Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Saddam lives on (part 2)

See PART 1 also.

Saddam Hussein's spirit never seems to die (see execution background...
Slate's Christopher Hitchens wrote a great article today on the hanging of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The disgusting video of Saddam Hussein's last moments on the planet is more than a reminder of the inescapable barbarity of capital punishment and of the intelligible and conventional reasons why it should always be opposed. The zoolike scenes in that dank, filthy shed (it seems that those attending were not even asked to turn off their cell phones or forbidden to use them to record souvenir film) were more like a lynching than an execution.
...the only character with a rag of dignity in the whole scene is the father of all hangmen, Saddam Hussein himself.

How could it have come to this? Did U.S. officials know that the designated "executioners" would be the unwashed goons of Muqtada Sadr's "Mahdi Army"—the same sort of thugs who killed Abdul Majid al-Khoei in Najaf just after the liberation and who indulge in extra-judicial murder of Iraqis every night and day? Did our envoys and representatives ask for any sort of assurances before turning over a prisoner who was being held under the Geneva Conventions?
Thus, far from bringing anything like "closure," the hanging ensures that the poison of Saddamism will stay in the Iraqi bloodstream, mingling with other related infections such as confessional fanaticism and the sort of video sadism that has until now been the prerogative of al-Qaida's dehumanized ghouls. We have helped to officiate at a human sacrifice. For shame.
The timing—isn't anyone in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad paid to notice this kind of thing?—was explicitly designed to rub every kind of humiliation into Iraqi Sunnis. It profaned their observance of the Eid ul-Adha holiday, while gratifying the Shiite fundamentalists whose ceremonies begin one day later. To have made the butcher Saddam into a martyr, to have gratified one sect, and to have cheated millions of Iraqis and Kurds of the chance for a full accounting—what a fine day's work!
To watch this abysmal spectacle as a neutral would be bad enough. To know that the U. S. government had even a silent, shamefaced part in it is to feel something well beyond embarrassment.

What did the White House think? That Saddam's death would help US-Iraq relations? If so, they got it all wrong. Not only do you have the Sunnis angry at Saddam's death, the Shias thinking they are being ripped off or pushed aside by the United States, and the existing Iraqi civil war!

The US also has the moral, ethical, rational opponents of the death penalty to deal with. As this article says:
Ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's death by hanging has fueled opponents of the death penalty in the United States, which is at odds with many of its closest allies who view the practice as barbaric.

U.S. airwaves were blanketed with images of black-masked hangmen leading Saddam to the noose on Saturday in what U.S. President George Bush called "an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy."
'Society has a right to protect itself, but it doesn’t have a right to be vengeful. It has a right to punish, but it doesn’t have to kill.'

Just because Saddam is dead does not mean the fighting in — or against — his name and despicable legacy will stop. Of course, isn't this all just a "comma" — as President Bush said — in Iraq's history?

Fareed Zakaria said it well:
We did not give them a republic. We gave them a civil war.

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