Foreign Policy

What Saddam Hussein Can Teach Us About Liberals

| by Suzanne Venker

Robert Ellis is a retired master sergeant in the Army Reserves who knew Saddam Hussein better than anyone else. For 8 months in his deployment at Camp Cropper near Baghdad, Robert was responsible for the health and well-being of the Army s high-value detainees depicted on the infamous deck of cards showing Iraq's Most Wanted. One of his charges was Saddam Hussein -- who was known by his code name, Victor.

In Ellis’s new book, Caring for Victor: A U.S. Army Nurse and Saddam Hussein,” Ellis describes the complicated relationship he had with the dictator. Marianna Riley, who co-wrote the book with Ellis, notes that “as cruel and demonic Saddam Hussein may have been as a human being, Ellis was still able to make a connection and a bond with him, which is the focus of the book,” writes Don Corrigan in The Webster-Kirkwood Times, a local paper here in St. Louis, where Ellis is from.It was Ellis' job to “ensure all detainees received humane treatment."

“All of them," he says, "and that included Saddam Hussein.” Ellis checked Hussein’s blood pressure and listened to his complaints. As time went on, the two became “more friendly and spent time together,” writes Corrigan, which was encouraged by Ellis' commanding officers. As a result, Ellis – and subsequently, his co-author Riley – got a lesson in good vs. evil.“[Hussein] wasn’t evil 24/7,” says Ellis. “He did some good things. He provided free health care in his country.

He got an award from UNESCO for improving literacy. He introduced Western-style banking and women had some clout in the Iraqi communities.” As his co-author Riley states, “I’ve had to try to internalize the fact that good and evil can exist inside the same person.”

I bring this story to light because it offers great insight into the liberal mind. The idea that a person can be bad, or evil, or no good (pick your term) is lost on modern liberals.

Today's liberalism includes the belief that all people are intrinsically good. We are all essentially the same at heart. Thus, if someone (even Saddam Hussein) does bad things, it isn't because he's an inherently bad person. Rather, he's simply misguided -- or society put him in this unfortunate position. Such is the basis for all liberal thought. Conservatives, on the other hand, have no trouble reconciling the good/evil divide.

They don't see Hussein (or anyone else) as evil some of the time. If you're evil, you're evil. There's no 24/7 or 14/3 about it.Getting close to someone who's bad (remember Dead Man Walking?) is all fine and good. It's certainly a fascinating look (I enjoyed that movie) into human nature, and anyone who does get that close to evil will certainly see another side to the person. No doubt this experience would make it difficult to see the person as completely evil. Unfortunately, this has the unintended effect of "letting the person off the hook" -- which doesn't bode well for society.

What I liked about DMWalking was that Sean Penn still had to suffer his fate despite being loved and understood by someone prior to his demise. In too many courts today, being loved and understood translates to the guilty party being let back in to mainstream society to do more evil. Bottom line: There's a time and place to be tough -- when emotions shouldn't prevail. Saddam Hussein is a perfect example.