A DIFERENCIA DE ALCOVERRO, John Burns sí estuvo presente en la sala ante la que compareció Saddam para oír los cargos contra él por el tribunal que lo juzgará; el veterano corresponsal del New York Times fue el único representante occidental del pool de prensa que tuvo acceso a ella. Y, a diferencia de la elegía al tirano que perpetró el corresponsal de La Vanguardia -que en ningún momento explicitaba que hablaba de segunda mano, dando a entender falsamente que narraba algo que había visto con sus propios ojos- lo que cuenta Burns es infinitamente más revelador:
It was only in the courtroom, at the American military base, that their physical insignificance, their sheer unremitting ordinariness, became so plain.Leed el resto.
On television last Thursday, the images of the 12 former Iraqi leaders conveyed an altogether bigger impression, perhaps because the lens tightened until their faces filled the screen. But to a reporter sitting 25 feet away, for the five hours it took to complete preliminary hearings against Saddam Hussein and 11 others who terrorized Iraq, they seemed to have shrunk, pressing home the question: How could these utterly unremarkable men, forgettable in any other context, have so tyrannized their 25 million countrymen that they remained unchallenged for 35 years?
[...] Before the court, at that instant, 25 years almost to the week after he seized power in Baghdad, stood Saddam Hussein al-Majid al-Tikriti, the man who awarded himself titles of honor and glory to fill a foolscap page; the man who launched, or in some measure provoked, three disastrous wars; the man whose legacy runs to countless mass graves, and to hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, his very name synonymous, across much of the world, with a totalitarianism that turned the Iraqi state into a machinery of torture and death.
The next 26 minutes were as compelling as any in a reporter's life. My notes, I realized later, were scribbled even less legibly than normal, reflecting the tension of a moment awaited, in a manner of speaking, since I reached Baghdad for the first time as a reporter nearly 15 years ago, when I imagined, hopelessly, like other Western journalists, that I might one day get an interview with Mr. Hussein: "Saddam looking wasted, emaciated, bearded; footsteps uncertain, manner exhausted, eyes scanning left and right. His voice: husky at first, then oddly high-pitched, at moments nearly breaking."
"Under strain," I wrote a minute or two later, "rubbing eyes, finger to eyebrow, hand splayed to cheek, timbre of voice changed."
On the images that rolled on Iraqi television every night until the Americans came, Mr. Hussein was always shown as indominable, his presence diminishing all others. Until he picked up a cigar at a palace meeting, nobody else in his inner councils dared; when he spoke, top aides sat expectant, heads angled reverently, pencils poised. If he joked, all laughed; if his mood darkened, all would frown.
But in the courtroom, in a mosque annex within a lakeside palace complex near Baghdad airport that serves as the American military headquarters in Iraq, he seemed, in those first moments, like nothing so much as a man quite lost.