There is an eerie parallel to Saddam's life and death in present day Iraq with that of his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar in pre Iraqi Babylonia. Nebuchadnezzar was a ruthless ruler who brutally expanded his empire by conquering neighboring countries and pillaging their wealth after slaughtering their inhabitants (sound familiar?). 2500 years ago on this day in the Jewish calendar, 10th of Tevet, which this year fell on December 31 he and his army
laid siege to Jerusalem. The Babylonians eventually destroyed the First Temple, slaughtered 100,000 Jews, rounded up the rest and sent them into exile.
A fast day commemorates that tragic event which began in the early morning hours and ended at sundown.
Whenever Nebuchadnezzar made a conquest, he used the stolen wealth to build monuments to his own glory. It was in his capital city that Nebuchadnezzar built the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon. In testimony to his grandeur, each brick was inscribed with Nebuchadnezzar's name.
And so it is in our time. Saddam Hussein pronounced himself as the reincarnation of Nebuchadnezzar, and dreamed of restoring the Babylonian empire to its former size and glory.
North of the ancient city of Ur, on the Euphrates River, lies the biblical city of Babylon. Years ago, Saddam commissioned archaeologists to restore the city and its Hanging Gardens. Like Nebuchadnezzar 2,500 years earlier, each new brick was inscribed -- this time with Saddam's name.
During the course of the dig, archaeologists uncovered a plaque on the ancient city gate proclaiming Nebuchadnezzar's greatness. Saddam ordered stonemasons to place another plaque on the opposite side of the gate -- glorifying the greatness of Saddam Hussein.
And of course the palaces, the statues that Saddam ordered built around Iraq while his people suffered.
But what happened to this earlier tyrant?
The biblical book of Daniel (4:30) describes the downfall of Nebuchadnezzar:
He was driven from mankind; he ate grass like oxen, and his body was washed by the dew of heaven, until his hair grew like eagles' feathers and his nails were like birds' claws.
And so it was with Saddam. Driven into a hole, grimy and disheveled. Reduced, like his ancient hero, to the dustbin of history. From the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Saddam was left hanging with a noose around his neck..
As Yogi Berra so aptly put it, "Deja vu al over again."