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We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones
to public office.
─ Aesop

There’s nothing quite like a public hanging to brace the
spirits and fortify a sense of moral rectitude. The days are long gone when
engraved invitations were sent out for the executions of the famous but the
uniquely barbarous exhibition didn’t disappear because it failed to draw
enthusiastic crowds. Official hangings are now private or unknown not for lack
of popularity, but out of a sort of institutional embarrassment at such
shocking violence.

The Middle East  is the last
refuge of the ever popular, but now almost unknown spectacle. The Imams in Iran reportedly
hanged a 16-year old girl in 2004 for “An Act of Immorality,” presumably the
obvious one. A couple of teenage boys met the same fate for an alleged
homosexual rape. The barbarism of publicly hanging children is offered to us as
one of many reasons Iran
would be better off liberated by the U.S. Army. It makes a strong argument.

Then suddenly, as if to show the Muslims that Uncle Sam won’t
be topped, his puppets in Iraq treat us to what is perhaps the first world-wide
public hanging, that of Saddam Hussein. You can see it on the internet. What a
wonderful thing is modern communication technology.

Without the daily Iraq fear mongering here in Central America I read
about it in a Spanish language newspaper the day after it happened. There
was a picture on the page right out of the American West. A hooded guy was
snuggling down the absurdly large “necktie” that he had just thrown over
Hussein’s head. Frontier justice dished out for all the world to see, courtesy
of the Unitary Decider.

Something scratched at the back of my mind, however. It was
the single theme running through the whole sorry enterprise, that of tireless, bald-faced,
mendacity. From the physics defying feats of 9/11 by the turbaned fanatics of
Afghanistan, to the constantly morphing whoppers about horrible WMDs to the
assassination of the ever slippery, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was, depending on
who you talk to, an evil genius or barely functional mental defective, those
conducting the war in Iraq have served up steaming heaps of lies, carefully
engineered illusions and rigidly controlled propaganda to Americans and the world.

That literally tens of millions of Americans simply accept
the current junta’s lies with a shrug before getting back to toiling for their
flat screen TV’s and granite countertops speaks eloquently of the sorry mental
and moral state we’ve come to. That apparently few of us can manage outrage, or
even a mild annoyance at being so thoroughly manipulated illustrates the truth
of the notion that people get the government they deserve.

So when I hear through an AP report that the Wicked Witch is
dead I’m sorry to say my Propaganda Alarm went off once again. I recall the
story that ran in papers world wide, (but not in the US corporate press) that Hussein’s
wife of 25 years when taken to visit the newly captured dictator declared it
wasn’t him.  I remember reports of
Hussein having never slept in the same bed two nights in a row and how he used
a small squad of look-alikes. I remember the reports of his having escaped Iraq on a flight to Minsk. I notice his fine pricey dental work
in early photos and how that work seems to have been torn out and replaced with
stained, ragged choppers in photos of him in captivity.

Of course, I’m a conspiracy-addled paranoid nut-job. It’s
what I do. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve heard so many lies from the same
official sources that I now assume they are all lies. I don’t believe Lee
Harvey Oswald acted alone. I don’t believe an airplane flying into a skyscraper
could break every piece of steel in the building into neat little sections. I
don’t believe a bunch of rag heads with box cutters could make the North American
Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) take a day off. I don’t believe a 757
could crash into the first floor of a building without messing up the lawn in
front of it or at least leaving some debris on the grass.

And I can’t help but wonder who they hanged in the photos on
the internet and whether the hanging gave Americans a sense that they are getting good
value for their children’s blood.