Hitler kissed babies and romped playfully with children at their birthday parties. He married his mistress to make her an honest woman just before the two took poison together to avoid capture by the Russians. For an ever so brief moment, the devil wore a human face.
Now we hear that Saddam Hussein cried like a baby when his FBI interrogator, whom he thought was a friend, bid him farewell. After a year of tough questioning in which Saddam confessed to the slaughter of thousands of Kurd civilians, the dictator experienced a twinge of loss for the man for whom he felt a bond. "When we were saying goodbye he started to tear up," FBI Special Agent George Piro tells journalist Ronald Kessler for his new book, "The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack." Imagine.
In the German movie "The Lives of Others," based on research about the Stasi secret police in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, an agent learned how to discern the difference between those telling the truth to interrogators and those trying to tell successful lies. The truth tellers get angry over false accusations. The liars, who have much to hide, cry. It shouldn't surprise anyone that cowards cry when they get caught.
But even the devil occasionally lets down his guard. That's how Milton saw it in "Paradise Lost." When Satan for the first time beheld the beauty of Eve, his evil intelligence evaporated for one brief moment. He felt rapture in her presence. Milton wrote that Satan stood "stupidly good."
For many humans, however, the interplay of good and evil isn't as clear as it could be and is often clouded by an intellectual arrogance that keeps otherwise intelligent men and women from seeing what's right in front of their eyes. This was certainly true for the fellow travelers among us during the Stalin years. No matter how many men and women were tortured into false confessions behind the Iron Curtain, no matter how many men and women simply disappeared from life and history, Marxist apologists dismissed the brutality as an aberration, and besides, it was still preferable to bourgeois individualism. Similar irrational defenses are made on behalf of the Islamists in the Middle East who brutalize women, plot the obliteration of Israel and who deprive their own people of the freedoms of speech and movement.