IT has occurred to me that even despots and the biggest gangsters were capable of doing good, too. Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Adolf Hitler, Pablo Escobar and Al Capone were wicked people, and yet, one who studies their biographies would see that there were also times that they did good things for other people.
There are people who still think that Hussein used Iraq’s oil money to start the modernization of his nation and, arguably, to improve the living conditions of the Iraqi masses.
Hussein’s government strengthened, if not, laid the foundations for a centralized free and universal healthcare system. The idea was to provide the Iraqi people hospital services without being charged. There was a westernized system of sophisticated hospitals with the capacity to provide advanced medical procedures and manned by medical specialists. It was so efficient that the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and the World Health Organization reported that as much as 97 percent of Iraq’s urban population and 71 percent of those in rural areas had access to the healthcare system before 1990. Not only that, it was also reported that only two percent of Iraq’s hospital beds were privately managed. Beat that!
On education, Hussein made education for children compulsory and free as part of his campaign to rid Iraq of illiteracy.
In Northern Africa on the Mediterranean, Muammar Gaddafi also gave Libyans free healthcare. Libya, a major petroleum exporter, had plenty of money, and while Gaddafi was stealing, he was also providing free education and electricity, subsidized housing and public transportation to his people.
Libya had a big problem on widespread droughts and so, Gaddafi built “The Great Man-Made River” that not only provided a source of potable water to as much as 70 percent of the Libyan population but also made his country the owner of the world’s largest irrigation system. That was before it was bombed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in 2011.
(Gaddafi’s infrastructure projects bring to mind the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build.”)
Adolf Hitler was someone who could have passed off as a poster boy for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) if he were alive today — and if he weren’t Adolf Hitler, of course.
Yes, Hitler was an early animal rights advocate. When he rose to power, the Nazis enforced laws that improved living conditions of animals, and Der Fuhrer even had the subject of the humane treatment of animals included in the German school curriculum. During his reign, slaughterhouses were obliged to use anesthetic, mistreatment of pets became an offense that carried with it a minimum two-year imprisonment, and the act of operating on living animals especially for scientific research was banned.
Like the three despots, two of the biggest crime bosses the world has ever known also did some good things. Escobar and Capone were into charity. They were philanthropists.
Escobar, the Colombian drug lord who was behind 80 percent of the United States’ cocaine supply at one period, nurtured a “Robin Hood” image by being generous to the poor. In one small town in Colombia, he built a thousand homes for impoverished families. He also funded the construction of schools in slums across Colombia. There are many Colombians who still see him as a “hero.”
And Capone? (He was the equivalent of the biggest fish in the so-called “narco-list” although his organization was not into narcotics but was bootlegging booze into Chicago during the prohibition of alcohol.)
Well, there was a time when Capone fed an estimated 120 thousand people during the Great Depression through his “soup kitchens.” There, the jobless and hungry were served soup, coffee and donuts. Many people felt that Capone did more to help the needy than their government.
(Capone’s “soup kitchens” bring to mind “No one goes hungry in Duterte’s Kitchen.”)
So, you see, wicked people can also do good things. Hussein and Gaddafi had their versions of our new law on universal health coverage, and free tuition program; Hitler was an animal rights advocate; and Escobar and Capone were so “pro-poor” they spent huge sums to help those in need.
None of their good deeds can change the fact that Hussein’s tenure was stained with the blood of thousands who were publicly executed or tortured in unthinkable ways; that Gaddafi crushed dissent and that his 42-year rule was just as bloody; that Hitler killed some six million Jews across Europe; and that Escobar and Capone were crooks.
Some people become so notorious that even when they do good, they’re still bad because they’re just wicked. Pastilan.