Thursday, 5 May 2011

Funny story

A few days ago Osama Bin Laden was killed. In my staff break room I saw the report on the front page of the Daily Telegraph....."He died cowering behind his wife", it said. "That's a lie", I said, brooking no argument. We joked about how it was because I knew him so well. The next day, the Telegraph printed the White House retraction....he did NOT die cowering behind his wife, they said.

This is why I said it was a lie.

Once upon a time I was hitchiking, it's not important where or when. A car stopped, an impressive, fast car, driven by a man with a sharp shirt and even sharper eyes. The kind of eyes you see in a nightclub shining with frantic sweat and amphetamine frenzy, old eyes, that have seen years before you and know your type, before you've ever opened your mouth. No question unanswered, never embarassed, always got a comeback. Eyes that miss nothing and tell less. He had a memorable tattoo and the air of a genuine Bad Boy, all grown up. Forties, I'd say, lean legs and a desert tan, the kind where skin is shocked by the sun, doesn't have time to bronze or glow, just goes straight to brown over red, oven baked. An air of total confidence.

We talked, chatted. Telling each other who we were in the way you can when you're hitchiking. Sometimes it's open, things you never share with someone else, sometimes it's showing off, all the best stories come out, impessing each other with equal adventures. We bonded on freedom, me and this man, freedom of lifestyle, of movement and freedom from fear. My fearlessness a tenuous thread compared to his solid streak but it existed, nonetheless, and he saw it. So life stories came out. And jobs and work and things we do. So he was a soldier first, Special Forces, Marines. Then later a bodyguard. High up. Parliamentary. Then to the president of Iraq. As you can expect, this dominated the rest of the conversation.

I was disbelieving at first. He handed me a business card, phone numbers in New York, Kuwait. Shiny silver logo and a company name that was later nowhere to be found on the internet. His company does not exist on the internet. I found one mention of it, on a Special Forces notice board that said that the poster had been offered a job with said company and asking for information. Another poster said they would message him off board. That is all.

We talked about many things, about corruption, about bribery, about the large scale movement of masses of people to make space for oil pipelines, about how I could not possibly realise how truly insignificant the ordinary person is. It's hard to relate now, years later, the things that he told me, there are no specific stories, no memorable facts, it all blew away as I got out of the car, like sand in the wind, leaving me clawing for truth like a jabbering mind lost in conspiracies and delusions, bleared eyes imploring you to believe.

There was one story he told me though, and I can tell you that here.

Saddam Hussein was not discovered cowering in a bunker. He did not have his secret bare hiding place where he lived alone on tins of beans and bitterness, the fallen emperor. He was living in gated luxury, surrounded by bodyguards. One of whom sold him, received a reward of millions of American dollars, gave him to the conquerors. The American army came to his house, they took him, captured him. Exchanged his uniform for ragged cloth, did not allow him to shave. Then they took him to the hole and put him in it. Called the media and discovered him all over again.

Saddam Hussein was not discovered cowering in a bunker. The Americans put him there and took his picture for propaganda purposes. The ex-bodyguard of the President of Iraq told me.

Now I know that one thing is true, he really was who he said he was. How do I know if I couldn't find him on the internet? Well, a year or two later, one year ago from now, a friend sent me a newspaper clipping. The same man had been in court, a memorable crime, concerned with the gathering of money. The ex-bodyguard to the President of Iraq, said the paper. Independent, verifiable. So he was who he said he was. And it makes it all the more likely that his stories are what they say they are. So I retell it. A conspiracy theory all of my very own.

Now you may be wondering whether this actually matters at all. Does it? The wars continue; millions of people, moment by moment, continue to do unspeakably nasty things to each other; we are still, collectively, through our massive greed and apparently incurable blindness, destroying the earth we live on. Who cares about another piece of information propping up the conspiracy riddled internet. But this really did happen to me. And so I'm sharing it. My story is a grain of fine sand, rolling on the bottom of the ocean, pushed by tides, dragged to shore. If you look away from it, you will never see it again. Concentrate, remember it.

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