Jon Snow, the aging abbot of Channel 4 News, has tweeted about the death of Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein’s henchman deputy, who has died in prison. Apparently Snow “spent time with Tariq Aziz, interviewed him often“, and this is the basis upon which he is deemed to have been a “nice guy”. Isn’t it possible to smile and smile and be a villain? “Christian that he was – they didn’t kill him, they just let him rot to death in jail,” you see. The problem wasn’t the man, but the circumstances in which he found himself: “Nice guy in a nasty situation – made no better by Bush/BLair’s Shock and Awe.”
“Nasty situation”? As if genocide, torture, persecution and mass murder were nothing but a slight inconvenience to a few babes in the woods. Yes, Twitter is somewhat limited in its expression, but nasty situations are rough and beastly, not murderous and tyrannical. Tariq Aziz was content to be the public face of Saddam’s machinery of repression which visited war on its neighbours and citizens alike. He was about as nice as Hermann Göring.
Did Jon Snow tweet-mourn the death of Margaret Thatcher? “Nice gal in a nasty situation – made no better by Scargill/Kinnock loony left socialism.” Well, actually, he did have a fetish for The Lady: “..she didn’t give a fig whether you liked her or not. And indeed for that, at least, I sort of did.” But Tariq Aziz? The Ba’athist representative of a murderous regime? Does the fact that he was a Chaldean Catholic among Sunni thugs exonerate the slaughter of Marsh Arabs and the gassing of Kurds in Halabja? What was Aziz doing through all this? Praying: “Father forgive Saddam, he knows not what he does”?
What kind of “nice guy” upholds tyranny and sustains oppression? What kind of “nice guy” smiles at the TV cameras while women and children are being roasted alive by napalm? Tariq Aziz was tried by the Iraqi High Tribunal and found guilty of crimes against humanity. “He was the ‘beard’ on a fascist government. The Ribbentrop of Iraq,” says Times columnist David Aaronovitch. Why does Jon Snow trust they got it right for Saddam but wrong for Aziz?
Perhaps the secret to fathoming Jon Snow’s compassion is to be found in his reference to “Bush/BLair’s Shock and Awe”, which he tweets with evident loathing. Anyone who sets their face against the idiot Bush and the phony Blair must be a “nice guy”. After all, he only used a medium-sized revolver to execute Saddam’s scapegoats and political irritants. There was evident compassion in that. He shot them at close range, too. No languishing in pools of blood. No agony or suffering. Unless you were Kurdish, of course, and then you were cluster-bombed. Nasty situation, that.
Still, at least Tariq Aziz was better than what followed. But then so was Saddam. While Islamic State and Saudi-Salafists rampage through the desert – raping nine-year-old girls, selling Yazidi women into slavery, wiping out the Christians – they must long for days of genteel Saddam and nice-guy Tariq, who was, no doubt, only following orders.