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Shaky at the Top

Michal Frischman

They’re the most powerful people in the world, but they live in ongoing fear for their lives, constantly monitoring the atmosphere around them to see if a revolution or unrest is brewing. While they help steer the direction of political systems around the globe, they can’t even walk outside their own homes without coordinating myriad security details. Because no matter how powerful or benevolent a flesh and blood ruler is, an earthly king can never be the King of Kings.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Saddam Hussein, the ruthless Iraqi dictator who ruled from 1979 until 2003, had a track record of brutality against Kurds and other minorities on one hand, and had become an archenemy of the West on the other – so it’s no wonder he was paranoid and saw danger lurking at every corner. Before the US went to war with Iraq in 2003, then White House press secretary Ari Fleischer remarked that the many billions of dollars that would inevitably be spent on a war could easily be rendered unnecessary, since the cost of one bullet from a vigilante Iraqi is substantially less expensive than years of warfare. He meant, of course, that to save all that time and trouble, someone should just try to get close enough to Saddam to shoot him. The real problem was that, even if a good world citizen caught sight of Saddam, how would he know it was the real one? A German forensic pathologist and expert in facial recognition, Dr. Dieter Buhmann studied more than 450 images and footage pieces of Saddam Hussein, compared nuanced facial features and took measurements. By lining photos up and measuring facial measurements that don’t change with expression or over time, such as the distance between the eyes, he determined that between 1998 and 2002, Saddam Hussein had used at least three different men as body doubles. That means at least three men underwent training, studied his mannerisms, and were required to impersonate him (none were allowed to speak though, because he had a telltale lisp that could not be reproduced perfectly). According to a New York Times article in 2002 discussing Saddam’s use of doubles, the obvious primary reason for Saddam to have a political decoy was to avoid being killed in public — and there were attempts, like the time he was almost killed in Dujail in 1982. Of course, when you’re dealing with this kind of cloak-and-dagger situation, conspiracy theorists abound. There are reports that the real Saddam died in 1999 from cancer, and a double had been standing as Saddam for the next seven years; others that say a double was executed in 2006, and the real Saddam is still in hiding.

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