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Saddam's capture: Angels with Dirty Faces

Spoiler Alert: if you haven't yet seen Angels with Dirty Faces you may want to skip this post, as I'm going to be revealing certain aspects of the ending. Of course if you haven't seen it during the past 67 years, chances are you're probably not chomping at the bit.

Nadim Abou Rabeh, a Marine of Lebanese descent, was quoted in a Saudi newspaper disputing the official version of Saddam's capture. According to Rabeh, Saddam was captured after a fierce gunfight during which a Marine of Sudanese descent was slain.

Rabeh's account seems ready-made for Hollywood: plenty of action, battlefield glory, patriotic Arab-Americans and the heroic death of a marine. Why would the Pentagon fabricate something so boring as finding Saddam in a hole? Why would they release an inaccurate story to downplay American heroism rather than exaggerate it (à la Jessica Lynch?)

If Rabeh's account is true, it seems the official version falls more into the category of disinformation rather than propaganda. Perhaps we thought it worth foregoing some of our own glory to deprive Saddam of any of his own. Perhaps we believed the de-mythologizing spectacle of the once-defiant Saddam, cowering pathetically in a hole, would demoralize the insurgency in Iraq as well as his supporters throughout the Arab world.

So back to the movie. James Cagney and Pat O'Brien were kids who grew up together in a tough Irish neighborhood in Hell's Kitchen. Because of a quirk of fate, they followed very different paths in life. O'Brien became a priest who worked with neighborhood orphans, and Cagney, of course, became a gangster. Despite all O'Brien's good works, it was still Cagney whom the orphan kids idolized. When Cagney was arrested and given the death sentence, there was much ado about how he would march to the chair with his head held high.

O'Brien was very concerned about the effect Cagney's heroic martyrdom might have on the boys, so he pleaded with Cagney to go "yellow" when the time came to take that last, long walk down to Old Sparky. Cagney angrily refused, and insisted that he would not, under and circumstances, go out like a coward.

When the time came, however, Cagney did "go yellow," weeping, screaming, and struggling at the restraints. The viewer is never quite sure whether this fit is genuine or the result of a change of heart for the sake of the kids and his old childhood friend. Anyway, the end result was the same. He died a "coward" in their eyes. Did the Pentagon want to de-mythologize Saddam in the same way Pat O'Brien wanted to de-mythologize James Cagney?

Now I'm not saying that's what's happening here, necessarily. In fact, I'm fairly skeptical of Rabeh's story. Here's a post by someone else who's skeptical as well, and makes an interesting case that Rabeh's story is bogus. He's probably right (and if Saddam were in a house all that time, why didn't he shave?)

Still, I won't reject Rabeh's story out of hand until more information is available. Disinformation is a tool that's been employed by every side in every war throughout history, and there's always a chance that this may be another example.


Saddam as Rocky Sullivan? You do an injustice, my friend. ;-)

Let's go and say a prayer for an Arab dictator who couldn't run as fast as I could.

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