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24 January 2007
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The sole survivor of a deluge massive and prolonged enough to frighten the Babylonian gods and to rival the flood that Noah weathered, Utnapishtim, or “Ut,” as his friends and family call him, was subsequently rewarded by the god Enlil with eternal life.
Recently, Ut spends his days contemplating the history of Iraq, as Babylonia is called these days, and wanted to speak to his people (all Iraqis, not just his own sizeable clan) and to all other people everywhere.
“It has been said that Saddam Hussein was a modern-day King Nebuchadnezzar,” the frail, weary Ut declared in his address, which was broadcast over Iraqi television. “Well, let me tell you, I knew King Nebuchadnezzar, and Saddam Hussein was no King Nebuchadnezzar.”
A Shiite, Ut says that Saddam’s “thugs” tried, many times, to kill him, along with the other thousands of his sect that Saddam’s guard did dispatch, “often after horrible tortures had been inflicted upon them.” The oldest living man attributes Saddam’s inability to kill him to the protection of Enlil. “Saddam’s demon-god, Allah, is strong, but Enlil is mightier still, and it was he who gave me eternal life. That which Enlil has given, Allah can never take.”
Squabbles between men and gods are nothing that Ut hasn’t seen before he says. He has witnessed “countless contests” between men, between gods, and between men and gods. “One of the longest, which is still going on,” Ut says, “is the war between Allah and Jehovah.” Asked which adversary he believes will ultimately win the contest, Ut would say only that Jehovah was the only deity ever to beat Enlil. “The world, even Iraq, in its own way, is monotheistic, is it not?” the ancient patriarch asked.
Historians were anxious to meet with Ut for a series of extended interviews over the new year, but his family said, “He is an old man. He has seen much, but he is weary. Besides, he has just landed a contract with an American publisher for a history of the Middle East, as the Mediterranean Basin is called today, and the terms of the contract forbid him from discussing anything pertaining to the history of this region of the world. However, should others be interested in signing him to write other books, Ut has traveled the world many times over and has intimate knowledge of the entire planet. He was friends not only with King Nebuchadnezzar, but he was also playmates and companions to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Wyatt Earp, Ronald Reagan, and many thousands of other celebrities, past and present.”
“He wants you to buy the book,” President Bush pointed out.