Will The Real Saddam Please Stand Up?

It is said that each of us has a look-alike somewhere in the world. Personally I find this very scary, but then maybe I'm unusual in not liking the idea of walking down a street in, say, Romania and bumping into myself. Well, not unless the theme from "The Twilight Zone" automatically fills the air at moments like that. It's bad enough my image in the mirror looks a lot like me, at least it can't walk around charging clothes to my credit card so when I contest the bill they point out that the sizes are exactly the same as those I wear.

That's not to say there aren't times when a doppelganger would come in handy. If you're married, you could send one to your in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner while you went to your parent's house and no one would be the wiser. You could dispatch your double to do the things you don't want to do, like go to the office Christmas party, get that root canal done, and watch the 20-part PBS documentary about the history of matchbook covers. Well, as long as your double liked that sort of thing. If you were the leader of a country like, say, Iraq, you could round up a bunch of look-alikes to take your place so you wouldn't have to do all those icky boring things the public expects of you, such as give speeches, cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the new Saddam-Mart™ in downtown Baghdad, and meet U.N. weapons inspectors at the airport with cheap plastic leis.

Yet that's exactly what Saddam Hussein does. No, he doesn't meet inspectors at the airport with anything except automatic weapons and a return ticket to U.N headquarters. What he does do is have mini-Saddams stand in for him. Recently a German public television station, ZDF, had a forensic specialist study 450 photographs and video clips of the Iraqi president taken over the past 14 years. After realizing that he wasn't watching Omar Shariff movies and "Lara's Theme" was never going to play in the background, the expert concluded that not only did Saddam have three body doubles who appeared on his behalf, but that the real Saddam hadn't shown his face in public from 1988 until this past September. That, of course, leads one to wonder what in the world Saddam's been doing all this time, especially since the infrastructure in Iraq is so bad that you know he doesn't have good enough Internet access to be spending his free time searching for fake nude photos of Anna Kournikova.

Saddam's doubles don't just rely on their natural born, uh, beauty. They take poise lessons also. Just kidding. Actually they undergo cosmetic surgery to make them look more like the real thing. This isn't any late breaking newsflash. In the mid-1990s a man who was a double for Saddam's son--a mini-mini-me, if you will--exposed this practice when he defected to the West so he wouldn't have to undergo another operation. Well, that and he got tired of being asked "When are you going to stop playing with that G.I. Joe and start oppressing the other kids already?" And having Dad tell him to "Pull my trigger finger."

Saddam isn't the first political leader to use a body double. Here in the good old U.S. of A., Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura used one during a photo shoot for a campaign commercial. He said he did it because he didn't have time to spend 10 hours at a photo shoot. Hey, it was a better excuse than "The dog ate my feather boa." Besides, movie stars do it all the time, and if you can't trust that to be Rene Russo's butt, what can you trust?

All this brings up a problem about fomenting a regime change in Iraq: If we track down Saddam Hussein, how will we know it's the real one? It would be like a Whack-a-Mole game where even if we hit the Saddam it might be an imposter and another one would pop up somewhere else. So many Saddams, so few Stealth bombers. It would be like an episode of the Patty Duke show run through a Xerox machine. Where would it end? How would we know when we have the real prize? And most importantly, each time we get a Saddam can we upgrade the SpongeBob SquarePants stuffed toy for a larger one until we finally win the giant grossly overstuffed Anna Nicole Smith doll?

This definitely makes me wonder if Saddam is the only one doing this. Might there be spare George Bushes floating around who spend their off duty time learning the fine art of malapropisms? Are we certain that when the Israelis are demolishing Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah they're not going after Ringo Starr by accident? Tell me, have you ever seen a photograph of the two of them together? And really, how do we know that's really Vladimir Putin asking to open up a Chechen account at the Moscow Savings and Loan, and not Frank Gorshin after a botox party, still thinking he's The Riddler? With luck we'll hear the theme from "The Twilight Zone." That would be a good tip off.

More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation. Email: md@maddogproductions.com.

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