By Doug Patton
December 15, 2003
“Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?”
- Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (Daniel 4:30)
Nebuchadnezzar, King of the Babylonian Empire in the 6th Century BC, was a self-serving, maniacal tyrant. At the time of his reign, Babylon is believed to have been the largest city in the world, covering some 2,500 acres. Nebuchadnezzar built monuments to himself, and when he tired of that, he built a city-state that, at the time of its ascension, was the most feared and hated in that region of the world.
Sound like anyone we know?
For much of his life, Saddam Hussein fancied himself a cross between Josef Stalin and King Nebuchadnezzar. When American troops raided his opulent palaces, they found books, papers, photos and other paraphernalia indicating an obsession with Stalin. Politically, Saddam patterned his cruel, iron-fisted rule after the equally malevolent former Soviet dictator.
But it was Nebuchadnezzar with whom Saddam felt a special kinship. His uncle, with whom he had lived as a boy, had raised him on stories of Nebuchadnezzar’s empire, and young Saddam began to identify with the former Babylonian King.
After attempting to satiate his lust for power and recognition by erecting statues of his own image and incredible palaces for his hedonistic pleasure, Saddam planned to rebuild Babylon. He intention was to reconstruct the city Nebuchadnezzar had made famous, and to make it a great monument to himself. Bricks for the project were even stamped, “Built in the age of Saddam Hussein.”
As is so easily done, Saddam apparently failed to read the rest of King Nebuchadnezzar’s story. The Old Testament teaches that because of his colossal arrogance, Nebuchadnezzar was humbled by God, losing not only his kingdom but also his mind – after which he roamed the fields living like a mindless animal.
Does this not sound much like the way we found Saddam Hussein last weekend – dazed, confused, reduced to simple survival? After a life of opulence few of us can imagine, he was pulled from a hole in the ground clinging to wads of cash used for paying off anyone who might betray his whereabouts.
To those for whom the rest of life has mattered little until this man was captured or killed, there must be such a collective sigh of relief as has rarely ever been heard across the region. Like all who have ever been rescued from the tyranny of tyrants, freedom is a universal human desire, one planted in the heart of man by God Himself. This is what President Bush means when he says that “Freedom is not America’s gift to the world; it is God’s gift to humanity.”
Yet, in practice, freedom is a new concept in the Arab world. Oppression has been the rule for so long that most Iraqis have scarcely allowed themselves to dream of the sort of liberty we take for granted.
The significance of Saddam’s capture is incalculable. The threat of his return is gone. For 25 million Iraqis, the relief cannot be measured. And for America, another terrorist breeding ground is gone – a fact being glossed over by the enemies of freedom here at home.
If Saddam is tried publicly, it will be – to paraphrase his own words from the Gulf War – “the mother of all trials.” Most likely, he will be executed for crimes against humanity. The end of Nebuchadnezzar’s story was one of redemption. He saw his error and acknowledged God as sovereign over the affairs of men. Such an end is unlikely for Saddam, but his final chapter is yet to be written.
Doug Patton is a freelance columnist who has served as a speechwriter and policy advisor for federal, state and local candidates, elected officials and public policy organizations. His weekly columns can be read in newspapers across the country, on www.MensNewsDaily.com, and on www.GOPUSA.com, where he serves as the Nebraska Editor. He also writes for Talon News Service (www.TalonNews.com). Readers can e-mail him at email@example.com.