MANILA, December 16, 2003  (STAR) This is the way a tyrant falls: trapped in a hole in the ground, wearing a false beard, hair unkempt, unable to put up even token resistance. Those who admired Saddam Hussein for standing up to the Americans for many years were reportedly aghast that he allowed himself to be captured by the forces responsible for the deaths of his sons and the collapse of his regime. Tyrants, however, are often cowards, bullying only those who can’t fight back, concerned only about their own survival.

Saddam Hussein proved to be no different. The man who ruled Iraq with an iron hand for a generation tried to maintain some dignity befitting a former president – an impossible task when one is videotaped being poked and examined for dental cavities, looking like a straggler from World War II.

And yet even in his public humiliation, the sight of Saddam clearly stirred powerful emotions among the people he had oppressed for two de-cades. Iraqi journalists watching his video images started shouting and demanding his death. Men and women wept in the streets of Iraq, probably recalling unspeakable horrors perpetrated by Saddam’s regime. Eight months after his mammoth statue came tumbling down in the heart of Baghdad, the streets of the Iraqi capital were once again filled with celebration.

American officials and the US-backed Iraqi Governing Council have been quick to point out that they do not expect Saddam’s fall to spell the end of attacks on occupation forces of the coalition. Saddam’s capture also cannot gloss over the fact that the coalition has failed to find weapons of mass destruction – the casus belli for the attack on Iraq.

For now, however, the free world can only rejoice over the capture of one of the world’s worst despots. Saddam turned Iraq into a private playground for himself and his equally abusive sons. Now the sons are gone and Saddam faces trial for crimes against humanity. It’s a moment to savor amid the continuing chaos in Iraq.

BULLETIN EDITORIAL: The yellow badge of the bully: by Adrian E.. Cristobal

SADDAM Hussein, the monster who inspired awe and terror, was caught like a rat, a coward. He was, in spite of his crimes against humanity, no Hitler, who committed suicide rather than face defeat. The self-proclaimed heir of Saladin and Haruon al-Raschid was a fraud, a cruel fraud, but a fraud just the same. It’s not a trivialization of his inhumanity to call him a bully, but he was, for all the agony he caused, a bully just the same.

A king’s ransom of blood and treasure went into tracking him down to justify the invasion of Iraq as a response to 9/11, whose perpetrator remains at large. The war divided nations, but Saddam’s capture makes it worthwhile. “All’s well that ends well.’’

History is full of such ironies. Monsters can only be fought with monstrous methods, although unlike in olden days, he is not subjected to horrible tortures. He will be tried and sentenced, the final humiliation of those who have risen so high. But it’s not certain that such a lesson will impress the next madman, monster, or despot.

Saddam’s exiled enemies knew him to be a coward, that’s what they say. But they had to flee because of his ruthless power. And there hangs the tale: How could such a coward in a culture that exalts courage have commanded such obedience as to remain in power and cause untold suffering for so long? With “a little help from my friends,’’ as the song goes, who are assuredly as ruthless and more courageous than he.

We Filipinos have a saying: The bully is only brave because he has companions around him. He cannot stand alone, his so-called courage bolstered by the safety of numbers. The brave, in times gone by, walked alone.

But the bully has a strange charisma to his followers and aides, who do his bidding out of odd prestige and obvious profit, and yet so many sacrifice themselves as well as others for him. There is this chemistry among cruel cowards.

Birds of the same feather are the same birds.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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