Sunday, December 31, 2006

Like father like daughter...

It's always interesting to me how in some ways we can be determined to be so different than our parents, while at other times, no matter what happens, we can remain exactly the same as our parents.
Take, for example, "Daddy's little girl" Raghad:

Dictator's daughter told her father would hang as she enjoyed beauty salon

She was relaxing in the Dazzle beauty salon awaiting a hot stone body scrub when she got the call.

There was much arm-waving, cursing and shrieking. But as a member of staff noted when she recounted the story to another customer, this kind of behaviour from Raghad is hardly unusual.
In the beauty salon, and elsewhere in the Jordanian capital Amman, the 39-year-old mother of five, who is nicknamed "Little Saddam' because her temperament so closely resembles that of her father, is much-feared.
And like her father during his brutal reign, she is used to getting her own way, although unlike him she has relied on nothing sharper than her tongue.
Number 16 on the Iraqi government's most wanted list, Raghad took charge of family affairs after the capture of the dictator, assembling the international team of lawyers to defend him.
On the death of her brothers Uday and Qusay, killed by US troops in July 2003, Raghad and her sister Rana fled Iraq for neighbouring Jordan where, protected by paramilitary police officers, they are guests of the royal family.
It is not clear how much of her father's money Raghad escaped with, although if the stories about his ex-wives fleeing with millions in cash and gold bars are to be believed, she is unlikely to have been neglected.
Given her father's notoriety, one might expect Raghad to lead an anonymous, if not a humble, life in exile, especially as her mother Sajida and Saddam's three other wives all but disappeared without trace following the fall of Baghdad and are said to live under assumed names.
But Raghad, not one to shrink from the public gaze, went on TV on more than one occasion, at least in the months immediately after her father's capture, to defend him.
Of his arrest, she said: "Saddam was tranquillised when captured. He would be a lion even when caged. Every honest person who knows Saddam knows that he is firm and powerful."
To the annoyance of Jordanians, Raghad enjoys a conspicuously extravagant lifestyle in Amman, largely funded, it is claimed, by her hosts.
Driven wherever she pleases by bodyguards, she has an almost comical appetite for designer clothes and accessories and shops with a gusto that would earn approval from the high-spending wives and girlfriends of England's footballers.
"She buys shoes by the sack load," said a woman close to Raghad's tight circle of friends.

Raghad is said to have a penchant for Gucci handbags and £400 Sergio Rossi boots and pays for them - or rather, her personal assistant pays for them - with a thick wad of crisp US dollars.
It is perhaps not surprising then that Raghad was pampering herself in a beauty salon rather than engaging in, say, a humanitarian act on behalf of her troubled people when she learned her father's fate last week.
If not out shopping she can often be found in Dazzle, or in the Iraqi-owned ladies' gym above it - Body Design - where she works out most mornings.
They are in Amman's upmarket district of Abdoun, an area populated predominantly by wealthy Iraqi exiles. Raghad, an avid Hello! reader, also has her hair styled three times a week and is said to have received cosmetic surgery - nose, breasts, bags under the eyes - at the Amman Surgical Hospital.
What is more remarkable still is that it was Saddam who ordered the assassination of Raghad's husband, Hussein Kamel, after he disclosed Iraqi weapons secrets to MI5 and the CIA.
He was killed in 1996 after being persuaded to return to Iraq from Jordan, believing himself to have been pardoned.

When we say that someone is "heartless" or "soulless", it offers us a good opportunity to learn a little more about what it might mean to have a 'heart' or to have a 'soul', in that by learning from comparison, we can better see what is missing.
Does it seem that the lesson from this article, is that the more attuned to the merely physical and material, the more soulless one may find oneself becoming? That a necessary part of being human, is to connect to something (or someone) outside of ourselves, outside of our own flesh and blood shell? Part of this connection seems to involve seperating ourselves from the present as well, involving ourselves in both the past and the future; even though both are not in view, they must be invoked, else we fall prey too easily to the material side of life. If this mother of five ever spent five minutes thinking about all the other mothers who are now childless, thanks to her father's monstrous savagery, would she be so quick to spread out the banknotes on so many flashy shoes and fussy hair-dos? Instead, she's fixated on the present tense, seemingly to the point of obsession if she's spending so much time in beauty parlors and workout clubs, trying to preserve her temporary, youthful beauty.

For some reason I'm reminded of the ending of the film Saving Private Ryan, at the cemetary (spoiler warning), where the aged soldier starts crying at the thought of the lives sacrificed in order to save his, and he looks to his family for confirmation: "tell me I'm a good man". I wonder if Raghad is ever plagued by the slightest guilt, and whether that might account for some of her compulsive behavior, as she strives to elevate her body and "social position" to make up for the crater she feels in her heart at what has happened to get her where she now finds herself.

Fitting that fate finds Raghad at the beauty parlor, of all places, at the time of her sugar-daddy’s execution… her version of a holy place, dedicated as it is to the embellishment of the physical.

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