The New York Times reports today that when President Bush opens his library at Southern Methodist University in 2013, “visitors will most likely get to see one of his most treasured items: Saddam Hussein’s pistol.”
The Times notes that when visitors came to the White House, Bush often liked to show off the gun, which was found on Saddam when he was captured by U.S. special forces in December 2003. Referring to the gun’s historical value, Bush Library Foundation President Mark Langdale presented an interesting twist on its symbolism:
Mark Langdale, the president of the George W. Bush Foundation, said the library would use items to highlight 25 of Mr. Bush’s presidential decisions. “The gun is an interesting artifact, and it tells you that the United States captured Saddam Hussein and disarmed him literally,” Mr. Langdale said. “How we fit that into the decision to go to war, we haven’t gotten to that point yet.”
“Disarmed him literally”? Saddam was already disarmed before the U.S.-led invasion. Maybe if the U.N. team that disarmed Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War had possession of the gun, then Langdale’s metaphor would make sense. Moreover, when Bush said he wanted to “disarm” Saddam, he was referring to the Iraqi dictator’s non-existent WMD — not his personal handgun.
“It represents this Texas notion of the white hats taking out the black hats and keeping the trophy,” Rice University history professor Douglas Brinkley said, referring to Saddam’s pistol. “It’s a True West magazine kind of pulp western mentality. For President Bush, this pistol represents his greatest moment of triumph, like the F.B.I. keeping Dillinger’s gun. He wants people generations from now to see the gun and say, ‘He got the bad guy.'”