WHY? WHY?! Our species does not deserve this. The Sydney Morning Herald's Hugh Mackay is attempting to be creative:
Late at night, two police officers are summoned to a house in an outer suburb of Sydney. They are in a state of intense arousal at the prospect that lies ahead: inside the house is a man they want to arrest in connection with a series of violent crimes, and they are hoping to take him by surprise.
Police = George W. Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Perp = Saddam Hussein. Mackay = so very sad.
In fact, the man has been tipped off by a neighbour and is expecting them. He has denied any involvement in the crimes the police are investigating, but his friends know that even if he wasn't involved in those particular crimes, many others have his fingerprints all over them. He's a nasty man - some say evil - with a reputation for vindictive behaviour, especially when his back is against the wall.
Mackay's metaphors begin to collapse almost immediately. Who are these friendly neighbours of Saddam – Kuwait?
The wanted man has been watching all this from behind a torn blind in the front room of the house. Still proclaiming his innocence to the friends waiting with him, he draws a gun, but his friends persuade him to put it away: "You'll only make things worse for yourself if you fire first," they tell him. "Defend yourself if you have to, but wait and see what the cops do."
Maybe Saddam's pals are the UN, or the media. Or some homeless kids just hangin' with the S-man.
He replaces the gun in the pocket of his windcheater and zips it.
The "windcheater" may be a metaphorical weapons lab, in which Saddam can conceal his arms. The zipping of the windcheater – largely redundant, because the gun has been placed in a pocket, not within the garment – is evidence perhaps of the chilling effect upon Iraq of UN sanctions.
The two police officers have a somewhat ambiguous reputation themselves. The senior man was lucky to have kept his job when his gung-ho attitude got the better of him on a previous occasion. He is well known in this area, and the wanted man recognises him in the pale glow of a streetlight.
Has George W. Bush come close to losing his job? Not that I'm aware. It could be that Mackay's "senior man" is the United States rather than the leader of the United States, although that notion is also problematic; given that the "job" of the US is being the US, how could it have ever been in danger of losing that job?
The streetlight is clearly Robert Fisk, a low-watt device offering poor illumination.
The junior officer is more cautious by nature, but he's never been able to restrain his partner from stepping over the line. (In truth, he's never tried to restrain him, because he's secretly in awe of his partner's swaggering arrogance.) Both officers have been reprimanded for their recklessness in the past, so this is an important assignment: can they get their man without bending the rules?
The suspense is murderous. Mackay has invented a new form of crime fiction: noir lame.
"If they come up and knock on the front door, I'll talk to them," the man tells his friends. "But if they start skulking around, trying anything funny, I'll blast them."
Why wouldn't "the man" tell this to the police? His friends – unaccountably lurking within the targeted house – are hardly in a position to pass this information along, or act on it themselves.
No-one can be sure precisely what happened next …
Except, one assumes, for the friends, who were apparently present throughout.
… although certain facts are clear. The police knocked on the front door, the wanted man answered it and, within seconds, lay dead on the floor with two bullets in his chest.
The police knocked on the door? Yeah, right. Gritty realism by the truckload here.
His friends insisted he had not even unzipped the pocket of his jacket; the police insisted that although he hadn't actually drawn his gun, it looked as if he was going to, and so they had shot him in self-defence.
Oh, the jacket had a zippable pocket. That makes sense; you know how criminals like to make it difficult for themselves to get access to their guns. And a zip is really useful for telegraphing any gun-grabbing moves to nervy lawmen, which is just how criminals prefer it.
In court, their lawyer relied heavily on the concept of "pre-emptive self-defence" to justify the fact that the police were defending themselves against an anticipated attack, even if it had not actually materialised.
I'm guessing that Mackay anticipates a Milosevic-style trial for anyone bad enough to take on Saddam the petty criminal.
When the case was reported in the media, many people unreservedly supported the police officers' actions: "The man was a notorious criminal and whether he had been going for his gun or not is irrelevant. The world is better off without scum like that."
By "notorious criminal", Mackay means "killer of thousands", "invader of nations", etc.
Some went further, lauding the police for taking matters into their own hands: "With this kind of low-life, rough justice works best. Act first, worry later. If the cops had hesitated, who knows what might have happened?"
Not Mackay, who has difficulty enough working out what's already happened.
Others, though, were less certain. They wondered whether there were any circumstances in which it could be right to kill a man - even a man with a criminal record - who had made no actual, immediate threat, regardless of his reputation for violence. Wasn't this a virtual assassination? What about the idea of a fair trial - wasn't that supposed to be fundamental to the rule of law?
"Reputation for violence". Now Mackay has reduced Saddam Hussein to the level of a gangsta rapper.
The story didn't end there. Family and friends of the slain man vowed revenge. They stayed clear of the tough cop, but they pursued his weaker sidekick relentlessly until, one night, they cornered him in a deserted street while he was off duty, and bashed him senseless.
Australia, the weak sidekick, can expect a bashing. But how is this possible, unless Saddam possesses the weapons to do so – the very weapons that justify a pre-emptive strike?
They let him live, so he would be in a permanent state of fear about where the next attack might come from.
From Iraq, by the sounds of it. So let's attack Saddam now! Thanks for the warning, Hugh.
Moral: trigger-happy cops reap what they sow, and so do trigger-happy politicians.
But the only dead guy in Mackay's morality play is Saddam. Hugh Mackay needs help.