I do wonder about the British man who stole Saddam's buttock. Nigel Ely, or "Spud," as he prefers, is by all accounts nothing more or less than a thief. And that too, a cheeky one. Not able to get his hands on a more valuable mustache, nose, or even finger, he smuggled (with the help of a white lie or three) a portion of Saddam Hussein's infamous buttock, during his 2003 tour of duty in Iraq.
While the rest of us might have assumed that a British SAS soldier would have more important -- nay! more professional -- duties while patrolling a deconstructing nation (now a decomposed one), we would be very wrong indeed.
Those stories you hear about the foreign troops who pillaged and pilfered Iraq, the seat of ancient Mesopotamia, the land between the two rivers, the seat of civilization -- those stories don't do justice to what we have learned from the tale of Nigel Ely. You see, Nigel has enlightened us all. He's taught us things that only Saddam's buttock could have imparted.
The wisdom of the gluteal guru has spoken words that news reports, the tears of Iraqi archaeologists, and the Antiques Roadshow have never really passed on: the greed that propelled the people of Iraq to the devastation they are in now, knows no bounds.
Desperate, watering at the mouth for any profit that he could earn from the misery he did not notice that April day in 2003 when Saddam's statue was toppled and a perfect media moment was immortalized (later to be ridiculed ad nauseam), Ely grabbed what little he could.
The buttock beckoned. Ely countered with the pinch.
When questioned at UK customs, he replied "it's war armor". And he made his way to the "art" company he now runs in Derby, England -- a company that sells, amongst other treasures, stolen artifacts.
Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds sterling ($387,000) for the cheek -- that's what Ely wanted at auction. He didn't get it. But he no doubt would have gotten something had the Iraqi government not gotten wind of Saddam's buttock. They want the armor back and the UK government arrested Ely for a "suspected" breach of the "2003 Iraq Sanctions Order" which, sadly for Ely, has a few rules about stealing ancient artifacts.
Now, there are those skeptics out there who will say "but what of the UK government itself? Everybody knows the British Museum is a storehouse of stolen ancient artifacts the world over!" But I declare no such hypocrisy. The cheek has been identified, it has been claimed by its rightful owners. The UK government has made its arrest. All judgement should be reserved till such time as the thief gets absolved of his obvious crime (or crimes, depending on how you look at thievery followed by an attempt at inflated profit), or such time as the armor finds its way to the British Museum.
Till then, one must thank Mr. Ely for his generous contribution to truth. Without him we couldn't have put a face and a price on democracy, let alone the buttock of Iraq.
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