. Military Space News .

Iraq's last king lives on in Tintin comics
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Aug 15, 2011

Everyone here knows that the July 14 bridge, a convenient route to the US Embassy and government offices in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, marks a 1958 coup when Iraq's last king was murdered. But not many know that King Faisal II lives on in the classic "Tintin" comic books.

This includes his own cousin, the man who would be king in the unlikely event that the Iraqi monarchy were restored.

"I have read Tintin since childhood but I never made the connection with King Faisal," laughed Sharif Ali bin Hussein, amused to learn that Belgian comic writer Herge had modelled one of his characters on his relative.

On the morning of July 14, 1958, King Faisal II, who had just turned 23, was led into the palace courtyard with several family members. All were executed under the command of Captain Abdul Sattar As-Saba'a, a leader in a coup d'etat led by Colonel Abdul Karim Qassim.

Sharif Ali, Faisal's maternal first cousin who is now in his mid-50s, was only about two at the time.

The day's events changed the course of Iraqi history and led, in July 1979, to the rise of Saddam Hussein, whose dictatorship lasted until he himself was ousted by the 2003 US-led invasion.

But years before, the young king had captured the imagination of the West -- as well as Tintin creator Herge -- after the tragic death of his father King Ghazi in a 1939 car crash that sent Faisal to the throne at age three.

From childhood until death, the life of Iraq's "boy king" was chronicled in photos and articles in big-name US magazines like Time, Life and National Geographic.

Herge quietly drew on the anecdotes to fashion his character Prince Abdullah of the imaginary kingdom of Khemed. The mischievous Arab prince and practical joker both exasperated and charmed boy reporter Tintin and his irascible friend Captain Haddock, first in the "Land of Black Gold" (1950) and later in "The Red Sea Sharks" (1958).

The real-life Faisal shared the same playfulness.

"What I know from family anecdotes is that he used to love practical jokes, which is an indication of his sense of humour and sense of fun," said Sharif Ali at his villa on the Tigris river where framed photographs of his royal Hashemite lineage adorn the wall.

"Touch not the son of my master," he chuckled, quoting from memory Captain Haddock when he grabs Abdullah in anger at his antics and is warned off by the boy's Arab guardian.

The real life Faisal's mother Queen Aliya or his English governess Dora Borland at times escorted the "boy king", who was often photographed holding the hand of his uncle, Prince Abdulillah, who was regent until the king came of age in 1953.

-- 'Things haven't changed much' --

Faisal II was a regular in Life magazine, which ran a 1942 photo essay showing the seven-year-old king first in shorts on an oversized throne, then on the palace grounds with his German shepherd dog.

Three years later -- when Iraq was under British wartime occupation -- the boy is surrounded on his 10th birthday by presents from British troops: a big toy yacht, a field kitchen and a tent. And in 1946, Life captured the 11-year-old in suit and tie in the French capital. "Iraq's boy king licks a lollipop while seeing Paris," read the photo caption.

But it was a 1941 National Geographic story on Iraq with a picture of the "boy king", then six, that inspired Herge, whose real name is Prosper Remi, according to a Danish expert on the Tintin creator.

"That picture was traced by Herge and made to resemble his fictional character, Prince Abdullah, the son of the Emir of Khemed," said Frank Madsen, 49, a Danish writer and illustrator of children's books, in an email to AFP.

"In the story Herge needed Abdullah to be kidnapped by the villain Dr Muller, so that his hero Tintin could go rescue him," said Madsen. "As always Herge wished to surprise his readers, so he made his character Abdullah into a spoiled kid, who did not want Tintin to rescue him at all."

Despite Tintin's real-life connection with Iraq, his comics remain virtually unknown to Iraqi teenagers, or even to an older generation.

But as Abdullah's character was modelled after the real-life Iraqi king, since 2003 Iraq has turned into a model of Herge's imaginary kingdom of Khemed, whose oil riches were coveted by crooked Western oil executives and arms merchants.

In real life, arms merchants that Tintin was often trying to outfox have already done their bit in Iraq, perhaps nowhere with such unvarnished chutzpah than the $80-million no-bid contract under which British firm ATSC sold more than 1,500 fake "bomb detectors".

At checkpoints across Baghdad, Iraqi soldiers and policemen unholster their pistol-like ADE 651 "magic wands" to scan vehicles for explosives. But the device has no power source, no real innards, and has been called a fake by the US military.

At the US Embassy, whose numbers will double to 16,000 personnel next year, diplomats and salesmen from American arms makers and energy firms are gearing up for business as Baghdad ratchets up oil output and revenues.

At the drop of a hat, American diplomats and military officers are ready to gush about how much has been accomplished in Iraq since the invasion.

But like Khemed, Iraq remains an oil-rich but very broken country.

Eight years after the invasion there is still no clean drinking water, state-supplied electricity comes on for only a few hours a day, corruption runs wide, and security is so tenuous that every day somewhere in the country someone is kidnapped or killed by gunmen or bombs.

"If Tintin were to come to Iraq he would probably recognise many of the same characters he used to know," said Sharif Ali, the would-be king. "Things really haven't changed that much."

Related Links
Iraq: The first technology war of the 21st century

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Iraq VP says US pullout will improve security
Baghdad (AFP) Aug 14, 2011
The year-end pullout of US forces will improve security in Iraq, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi claimed Sunday, days after Iraqi leaders agreed to talk with Washington over a post-2011 training mission. Hashemi, a Sunni Muslim and one of two vice presidents whose positions are largely ceremonial, said a continued American military presence in Iraq would be "a problem, not a solution." H ... read more

Raytheon Teams with Rafael to Market Iron Dome Weapon System

Airborne Infrared Sensor Cued In ABM Test With The Integrated Sensor Manager

Moscow warns NATO against extending missile shield

US destroys missile over Pacific in test

S. Korea developing anti-ship missiles: report

US jails Iranian over missile component plot

Taiwan developing new 'aircraft carrier killer'

Raytheon Joint Standoff Weapon C-1 Completes First Free-Flight Test

DCGS Upgrades Help Reduce Costs for Image Processing of High-Altitude Missions

Lockheed Martin Unveils Samarai Flyer at Unmanned Vehicle Conference

Block 30 Global Hawks Receive USAF Initial Operational Capability Declaration

AeroVironment Receives Order for Digital Puma Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Raytheon Develops Miniature Antenna To Extend Millimeter Wave Friendly ID Technology

China launches another experimental satellite

USAF Approves Production of NGC Deployable Digital Wireless System for Remote Warfighters

Raytheon BBN Technologies Awarded DoD Contract to Develop a Secure, Attributed Military Network System

China may have examined US stealth chopper: report

Russia set to show off its first stealth fighter

Australia announces army vehicle sell-off

Electronic skin tattoo has medical, gaming, spy uses

Germany boosts arms sales to Mideast

EMS Aviation aims to expand in S. America

Panetta: Cuts could 'hollow out' defense

China army chief on 'historic' visit to Israel

China dubs new US ambassador 'the backpacker'

Biden heads to China under debt cloud

Clinton opposes budget cuts that hurt US Pacific presence

How e-mail helped Yeltsin outfox 1991 coup plot

Boeing and BAE Systems to Develop Integrated Directed Energy Weapon for US Navy

System Integration of High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator Completed

Raytheon Acquires Directed Energy Capabilities of Ktech Corporation

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement