When I visited Iraq in 1999, it was a time when journalistic work was compromised by the overbearing propaganda managed by the Saddam
regime. It was a time when “freedom of press” was only permitted under the watchful eye of the regime. Journalists were directed to the bedsides of sick Iraqi children, who were used as exhibits of the effect of the sanctions imposed on the country.
In one of the hospitals I visited in Baghdad, a doctor led us to the bedside of 8 year old Sahira, a child struggling to survive, as the cancer consumed her body. There was no medication available at the time, and we stood by and watched this little child lose her battle for life. The camera recorded her last moments, an action that was encouraged by the Iraqi regime at the time.
It was stories of dying and sick children, such as Sahira, that Saddam wanted the world to see. But unfortunately the concern was not for the children or their families. Whispers from some families, suggesting that medication was deliberately cut off or prevented, revealed that there was a disturbing ulterior motive. Some families were prevented from burying their children, as the authorities requested them to wait until there were enough children dead to
hold mass funerals and burials. It was the images of many families burying their children at one time that the Saddam regime wanted to release to the international media.
It was clear that the Saddam regime were manipulating and inducing the misery of countless families in order to use this to their own advantage.
Consequently the Iraqi people suffered as a result of the blockades imposed by the international community, and at the hands of their dictator’s regime, that aimed to take advantage of their anguish.
And now we move from one form of propaganda to another, as we consider the pictures of Saddam Hussein recently leaked to “The Sun” a British tabloid.
Pictures of Saddam in his underwear on the front cover, and another of him washing his clothes, lead us to wonder what motives lay behind the leaking of these pictures, But regardless of motive, we can be sure that the publication of these pictures will not bring Sahira back to life.
Celebrating at pictures of a half-naked tyrant washing his clothes will not return the lives or restore the dignity of the thousands of victims prosecuted under the Saddam regime. This is not the way to heal the wounds of Saddam’s victims. Using the same style of propaganda will not be punishment for Saddam; on the contrary, his influence will be preserved.
Iraqi people suffered at the mercy of Saddam for decades, but in order to attempt to restore dignity and heal deep wounds, he must go to trial. Every violation committed by his regime and the Baath Party must be disclosed, so that all those who collaborated and participated in afflicting pain on the Iraqi people are bought to justice. This is the only way to mend the damage, once again raising the question, why publish those pictures of the “Tyrant in his