The story of how US President George W. Bush ended up with former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's pistol mounted in his private study off the Oval Office has dribbled out in the last few weeks, and it is a good one. \nAs first reported in Time magazine, the soldiers who captured Saddam in December presented the mounted sidearm as a gift to Bush in a visit to the White House. They were members of the Army's Delta Force, Bush later said, and they had confiscated the unloaded pistol from Saddam's lap when they pulled him out of his underground bunker near Tikrit. \n"It's now the property of the US government," Bush said at a news conference in Savannah, Georgia, when asked specifically about the pistol and whether he would return it to the people of Iraq. What the gun tells us about the president, the war and the relationship of the Bush family to Saddam is another story entirely. It is in many ways better, or at least more interesting, than the first. \n`father's shadow' \nThe Iraqi dictator, after all, tried to assassinate Bush's father in 1993, when he was only a year out of the White House, as payback for the 1991 Persian Gulf war that the former president George Bush had waged on Saddam. In other words, the gun is more than a gun, at least according to the Freudians. \n"It's the phallic equivalent of a scalp -- I mean that quite seriously," said Stanley Renshon, a psychoanalyst and political scientist at the City University of New York who has just completed a book, to be published by Palgrave/Macmillan in September, called In His Father's Shadow: The Transformations of George W. Bush. \nIn Renshon's view, Bush went to war for geostrategic reasons, but there was a powerful personal element as well. In short, Saddam's gun is a trophy that symbolizes victories both military and psychic. \n"There are a lot of different levels at which this operates," Renshon said. \n"The critics say this is all about finishing up Daddy's mess. I think that is way too off base to be serious. But psychology operates regardless of party line, and this seems to me to be a case in which psychology can't help but express itself, because it's a natural outgrowth of what he's been through and how he feels about it. It's perfectly normal to me," Renshon said. \nMichael Sherry, a military historian at Northwestern University, noted that there was a long record of soldiers seizing the weapons of vanquished enemies as the ultimate symbols of defeat. (Even so, it is illegal for American soldiers to take guns from an enemy and keep them for themselves, which is almost certainly why the president declared that the pistol was US government property, rather than his own.) \nRelinquishing weapons has historically been part of surrender ceremonies, even though Ulysses Grant chose not to ask for Robert Lee's sword at Appomattox Court House in 1865 and excluded officers' sidearms from the weapons that the Army of Northern Virginia was expected to turn over to him. \n`childish' \nSaddam's pistol, which Bush shows off to visitors, is a different matter altogether, Sherry said, because it was presidential acquisition by force. "Whatever specific symbolism Bush may privately attach to this token, it does make it look to the external viewer that he sees this in very personal terms," Sherry said. In the end, he said, "I'm left feeling that it sounds kind of childish." \nOther presidents, Theodore Roosevelt in particular, have had guns, and many others have kept tokens of what they consider the most historic moments of their presidencies. \nThe Ronald Reagan Library displays a graffiti-covered section of the Berlin Wall, which Reagan famously called on former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down; George Washington kept a key to the Bastille sent to him after the French Revolution by the Marquis de Lafayette, who served under Washington in the American Revolution and considered an inspiration for French liberty. \nBush keeps at least one other war-related token: the badge of George Howard, a Port Authority police officer who died at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, given to him by Howard's mother. Bush held up the badge in his address to a joint session of Congress nine days after the attacks and declared: "This is my reminder of lives that ended, and a task that does not end." \nIn that context, Saddam's pistol is a bookend of sorts, the prize of a president who viewed the badge as reason for waging two wars. To the Delta Force that brought it back, the gun is a piece of history representing nothing less than mission complete.
A CAUTIONARY TALE: Bookseller Lam Wing-kee speaks of the danger that his adopted home Taiwan now faces and the ordeal of his detention in China Lam Wing-kee (林榮基) leaned forward in his chair, answering quickly and sharply to issue a warning to the people of his new home, Taiwan. “Be ready now,” Lam said. “We should be more alert as citizens, we should get ready,” the 64-year-old Hong Konger said. “If they can take Hong Kong back, the next place, I feel, is Taiwan.” Late in Taipei at Causeway Bay Books Mark II, on the 10th floor of a nondescript building, Lam, a wiry, gray-haired bookseller, was sitting at his desk with a bemused gaze behind thin oval glasses. The desk was neat, but crowded with books and a
‘POLICE EVERYWHERE’: A law that would criminalize the publication of images of police officers was passed by the National Assembly and awaits Senate approval Violent clashes erupted in Paris on Saturday as tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against new security legislation, with tensions intensified by the police beating and racial abuse of a black man that shocked France. Several fires were started in Paris, sending acrid smoke into the air, as protesters vented their anger against the security law, which would restrict the publication of police officers’ faces. About 46,000 people marched in Paris and 133,000 in total nationwide, the French Ministry of the Interior said. Protest organizers said about 500,000 joined nationwide, including 200,000 in the capital. French President Emmanuel Macron late
Not enough beds and not enough doctors: a skyrocketing COVID-19 caseload is pushing hospitals in the Balkans to the cusp of collapse, in chaotic scenes reminding some medics of the region’s 1990s wars. After nearly a year of keeping outbreaks more or less under control, the nightmare scenario that the Balkans feared from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is now starting to unfold. In hard-hit Bosnia-Herzegovina, one doctor described the distress of having to juggle the care of multiple patients whose lives were hanging by a thread. “The situation reminds me of the war, and I’m afraid it could get even worse
The genteel world of New Zealand pottery has been rocked by a row over plans for a ceramic dildo-making workshop, sparking allegations of bullying and online abuse. Ceramicist Nicole Gaston said that she wanted the Wellington Potters’ Association to hold the event with Iza Lozano, a visiting Mexican artist who has conducted similar workshops in her homeland. Gaston said that pottery dildos are easily sterilized, can be warmed and, unlike latex versions, do not pose the risk of leeching chemicals into the body. “Some of the oldest ceramic works ever found are of phalluses,” she said. “This isn’t exactly brand new. People have