Tyrants' children

Kim il Ju, Bashir Assad and Said Gaddafi: they are painted as sinister monsters, taking over the tyranny of their fathers and willingly slaughtering dissent to keep their oppressive regimes going. It is as if wickedness and tyranny are in the genes. But perhaps we should actually feel sorry for them as maybe they should be seen as victims of their heritage, condemned to play out a role that they would never have chosen for themselves. They have a choice, is the obvious retort - but what real choice is there when family, patriotism (as they are conditioned to see it) and even plain survival are all at stake?

I look at Bashir - a doctor in London for many years - and I don't see the sort of sadistic monster that Saddam's repellant sons had become. He seems more a man 'in so far' but not really knowing how to get out. Events, and a more ruthless brother, seem to be taking him to a place where he is far from comfortable. Was Said Gaddafi a Janus faced hypocrite - or someone whose liberalism wilted in the showdown between ideals and family? Who would envy Kim junior, in a guilded cage surrounded by a Praetorian Guard for whom he is a disposable pawn any more than you would envy the Chinese emperor Pu Yi - of The Last Emperor fame? They are all children of men with a ruthless lust for power whose tastes they probably don't share but who have inherited their fathers' poisoned legacies.

Perhaps the key test is whether you would change places with them - or more importantly, would they change places with you? Their fathers wouldn't - but I would be pretty certain that they would.

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