December 18, 2003


Can someone please explain to me just why a simple health check is so disgusting and degrading? Sydney Morning Herald reader Michelle Withers -- a doctor herself, so presumably sheís participated in far more invasive procedures -- is all enraged and furious, but doesnít actually reveal whatís so damn wrong about it:

I would like to express my deep disgust at the recent television coverage of Saddam Hussein undergoing a medical examination. These pictures, broadcast repeatedly around the world, violate the most fundamental principles of human rights and the doctor-patient relationship. To so degrade this man, whatever his crimes, belittles us all.

Withers mustíve wigged out completely when Katie Couric shoved a camera up her butt in the name of colo-rectal research. Maybe thatís next for Saddam (in which case I vote for a sturdy Hasselblad H1). In fact, hasnít Saddam served a Couric-like purpose with his health-care tape, helping to remind psychopathic dictators everywhere that, hey, those teeth and gums arenít going to take care of themselves, you know? Better go lie down in a spider hole until a doctor shows up.

The SMHís Miranda Devine shares my puzzlement:

After all, being videotaped with a tongue depressor in your mouth seems less grim than being hung upside down and beaten on the soles of your feet, or having bits of your body cut off, or just living each day in fear of capricious arrest.

Also via Miranda, the SMH finally publishes something correcting Gobbler Ramseyís plastic turkey story:

The Australian's Phillip Adams and the Herald's Alan Ramsey were the most gung-ho local propagators of the myth. Adams devoted an entire column to it: "It was a prop turkey, a pretend turkey ... the President had taken a plastic turkey - one used for gourmet magazine shoots - to the mess hall."

Imagine if Saddam had been forced to pose with a Thanksgiving turkey. Michelle Withers would be outraged at this clear violation of the chef-diner relationship. It belittles us all.

UPDATE. Mark Steyn, published in The Australian, also takes on the turkeys:

I was saddened to see my old friend Mark Lawson of The Guardian falling for the canard that Bush served up a "plastic turkey" for Thanksgiving (a mistake that The Sydney Morning Herald's Alan Ramsey and The Australian's Phillip Adams also made) and deducing from this that the President was in desperate fear of being a one-termer. No doubt he's already moved on to mocking the pathetic attempt to serve up Hussein's lice-infested head on a platter to the gullible American public just in time for Christmas.

Posted by Tim Blair at December 18, 2003 12:04 AM

I wonder if it really wasn't so much a health check as it was a security check. Make sure he wasn't carrying cyanide or a razor or something. Or does that only happen in the movies?

Posted by: RickySuerte at December 18, 2003 at 01:41 AM

Well, we can be pretty sure he didn't have a razor.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at December 18, 2003 at 02:51 AM

To paraphrase Jebediah Springfield, seeing the once-proud tyrant undergoing a medical exam embiggens even the most oppressed man.

Posted by: Bud Norton at December 18, 2003 at 03:07 AM

Too bad the Doc doing the exam wasn't Kevorkian...

Posted by: Jerry at December 18, 2003 at 06:25 AM

Katie Couric commented after the procedure that all the viewers must feel closer to her because of it....really? I'd have run a mile by then. Imagine watching that over your rice bubbles.

Posted by: Jake D at December 18, 2003 at 07:56 AM

It was a pretty stock standard security search (yes they do them in real life), they clearly didn't want him to pull off a Herman Goering and commit suicide before the execution - making sure he couldn't kill himself was a somewhat higher priority than checking his dental health.

Posted by: Harry Tuttle at December 18, 2003 at 08:45 AM

'To so degrade this man, whatever his crimes, belittles us all.'

- Michelle Withers, Medecin Sans Brain

I'm belittled by a mass murderer having to say 'Ah' for the camera? No, I'm not, you lunatic. The rank stupidity of these idiots, quoting their qualifications like badges of honour, knows no bounds. Yesterday the catholic 'peace' groups, today the doctors and on it goes. I dread how the academics will be rewriting the script of this war and its aftermath.

Posted by: ilibcc at December 18, 2003 at 09:12 AM

Maybe they're criticising the medical examination being screened, not the medical examination itself.

Posted by: Andjam at December 18, 2003 at 11:32 AM

Nobody's divine. Miranda (or maybe a sub-editor)seems to have made a minor error:

Iraqi refugee Guzin Najim, whose husband was murdered by Saddam's intelligence agents, wept for joy on Sunday night in her south-west Sydney apartment. Saturday marked the first anniversary of her husband's death and she had been inconsolable most of the weekend.

According to AM, he was murdered eight years ago:

GUZIN NAJIM: You know, yesterday I was crying with my children because it was the eighth anniversary of my husband's death, they killed him – the regime, the secret police of Saddam Hussein, they killed my husband and they put us three years under house arrest, then we flee to Australia.

And a comment in Miranda's column seems to confirm this:

"It was the first time in eight years I saw a big smile on his face," she said yesterday. "I ran and I sat on the floor in front of CNN. We cried. We cried with joy."

Plus Guzin's bio (described elsewhere) seems to suggest she wasn't in Iraq this time last year.

Posted by: Andjam at December 18, 2003 at 12:36 PM

I would opt for an old Graflex Speed Graphic camera.
That would maximize the discomfort.

Posted by: Michael at December 18, 2003 at 12:44 PM

Wow, I'd have thought that the whole western world would share my reaction that the health-check/security-check (or whatever it was) film was great. Do sensible people really care that much about the "dignity" of a mass murderer who makes the fictional Hannibal Lecter look like a really sweet guy? These pro-fascist lefties are just plain crackers.

Posted by: Kurt at December 18, 2003 at 12:47 PM

Jeez, Kurt, get up to speed, dude. Of course we're supposed to be more concerned with the dignity of (especially a political) mass murders than we are of the minor problems of the (in this case) hundreds of thousands of victims. This is how we show our moral superiority. Get a grip.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at December 18, 2003 at 12:54 PM

bah, they think this is bad? in the seventh grade, for a science class, we had to watch somebody get some sort of eye surgery. ack ack ack.

Posted by: samkit at December 18, 2003 at 01:07 PM

That's nothing. I had a friend who insisted on watching a Learning Channel show called "The Operation," which was basically videotaped operations in graphic detail. One day I was over at her house and the show that day was of a guy having one of those pumps installed in his penis.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 18, 2003 at 01:27 PM

having people over was never like that

my god the tv was never even allowed on, now it's afternoon tea to the tune of penile surgery for dummies

Posted by: ilibcc at December 18, 2003 at 01:54 PM

My new criteria of "friend" is "not people who insist on watching tv (and leaving you standing in the middle of the living room like a misplaced lamp after giving you a distracted "oh hi") when you are visiting them." Life is too short to wait while people run through a week's taping of Survivor.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 18, 2003 at 02:35 PM

If there is one thing I take all America to task for and that is the "reality tv" crap you guys spawned on the world. If I wasn't such a lazy bastard I'd start a war with you guys. Yep, me Vs the US. Tremble in your Nike people!

I'd win on the Rambo Principle: One man with a pen knife and a torn and sweaty T-shirt will always overwhelm a large, well supplied military force as long as it looks impossible and the hero has a speech impediment or is Austrian. In fact, the carnage I would release on America is in direct proportion to my seemingly futile chance of success....hmmm given that I'm practically a nuclear weapon.....

"Hey honey is that a WMD in your pocket or are you just glad to see me"?

Right its 5pm, time to go home!

Posted by: Jake D at December 18, 2003 at 04:01 PM

1. The SH video: Who cares what lefty doctors think? SH had to be shown being identified and cared for or once again The Arab Street(tm) would have gone insane and destroyed the world. And yeah, they were checking him for Himmler-style false cyanide teeth.

2. Katy Couric: Closer to her? That butt ain't that great!

3. Anyone who has ever been in a US military mess hall on Thanksgiving knows they always have a real turkey all decked out like that. It's real but probably not eatable at the moment. The real turkey being served is already cut up. I suppose if the Prez had grabbed a tray of sliced turkey and walked around the room with it, he'd be in trouble for being unsanitary.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. And that's why you should ignore lefty MDs (she is an MD, right?).

Hillary would have done it too but she didn't recognize kitchen stuff, like serving trays.

Posted by: Winger at December 18, 2003 at 06:30 PM

What a crock of shit. The pre-enlistment med exams for the Australian Army are more invasive than that. Then again, I never lived in a palace either.....

Posted by: Osamas Psychotic Proctologist at December 18, 2003 at 08:53 PM

Not ALL SMH letter writers are dickheads:

Moral rights rate

Thank you for publishing the letter from Dr Michelle Withers (December 18). I am afraid that most of us can only aspire to a moral sensibility as sophisticated as hers.

For example, hitherto I had believed that it was murder and torture that represent violations of "the most fundamental principles of human rights".

I appreciate now that it is, in fact, appearing on television.

Peter Wheatley, Paddington, December 18.

Posted by: EvilDan at December 19, 2003 at 07:23 AM

I found out that the print version of Miranda's column had the time since Guzin Najim's husband's death correct.

Talking of good letter writers, there was one that set the record straight on where Saddam by and large got his weapons from.

Posted by: Andjam at December 19, 2003 at 03:01 PM

Andrea, I, and the frau und kinder, used to frequently watch open heart surgery and such on "The Operation," while eating dinner. Admittedly, we're a weird lot. But then, one of my brother-in-law's medical school Saturday lab exercises in cadaver dissection for his anatomy class, was turned into a family outing.

Posted by: CGeib at December 19, 2003 at 05:59 PM