Timed to the three-year anniversary of his execution, a Saddam Hussein-themed TV channel appeared on Iraqi airwaves this week and is basically a Baathist screensaver set to audio of late dictator's most famous speeches.
The Associated Press reports that the channel—alternately called "al-Arabi" ("the Arab") and "al-Latefa" ("the banner")—is run by one Damascus-based Mohammed Jarboua. Jarboua's keeping mum on his financiers and the location of his offices, which he says are spread across several nations, at least one which is in Europe. If that's true, then his start-up TV channel has bizarrely good resources for a network that broadcasts one long photo montage, on repeat:
It is mostly a montage of flattering, still images of Saddam—some of him dressed in military uniform, others in a suit, even one astride a white horse. One image shows his sons Odai and Qusai smiling with their father, and another their bodies after they and Saddam's grandson, Mustafa, were killed in a July 2003 gunfight with U.S. troops.
One prominently displayed image is that of a man burning an American flag. Another shows graves covered with Iraqi flags.
All the pictures are set against audio recordings of Saddam making speeches and reciting poetry. Patriotic songs urge listeners to "liberate our country." None of the pictures appear to be recent, and no announcers or commentators appear or speak.
Former members of Saddam's Baathist party, and current members of Baath offshoots, say outlawed group is behind this. SaddamTV's timing is ominous because
- 1. It is currently Eid, "the most important holiday of the Islamic calendar."
- 2. Three years ago, Saddam was executed during Eid.
- 3. Iraq's upcoming elections are falling apart and the country is at real risk of a Constitutional crisis.
Some say Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri—Saddam's former right-hand man who has been in hiding since the Iraq War and now leads the outlaw Baath party—is running the channel, which, though troubling, is also a bit pathetic. Saddam's No. 2 has been pooling his cronies' resources for years, and the most menacing act he could come up with was the equivalent of a YouTube video tribute to a war buddy? Even in America this wouldn't be particularly frightening. In Iraq, it's downright polite.