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.
FEELING THREATENED: The first military commission under Kim Jong-un’s leadership to last longer than a day is a sign of a growing escalatory doctrine, an analyst said North Korea discussed assigning additional duties to its frontline army units at a key military meeting, state media said yesterday, suggesting that the country might deploy battlefield nuclear weapons targeting South Korea along the rivals’ tense border. The discussion comes as South Korean officials said North Korea has finished preparations for its first nuclear test in five years, as part of possible efforts to build a warhead to be mounted on short-range weapons capable of hitting targets in South Korea. During an ongoing meeting of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party on Wednesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and
TRADE TALK: Xiao Qian said that Australia had fired the ‘first shot’ in deteriorating trade relations with China, but improvements were possible if Canberra takes action China’s new ambassador to Australia chided protesters who heckled him yesterday during a speech about the future of relations between the two countries. Xiao Qian (肖千), who has only been in the role since January, had just begun his speech at the University of Technology Sydney when the first protesters interjected, calling for freedom for Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong. The ambassador was repeatedly interrupted by sign-wielding protesters, some criticizing China’s treatment of the Uighur people as well as the university for inviting Xiao to speak. “People who are coming again and again to interrupt the process, that’s not expression of freedom of
China’s COVID-19 outbreak is shifting to its south coast, with a flareup in Shenzhen triggering mass testing and a lockdown of some neighborhoods, while Macau — an hour’s drive away — is racing to stop its first outbreak in eight months. The new cases come as China’s two most important cities, Beijing and Shanghai, look to be subduing the virus after months of strict curbs and repeated testing. Shanghai yesterday reported nine local cases, while Beijing reported five. Nationwide, China yesterday reported 34 new COVID-19 infections. Yet new clusters continue to emerge, prompting action from local officials. Borders are increasingly under pressure, with
New Zealand stargazers were left puzzled and awed by strange, spiraling light formations in the night sky on Sunday night. At about 7:25pm, Alasdair Burns, a stargazing guide on Stewart Island, also called Rakiura, received a text from a friend saying to go outside and look at the sky. He went out and saw a huge, blue spiral of light amid the darkness. “It looked like an enormous spiral galaxy, just hanging there in the sky,” Burns said. “Quite an eerie feeling.” “We quickly banged on the doors of all our neighbors to get them out as well. And so there were