Vol. 1, Issue 31, December 16, 2003
Hussein Capture Stigmatizes Holes, Say Hobbits
The recent coverage of Saddam Hussein's capture is generating an unfair portrayal of holes and the people who dwell in them, say hobbits around the country.
"A hole in the ground, like any other structurally engineered design, is just an artifact of human technology," said Will Whitfoot, mayor of the town of Michel Delving and a spokesman for the hole-dwelling community of Hobbiton. "Like any tool or technological artifact, it has no moral imperative per se, but performs strictly according to the needs of its user."
At issue is the small underground hole in which the deposed Iraqi leader was captured. Much has been made of the fact that Hussein was captured in a crudely constructed underground shelter with a painted Styrofoam lid, a striking contrast to the elaborate network of opulent fortified palace compounds he used when in power. Military officials have been frequently quoted as saying Hussein was captured "like a rat in a hole."
"That connotation is entirely uncalled for," said Whitfoot. "It implies not only that holes are crude unpleasant places to be, but that their occupants are pestilential vermin. I want to emphasize that Saddam Hussein in no way represents the hole-dwelling community."
Hobbits have traditionally maintained underground dwellings for much of their history; in fact the very term "hobbit" derives from the Old English "holbytla," or hole-builder. Their expertise was such that many hobbit-owned architecture firms earned substantial income during the 1950s when underground bomb shelters became popular among suburban Americans. But in recent years, aside from a series of protests against underground nuclear testing in the 1980s, hobbits and their underground dwellings have remained largely out of sight.
Adding to the furor is the limited data provided by the military on the location where they captured Hussein or the nature of his hideout.
"I am not prepared to say at this point whether Saddam's hole was of hobbit construction," said Army Chief of Staff General Shoemaker. "All I am saying at present is that the hole was underground, and that it was remarkably small for an adult human."
Independent analysts suggest that while details may be lacking, Hussein's hideout is not, from what is known, typical of a hobbit dwelling.
"Hobbit holes are not nasty, dirty, wet holes, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell," said Brookings Institution Fellow Jarvis Quentin, "nor yet dry, bare sandy holes with nothing in them to sit down on or to eat. Hobbit-holes, as a rule, mean comfort. Besides, Saddam has mercilessly persecuted the hobbit communities in Iraq and it is highly unlikely he could find any of them to work for him."
"While we applaud Saddam Hussein's capture, the sad fact is that now the hobbit community really needs a positive hole-dwelling role model to counterbalance all the negative hole-related publicity surrounding the event," said Whitfoot. "Now if only we could get some media coverage for the hobbit community, it would go a long way to redressing this injustice."