.
“Revolt?” The others looked at him as though he had already gone insane.
“Yes, revolt! We will get an army together and we will take God out! He’s at the root of all our misery, after all.”
“I believe that’s been tried,” Stalin remarked dryly.
“And where is Satan now?” Saddam asked triumphantly. “The ruler of his own kingdom, that’s where! Gentlemen, we too could have our own kingdom, with very little effort. God has no armies, no defenses. He’s a pushover.”
“Hah!” Hitler snorted. “We have no weapons or armies either.”
“So let’s round them up!”
“Out of what? “ Stalin inquired. “Thin air? You still don’t understand, do you? These things do not exist here! Period. You cannot make a piroshki with no dough—or a pita, for that matter.”
“Or a strudel,” added Hitler.
Saddam felt trapped. “I need a drink,” he said.
“Did you hear that, fellows?” laughed Papa Doc. “He needs a drink!”
All the tyrants roared.
“What’s so funny?” Saddam asked. “This is a bar, isn’t it?”
“Yes—a bar with no alcohol!” Papa Doc chortled. “All you can drink here is some godawful concoction they call a Shirley Temple.”
Saddam rose. “To hell with heaven!” he said.
“Where are you going?” asked Stalin.
“To the other place, that’s where! I am sure it is much more interesting than this.”
“No, it’s worse,” said Hitler. “We tried it.”
“How could anything be worse than boredom with no end?”
“You’ll see,” said Stalin.
Saddam turned to Mohammed Mohammed, who all this time had been standing quietly in the corner. “Take me to hell! Now!”
“As you wish,” Mohammed agreeably replied.
“We’ll save your seat for you,” Stalin called after him. “You’ll be back before we can say ‘KGB’!”
Mohammed led Saddam to an elevator. The doors opened and they got in. Down, down, down the lift went. When the doors finally opened, Saddam saw everything he’d been missing. Gorgeous girls, stark naked, waved to him as they belly danced to sultry music. There were great casks of wine and long tables groaning with an endless array of mouthwatering dishes. Over the music, faint screams could be heard.
“The torture chambers!” Saddam exulted.
Mohammed led Saddam to Satan, a fat gentleman who reclined on a velvet sofa.
“Here he is,” said Mohammed Mohammed.
“Saddam Hussein!” beamed Satan. “Have a seat. Girls, say hello to Saddam.”
Saddam sat down. The girls fluttered around him. He laughed with delight and grabbed the nearest breast.
“Ah,” he sighed. “This is more like it!”
“What can I do for you?” asked Satan.
“Why, I’ve come here to live,” said Saddam. “Heaven was just too…”
“I know, I know,” Satan grinned.
“I trust I’ll have my palaces here. And my secret police, and my torture chambers, and my virgins.”
“Oh, heavens—pardon the expression—no!” Satan burst into a most unpleasant cackle.
“But all these things are here, aren’t they?”
“Yes,” nodded Satan. “But they aren’t for you to enjoy. They’re for me!”
“What?” Saddam was thoroughly confused.
“You have two choices here,” explained Satan. “One, for every man, woman, and child you tortured and executed, you will spend a year in one of your wood chippers. Now, this may not be so bad. According to our records, your victims only total one million, seven hundred ninety two thousand, six hundred and six. So your repayment will be finished in less than two million years!”
“Two million years in a wood chipper?” Saddam was dumbfounded. “That is too horrible to contemplate! What is the other choice?”
“Far, far worse,” Satan replied. “For every man, woman and child you tortured and executed, you must spend a year doing good.”
“Doing GOOD?” Saddam howled as though Satan had poked him with his pitchfork. “These are terrible choices! Now I know why the other tyrants chose heaven!”
“It’s all up to you,” Satan shrugged.
“Get me out of here!” Saddam ran to Mohammed Mohammed, waving his hands hysterically.
“Where would you like to go?” asked Mohammed Mohammed.
“Back! Back to Baghdad! This afterlife stinks!”
“I’m afraid that’s impossible,” Mohammed Mohammed replied.
“Who are you to tell me what’s possible and what isn’t?” screamed Saddam.
“I am the one in charge of your destiny,” Mohammed Mohammed smiled.
“You?” Saddam shook his fist at his companion. “A servant? A worm?”
“That is not who I am.”
“Then who ARE you?” Saddam bellowed.
“I am one of your victims.”
“One of my victims?”
“Yes. You had me tortured and put to death.”
“I did nothing to you! I’ve never even set eyes on you!”
“Nonetheless, you were the supreme commander. Those who acted under you acted for you. You alone are responsible for those things done in your name.”
“Then you must have deserved your fate!”
“No one deserves such a fate,” Mohammed Mohammed said softly. “Not even you.”
Saddam stared, uncomprehending. Was this man showing him mercy?
“Do you mind,” he said, in a more accommodating tone, “if we step outside? It’s getting awfully warm in here.”
Indeed, the flames of hell were beginning to get to him at last.
“Really?” Mohammed said. “I hadn’t noticed.”
He pushed the elevator button. Up, up, up they went, to the level marked “Plaza.” As they stepped out into the bright celestial light, Saddam breathed a deep sigh of relief. The words “thank you” rose to his lips, but he quickly squelched them. He had never uttered them before, and he wasn’t about to start. It could become a dangerous precedent.
“What do you mean, you’re in charge of my destiny?” he said instead.
“When I arrived in heaven,” explained Mohammed, as they began walking, “I was full of rage against you. So, when God asked me what I would like my first assignment to be, I replied ‘Revenge against Saddam Hussein!’
“’What sort of revenge?’” asked God.
“I replied that I wanted you to suffer as you had made me, and so many others, suffer. I thought torture would be justice. But God said, ‘Think about it. The screams of a tortured man cut into a good man’s heart like a thousand swords. No one who has an ounce of compassion in them could endure seeing another human being, no matter how despicable, suffer so terribly.’
“So there was the irony. In torturing you, it was I who would be tortured. Then God said, ‘What does Saddam Hussein hate more than anything? What makes him so angry that he must do everything in his power to annihilate it?’
“’Good!’ I replied. ‘Saddam hates anything and anyone who is good.’
”’Then why not condemn him to an eternity of doing that which he hates?’ suggested God.
“This was sheer brilliance, I realized. Not only would you be miserable forever, but it would be a far more efficient use of your energy.”
“But I haven’t chosen to do good yet!” Saddam reminded him. “I could remain in Heaven with the other tyrants, doing nothing.”
“Do you really relish the idea of going mad with boredom?” Mohammed Mohammed asked.
“And being ground to bits in a wood chipper for two million years is even less appealing, isn’t it?”
Saddam nodded vigorously.
“So, it seems that doing good is the only reasonable alternative,” said Mohammed Mohammed.
“But I don’t even know how to start!” groaned Saddam. “I’ve never done one single good thing in my life!”
“Don’t worry,” Mohammed Mohammed patted him on the shoulder. “It’s simple. All you have to do is follow instructions.”
Follow instructions? When he, Saddam, had always been the one to give them? It was the height of humiliation. But, as there was no Minister of Information here to proclaim victory in the midst of defeat, Saddam had to surrender. So, with great disgust and a pain in his stomach that resembled acute indigestion, he grudgingly embarked on his new life. And now, whenever anything good happens—a cure for a disease, a home for a stray animal, a grant for the arts, a life saved, even, someday, peace throughout the world—who is to say that it isn’t Saddam we have to thank?
Oh, he may not be happy about it. He might even tell you to keep your thanks to yourself. But at least he’s being kept out of mischief. And the world is a far better place for that.
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Senior editor Mary Beth Crain’s last piece for SoMA was Night of the Laughing Dead.
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