Gilligan, Campbell, Kelly, Hutton ... the news this past while has been filled with postwar debate about Iraq, particularly the contentious claim that Saddam Hussein could have deployed chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes. On the basis that prevention is better than cure, TAC asked three of its world affairs experts - Ralph Storer, Ronald Turnbull and Andrew "Deploy" McCloy to suggest how Saddam might otherwise have spent that crucial three-quarters of an hour had he suddenly felt the old destructive urge coming on.
WHAT BETTER WAY to take Saddam's mind off his desert wanderings than a refreshing coastal walk, especially one that gave him plenty of physical exercise to work off any undissipated wrath. The Chain Walk, around Kincraig Point between Shell Bay and Earlsferry on the Fife Coastal Path, would make an ideal excursion. The sand between his toes on Elie beach would put him immediately at ease, the cliff-top wartime bunkers and danger warning signs would add a comforting familiarity to the landscape, while the Devil's Cave would feel like home from home, even if the lack of an escape exit might prove worrisome.
The physical exertion required to negotiate the chains would keep his mind off his troubles, while his undoubted ability to dodge wayward (non-smart) golf balls from Elie links would give his dented confidence a much-needed boost. His footwear might perhaps not be conducive to Fife coastal rock, but that too would merely serve to concentrate the mind.
The concept of tidal flow might be alien to him, such that at high tide he might be surprised to find his fatigues damp, but the only other foreseeable problem would be that of seabirds taking up residence in his moustache. If he was found by Allied forces scouring Fife, he would simply be mistaken for the latest in a long line of hermits who have frequented the coastal caves.
The sole danger for a traveller unaccustomed to the wiles of Scottish climactic conditions would be the sight of the twinkling lights of Edinburgh across the Forth. If he mistook these for some sort of celestial vision, with the capital's seven hills rising above the haar like nunataks, he might be tempted to walk on water and meet with the same fate as befell King Alexander III when he crossed the Forth in 1286.
(whose The Rumpy Pumpy Quiz Book - "a great stocking filler", will be published by John Blake in October)
FOR SOMEONE who gets their kicks gassing Kurds in quantity, a stroll along the South Downs is barely going to moisten the old wicking underlayer. Only something with serious rock content can hope to have the kick of letting off a Scud. I've not heard of Saddam as any sort of climber, whether free or whack-and-dangle. So he is presumably just an Ordinary Fellwalker.
The most thrilling thing in Ordinary Fellwalking - and this is one I've so far revealed only to a few close friends and the readers of an English-language magazine for ex-pats in Spain - is the Orla Per¨ in the Polish Tatras. (Easyjet to Prague, sleeper train to Poprad, and walk in over Rysy, the Poland high-point.) It's the Cuillin ridge, with chains for the tricky bits, a hot climate with thunderstorms, and added exposure.
It takes a bit longer than 45 minutes, but too bad. Come down off that and you may not feel like any serious crimes against humanity for days and days. Let him take Blair and Bush along and they might discover, never mind the delights of murdering people with missiles, that it's also quite fun being collaborative among the granite.
Alternatively, given the loose attachment of some of the chainwork, they might all fall off together and save the international community a bit of bother.
IT IS A SURPRISING and little-known fact that in his early twenties Saddam spent ten months studying at the College of Food and Domestic Technology at East Kilbride. By all accounts he was a quiet but determined student, not mixing particularly well, and prone to the occasional burst of temper when he was marked down on his basic hygiene coursework. Flashes of his dark humour would occasionally surface after the odd Bacardi in the student bar, and sometimes this could lead to unpleasant incidents involving plastic forks and surface wounds.
Saddam left East Kilbride very suddenly, and under something of a cloud (dark, verging on luminous green, according to bystanders), after he was caught trying to mix a dangerously large quantity of industrial ethanol with Irn Bru and Mr Wong's Home-Made Curry Sauce. Firefighters with specialist breathing equipment took three hours to make the lab safe.
However, it is nice to think that in order to let off steam, the moustachioed one might have headed for Tinto, that modest but perfectly formed volcano of a hill south-east of Lanark. I can almost see him racing up the side to get to the top first, pushing any unfortunate rambler out of the way. And then, standing astride the summit surveying the rural idyll of Strathclyde, would he ponder his future: global dominance and an empire of terror and tyranny? Or perhaps consider opening a corner chippy in Wishaw?
TAC 59 Index