When a world leader's knowledge of events comes from an alternate universe, it's something quite different.
Putin, Sarkozy, and Who Hanged Hussein: Reality Check, Please!An EU-Russia summit was coming up, when French President Sarkozy's chief diplomatic adviser repeated a conversation that Sarkozy had, back in August, with Russian Premier Vladimir Putin.
Odds are, looking at how reasonable Sarkozy seemed, and the impression Putin left, that Sarkozy's adviser was sloping the summit field in France's favor.
Here's how TimesOnline reported their little talk:
"With Russian tanks only 30 miles from Tbilisi on August 12, Mr Sarkozy told Mr Putin that the world would not accept the overthrow of Georgia's Government. According to Mr Levitte, the Russian seemed unconcerned by international reaction. 'I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls,' Mr Putin declared.
"Mr Sarkozy thought he had misheard. 'Hang him?' — he asked. 'Why not?' Mr Putin replied. 'The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein.'
"Mr Sarkozy, using the familiar tu, tried to reason with him: 'Yes but do you want to end up like [President] Bush?' Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: 'Ah — you have scored a point there.' "
"The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein"?I don't see an end to stories about America invading Iraq unilaterally (along with about two dozen other countries. (Count them.)) I'm also quite sure that, decades from now, stories about Jesuit assassins in league with Masons and Jews will be doing the rounds.
That sort of thing has been part of the background noise in American society, at least, all my life.
But, the prime minister of a major power saying that "the Americans hanged Saddam Hussein" is a little disturbing.
Let's check the facts:
- Saddam Hussein is dead
- Iraqis executed him
- An Iraqi court
- Heard his case
- Convicted him
- Sentenced him
The American government did play a part in the execution. American officials tried to delay the execution, since they thought it would be seen as Shiite payback, not justice. Which, in some quarters, is how it went down. An unauthorized video of the hanging didn't help.
And, an American-led coalition did remove Saddam Hussein from power.
But after that, it was an Iraqi government's Iraqi judge who tried Saddam Hussein, and Iraqi executioners who let him know, personally, how they felt about the way he'd been running their country.
But, according to Premier Putin, "the Americans hanged Saddam Hussein."
Metaphorical, Or Muddled?Putin's "the Americans hanged Saddam Hussein" and Putin's crudely surgical plans for Georgia's Saakashvili might well be whimsical metaphor. It's quite possible that Putin is aware that Iraq is an independent country, and that an Iraqi court found Saddam Hussein guilty of some rather unpleasant offenses.
Or, he may really believe that "the Americans hanged Saddam Hussein."
Either way, I'm pretty sure that Putin's over-the-top statement will be defended. On American college campuses, if nowhere else. He is Russian, you know. And that still counts for something.
In the news:
- "Vladimir Putin 'wanted to hang Georgian President Saakashvili by the balls' "
TimesOnline (November 14, 2008)