Saddam Hussein, R.I.P. - you didn't kill as many Iraqis as Bush/Cheney, but you were way more honest about it
1. On the Gallows, Curses for U.S. and ‘Traitors’ – by MARC SANTORA/NY Times
BAGHDAD, Dec. 30 — Saddam Hussein never bowed his head, until his neck snapped.
His last words were equally defiant.
“Down with the traitors, the Americans, the spies and the Persians.”
The final hour of Iraq’s former ruler began about 5 a.m., when American troops escorted him from Camp Cropper, near the Baghdad airport, to Camp Justice, another American base at the heart of the city.
There, he was handed over to a newly trained unit of the Iraqi National Police, with whom he would later exchange curses. Iraq took full custody of Mr. Hussein at 5:30 a.m.
Two American helicopters flew 14 witnesses from the Green Zone to the execution site — a former headquarters of the Istikhbarat, the deposed government’s much feared military intelligence outfit, now inside the American base.
Mr. Hussein was escorted into the room where the gallows, with its red railing, stood, greeted at the door by three masked executioners known as ashmawi. Several of the witnesses present — including Munkith al-Faroun, the deputy prosecutor for the court; Munir Haddad, the deputy chief judge for the Iraqi High Tribunal; and Sami al-Askari, a member of Parliament — described in detail how the execution unfolded and independently recounted what was said.
To protect himself from the bitter cold before dawn during the short trip, Mr. Hussein wore a 1940s-style wool cap, a scarf and a long black coat over a white collared shirt.
His executioners wore black ski masks, but Mr. Hussein could still see their deep brown skin and hear their dialects, distinct to the Shiite southern part of the country, where he had so brutally repressed two separate uprisings.
The small room had a foul odor. It was cold, had bad lighting and a sad, melancholic atmosphere. With the witnesses and 11 other people — including guards and the video crew — it was cramped.
Mr. Hussein’s eyes darted about, trying to take in just who was going to put an end to him.
The executioners took his hat and his scarf.
Mr. Hussein, whose hands were bound in front of him, was taken to the judge’s room next door. He followed each order he was given.
He sat down and the verdict, finding him guilty of crimes against humanity, was read aloud.
“Long live the nation!” Mr. Hussein shouted. “Long live the people! Long live the Palestinians!”
He continued shouting until the verdict was read in full, and then he composed himself again.
When he rose to be led back to the execution room at 6 a.m., he looked strong, confident and calm. Whatever apprehension he may have had only minutes earlier had faded.
The general prosecutor asked Mr. Hussein to whom he wanted to give his Koran. He said Bandar, the son of Awad al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court who was also to be executed soon.
The room was quiet as everyone began to pray, including Mr. Hussein. “Peace be upon Mohammed and his holy family.”
Two guards added, “Supporting his son Moktada, Moktada, Moktada.”
Mr. Hussein seemed a bit stunned, swinging his head in their direction.
They were talking about Moktada al-Sadr , the firebrand cleric whose militia is now committing some of the worst violence in the sectarian fighting; he is the son of a revered Shiite cleric, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, whom many believe Mr. Hussein ordered murdered.
“Moktada?” he spat out, mixing sarcasm and disbelief.
Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser, asked Mr. Hussein if he had any remorse or fear.
“No,” he said bluntly. “I am a militant and I have no fear for myself. I have spent my life in jihad and fighting aggression. Anyone who takes this route should not be afraid.”
Mr. Rubaie, standing shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Hussein, asked him about the killing of the elder Mr. Sadr.
They were standing so close to each other that others could not hear the exchange.
One of the guards, though, became angry. “You have destroyed us,” the masked man yelled. “You have killed us. You have made us live in destitution.”
Mr. Hussein was scornful: “I have saved you from destitution and misery and destroyed your enemies, the Persians and Americans.”
The guard cursed him. “God damn you.”
Mr. Hussein replied, “God damn you.”
Two witnesses, apparently uninvolved in selecting the guards, exchanged a quiet joke, saying they gathered that the goal of disbanding the militias had yet to be accomplished.
The deputy prosecutor, Mr. Faroun, berated the guards, saying, “I will not accept any offense directed at him.”
Mr. Hussein was led up to the gallows without a struggle. His hands were unbound, put behind his back, then fastened again. He showed no remorse. He held his head high.
The executioners offered him a hood. He refused. They explained that the thick rope could cut through his neck and offered to use the scarf he had worn earlier to keep that from happening. Mr. Hussein accepted.
He stood on the high platform, with a deep hole beneath it.
He said a last prayer. Then, with his eyes wide open, no stutter or choke in his throat, he said his final words cursing the Americans and the Persians.
At 6:10 a.m., the trapdoor swung open. He seemed to fall a good distance, but he died swiftly. After just a minute, his body was still. His eyes still were open but he was dead. Despite the scarf, the rope cut a gash into his neck.
His body stayed hanging for another nine minutes as those in attendance broke out in prayer, praising the Prophet, at the death of a dictator.
(Ali Adeeb and Khalid al-Ansary contributed reporting from Baghdad.)
2. Justice, but No Reckoning – by NAJMALDIN KARIM/NY Times
MY personal battle with Saddam Hussein — which began in 1972 when I abandoned my medical career in Mosul, Iraq, and joined the Kurdish armed resistance — is at an end. To execute such a criminal, a man who reveled in his atrocities, is an act of justice.
The only issue for me is the timing — executing him now is both too late and too early. Too late, because had Saddam Hussein been removed from the scene many years ago, many lives would have been saved.
Killing Saddam now, however, for ordering the massacre at Dujail in 1982, means that he will not face justice for his greatest crimes: the so-called Anfal campaign against the Kurds in the late 1980s, the genocidal assault on the Marsh Arabs in the 1990s, and the slaughtering of the Shiite Arabs and Kurds who rose up against him, with American encouragement, in 1991.
The sight of a tyrant held to account, if only briefly, has been an important precedent for the Middle East. The shabby diplomacy that has allowed dictators to thrive is now discredited.
Sadly, however, we have not had full justice. Saddam Hussein did not confront the full horror of his crimes. Building on previous initiatives by Arab nationalist governments to persecute the Kurds, he turned ethnic engineering and murder into an industry in the 1970s. Hundreds of thousands were evicted from their homes and murdered. Swaths of Kurdish countryside were emptied of their population, men, women and children taken to shallow graves and shot.
Initially, the United States backed those of us who took to the hills to save our lives and freedom, but in 1975 (and here is an irony) Gerald Ford agreed to stop financing us in order to settle a border dispute between Iraq and Iran. As so many times since, human rights were no match for a desire to keep the oil flowing.
During the 1980s, entire towns, including Qala Diza in Iraqi Kurdistan and Qasr-i-Shirin in neighboring Iranian Kurdistan, were destroyed. To ensure that survivors would never return to their homes, the mountains were laced with land mines. The widows and children were detained in settlements lacking fresh water and sewage disposal; these were called “mujammat” in Arabic, which translates, with all the dreadful implications, as “concentration areas.”
While I escaped to America, my family was not so lucky. My brother-in-law and nephew were summarily executed. They never had anything remotely approaching a fair trial, never got to write a will, never got to say goodbye to my sister.
Saddam Hussein’s trial shed new light on these tragic years. Documents came to light revealing that his regime coordinated with Turkey in its efforts to isolate Kurdish villages in 1988, in which he used chemical weapons. This should lead to some important soul searching in Turkey.
But the failure to put Saddam Hussein on trial for the Anfal offensive itself will cheat us of learning the full details — of investigating whether the Turks suppressed evidence of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons by preventing foreign doctors from seeing Kurdish refugees; of knowing the extent to which Saudi Arabia and Egypt may have aided Saddam Hussein’s weapons production.
Kurds aren’t the only ones who will be cheated out of full reckoning. In 1991, as we all know, the retreating Iraqi army massacred Shiite Arabs as well as Kurds who had heeded President George H. W. Bush’s call to overthrow the Baathist regime. According to the 2004 report of the Iraq Survey Group, the dictator used chemical weapons against Shiite Arab civilians in 1991. Without putting Saddam Hussein on trial for these offenses, or for his campaigns against the Marsh Arabs of the south, will we ever know what really happened?
For all the mistakes that the United States has made in Iraq — and I feel the betrayal of 1975 was the worst — I am a proud (naturalized) American because this country brought the murderous despot to trial. Still, it is a great shame that he will not be held accountable for all of his crimes, and a far greater tragedy that he was allowed, sometimes with American complicity, to commit them in the first place.
(Najmaldin Karim, a neurosurgeon, is the president of the Washington Kurdish Institute.)
3. Feared and Pitiless; Fearful and Pitiable -- by JOHN F. BURNS
NOBODY who experienced Iraq under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein could imagine, at the height of the terror he imposed on his countrymen, ever pitying him. Pitiless himself, he sent hundreds of thousands of his countrymen to miserable deaths, in the wars he started against Iran and Kuwait, in the torture chambers of his secret police, or on the gallows that became an industry at Abu Ghraib and other charnel houses across Iraq. Iraqis who were caught in his spider’s web of evil, and survived, tell of countless tortures, of the psychopathic pleasure the former dictator appeared to take from inflicting suffering and death.
Yet there was a moment when I pitied him, and it came back to me after the nine Iraqi appeal judges upheld the death sentence against Saddam last week, setting off the countdown to his execution. As I write this, flying hurriedly back to Baghdad from an interrupted Christmas break, Saddam makes his own trip to the gallows with an indecent haste, without the mercy of family farewells and other spare acts of compassion that lend at least a pretense of civility to executions under law in kinder jurisdictions. From all we know of the preparations, Saddam’s death was to be a miserable and lonely one, as stark and undignified as Iraq’s new rulers can devise.
Many Iraqis, perhaps most, will spare no sympathies for him. However much he may have suffered in the end, they will say, it could never be enough to atone for a long dark night he imposed on his people. Still, there was that moment, on July 1, 2004, when Saddam became, for me, if only briefly, an object of compassion.
He had been brought to a makeshift courtroom in the grounds of a former presidential palace in Baghdad that became, as Camp Victory, the American military headquarters in Iraq. It was the first time he had appeared in public since his capture six months earlier in a coffin-like subterranean bolt-hole near his hometown of Tikrit when he emerged unkempt yet proclaiming himself to American soldiers who hauled him from his hiding place to be “Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq,” and ready to negotiate with his captors.
We know, from accounts given by his Iraqi and American interrogators, that the old Saddam quickly reasserted himself, heaping contempt on the new generation of Iraqi leaders who were taken out to a detention center near Baghdad International Airport the next day to verify for themselves, and for the world, that the man the Americans had seized was indeed their former tormentor.
So when the day arrived for his first court appearance, starting the process that led over the next 30 months to his two trials for crimes against humanity, there seemed little doubt to me which Saddam would show up to face the charges — Saddam the indignant, Saddam the self-proclaimed champion of Iraqi and Pan-Arab nationalism, Saddam the self-anointed figurehead of the insurgency that was already, then, beginning to look like a nightmare for the invaders.
His American captors had flown Saddam and 11 of his top henchmen to Camp Victory by helicopter, and led them hooded and shackled at the waist and ankles to the threshold of the mosque annex that served as a courtroom. Only at the door to the court were the hoods and shackles removed, clattering to the floor a moment or two before the door opened to show Defendant No. 1, Saddam Hussein al-Majid, standing clasped at the elbow between two Iraqi guards.
From 20 feet away on an observer’s bench, seated beside the late Peter Jennings of ABC News and Christiane Amanpour of CNN, I caught my first glimpse of the man who had become in my years of visiting Iraq under his rule, a figure of mythic brutality, a man so feared that the mention of his name would set the hard, unsmiling men assigned to visiting reporters as “minders” to shaking with fear, and on one occasion, in my experience, to abject weeping.
But this was not that Saddam. The man who stepped into the court had the demeanor of a condemned man, his eyes swiveling left, then right, his gait unsteady, his curious, lisping voice raised to a tenor that resonated fear. Quickly, he fixed his gaze on the handful of foreigners in the court, and I had my own moment of anxiety when it came to my mind that he was intent on remembering the faces of the non-Iraqis that were there to witness his humiliation, perhaps to get word through to his lawyers, and then on to the insurgents, that we were to be punished for our intrusion. It was only later, after I learned what he had been told before being taken from his cell to the court, that I understood that our presence meant something else to him entirely, that with foreigners present, he was not going to be summarily hanged or shot.
THE Americans who were his jailers in the first days after his capture — aboard an American aircraft carrier and then at a converted detention center known as Camp Cropper at the edge of Baghdad’s airport — had chosen, on that summer day, to give Saddam a taste of the fear that he exhilarated in imposing on others. All he was told was that he was being taken “to face Iraqi justice.” Small wonder, as the architect of a quarter-century of repression, that he should fear that he was about to suffer the torture and grisly death that he had inflicted on so many others.
At that instant, I felt sorry for him, as a man in distress and perhaps, too, as a once almighty figure reduced to ignominy. But the expression of that pity to the Iraqis present marked the distance between those, like me, who had taken the measure of Saddam’s terror as a visitor, shielded from the worst of it by the minders and the claustrophobic world of closely guarded hotels and supervised Information Ministry trips, and Iraqis who lived through it with no shield.
That I could feel pity for him struck the Iraqis with whom I talked as evidence of a profound moral corruption. I came to understand how a Westerner used to the civilities of democracy and due process — even a reporter who thought he grasped the depths of Saddam’s depravity — fell short of the Iraqis’ sense, forged by years of brutality, of the power of his unmitigated evil.
After that initial encounter with Saddam, I saw him many times walking within 10 feet of my feet in the glass-walled press gallery in the courtroom at the former Baath Party headquarters, chosen as a venue for his trials by the Regime Crimes Liaison Office, the unit created by the United States Justice Department , to help Iraqi judges and lawyers create what became the Iraqi High Tribunal, the special court designated to try high-ranking members of the old regime. But the Saddam who dominated that courtroom was another figure — haughty, defiant, often beside himself with anger, but, above all, remorseless. If the death penalty held any fear for him, when it was handed down in November, for the killing of 148 men and teenage boys during a systematic persecution of the Shiite town of Dujail in 1982, he never showed it.
Almost the only chink in his prideful armor showed when he demanded at the Dujail trial that he be shot by firing squad, the privilege as he told it, due to him as the — still legitimate, as he claimed — commander in chief of Iraq’s armed forces. That plea was quickly denied by the chief judge. It was a point never again raised by Saddam, who took, at the end, to proclaiming his eagerness to die as a “martyr” for Iraq, and his belief that this would earn his passage to paradise. But the plea to be spared hanging suggested that fear — of humiliation, if not of death — was a close companion during the 1,000-odd days he spent in solitary confinement in Camp Cropper.
Of other strains of humanity there was little sign. During the Dujail trial, and just as much during the Anfal trial that followed, at which Saddam and six other defendants were accused of murdering as many as 180,000 Kurds in the late 1980’s, he showed no hint of remorse as survivors of the torture chambers and the desert internment camps and, in the case of the Anfal campaign, the chemical weapons attacks and the mass graves, told their pitiful stories. Head to one side, hand pressed to his head, fingers splayed, writing detailed notes on yellow legal pads, Saddam listened impassively to the accounts of women hung upside down to be beaten, of sons holding wet cloths to their faces and finding the twisted bodies of mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers heaped in an agony of death from mustard-gas attacks, and of young men who scrambled back to life from beneath the bloodied bodies of fellow villagers in remote pits scraped from the desert wadis of Iraq.
LIKE some ghastly accountant with an obsession for detail but no morsel of pity, Saddam limited his questions to peripheral issues: What were the precise geographic coordinates of the mass graves? How could a boy no more than 10 at the time recall so precisely the details of a chemical attack? Why should anyone credit the testimony of a man — brother to seven others who were executed after the alleged attack at Dujail — who admitted he belonged to Dawa, an Iran-backed religious party?
Not once did he avail himself of what seemed like the expedient response of a man who had pleaded not guilty to involvement in any of these crimes: an expression of sorrow for the victims, albeit coupled with renewed denials of his responsibility.
Like many another dictator before him, Saddam so sealed himself off from his own people, in his scores of palaces, and on his carefully staged, video-recorded walkabouts among crowds of ululating citizens, that he seemed never to grasp, even in the extremities of his last weeks, how hated he was by his people. In the courtroom, he insisted, repeatedly, that he remained Iraq’s lawful president and thus immune to prosecution, even as the judges responded by calling him “ex-president” and ordering him to sit down. He was sustained in this make-believe world by his former acolytes, who would stand in the dark as he entered, greeting him with expressions of undying fealty.
Among the most insistent of these courtiers were two men who were scheduled to die with him on the gallows after their appeals in the Dujail case were denied, his half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and Awad al-Bandar, chief judge of the revolutionary court who passed the death sentences on the men and boys from Dujail, in a court hearing that lasted only hours with the dock too crowded for many of the condemned even to enter the court, and with no legal representation. This miserable precedent appeared to make no impact on Saddam and his fellow defendants, who protested at every opportunity during their own trials at the denial of what they claimed were their proper rights and comforts. The quality of the prison food — including American military rations known as meals-ready-to-eat — was one such issue; the quality of the cigarettes given to them another.
Saddam, prideful to the last, left much of the caviling over prison conditions to his erstwhile minions. And shortly before he was sentenced to death, he demonstrated, inadvertently, that in the shrunken world of his captivity he remained the leader who dare not be defied. An American official who worked closely with the Iraqi court told of watching on a closed-circuit relay as Saddam and other defendants in the Dujail trial waited one day in a holding room off the courtroom floor. At the time, Saddam had declared a hunger strike on his own and his associates’ behalf in protest of the Dujail case continuing after the walkout of the defense lawyers, who had been replaced by counsel appointed by the court.
At one end of the room, visible on the surveillance cameras, was a table laid with food, including cellophane-wrapped oatmeal biscuits of the kind available in every American military canteen in Iraq. Thinking his fellow defendants were distracted, one of the accused, Taha Yassin Ramadan, a former vice president renowned even among Saddam’s henchman for his brutality, slipped two pockets of biscuits into his pocket, only for Saddam to march on him demanding to know who gave him permission to eat. Mr. Ramadan, the American official said, denied he had taken anything from the table. “Empty your pockets, you betrayer!” Saddam demanded. Whereupon Mr. Ramadan lamely admitted his guilt and, with the sheepish deference born of two decades in Saddam’s inner circle, returned the biscuits to his basket.
4. Executing Saddam, Protecting The Rackets -- by Manuel Garcia, Jr./www.dissidentvoice.org
What does the execution of Saddam Hussein mean to the public?
What has the execution of captured national leaders meant in the past?
Vercingetorix was the leader of the Celtic revolt against Roman rule in Gaul. He was taken captive by Julius Caesar after the Gallic defeat in the Battle of Alesia (in eastern France) in 52 BC, and spent the next six years in chains and publicly displayed as a war trophy. In 46 BC, he was taken from his cell and marched through the streets of Rome during a procession honoring Caesar, and then publicly executed by strangulation. Gaius Julius Caesar himself would only live another two years, for he was executed by a group of assassins with hand knives in 44 BC.
The overt US military involvement in World War II lasted three years and eight months, from early December 1941 to early August 1945. The war crimes tribunals of German (at Nuremberg) and Japanese (at Tokyo and Manila) political and military leaders occurred during 1945 to 1949. The major German war criminals were executed on October 16, 1946 -- 10 hangings within 3.5 hours. Seven major Japanese war criminals were executed by hanging on December 23, 1948.
What can we say to characterize the executions cited? Consider these four possibilities:
1. In some cases, a degree of justice and some recognition of historical "lessons" came about as a result of the trials and punishment of war criminals.
2. Such executions are triumphal rituals by a victorious power elite lording it over the defeated.
3. These executions are political theater for the masses, to distract them from their many sacrifices -- especially through wars -- to the power elite.
4. They are used by the power elite to remove discarded members of their own class who are now political liabilities.
The current Iraq War broke out in March 2003 and has lasted three years and eight months (like WWII). Victory in the form of a compliant Iraqi population and easy extraction of Iraqi natural resources -- oil -- has been elusive, so we have been presented with gestures of power: a string of "hits" on named "terrorists" leading up to the biggest show of this type, the execution of Saddam Hussein.
Saddam's execution was a triumphal ritual by US power against an occupied -- though still unconquered -- Iraqi people, it was the political decapitation of the former Iraqi elite, a demonstration intended to show Iraqi subjugation to Western power. But, the abysmal failure by the US managers of the Iraq War has undercut any propaganda value Saddam's execution might have had with the Iraqi public.
Beyond its use as political theater for the masses, Saddam's execution was a spasm of pleasurable barbarism within the international club of the leadership class, a triumphal ritual by a victorious elite against a defeated adversary of its own class. It was an orgasm of power that aspired to be both primal and stylized like the delivery of the coup de grace -- whether by a cat biting through the neck of its prey, or a lieutenant firing his pistol into the temple of one dispatched by a firing squad -- but came off graceless and chaotic like the frenzy of a lynching.
Here, in the homeland of the would-be victors, Saddam's execution is used as another distraction for the public and the troops from their many sacrifices in paying for and manning this war by their elite.
And finally, Saddam's execution is a bit of necessary housekeeping by the managers of the war. It is the elimination of the possibility of damaging exposures by a former confederate. Donald Rumsfeld is not the only political operator who is relieved of any hazard of disclosures by Saddam.
Saddam's case makes it obvious what would be required to bring our un-indicted war criminals to justice. If Martians with vastly superior technology and military power invaded the Earth, as in H. G. Well's novel The War of the Worlds , and they set about reorganizing the United States because they knew themselves to be better able to allocate our natural resources and arrange our system of governance, what would be our proper response? Imagine they arrived in Flying Saucers indestructible even by our nuclear weapons, and they were armed with directed heat ray weapons of unearthly power. Imagine they saturated our radios and TVs with the message "We have come to liberate Earth from all warfare, to end all hunger, poverty and want, and to ensure humans live in harmony with Earth's natural conditions in a sustainable manner indefinitely." Then, imagine they put on war crimes trials of our political elite. What would our moral and patriotic duty be? To set off hidden improvised explosive devices (IEDs) when Flying Saucer patrols passed through our neighborhoods? To fling rotting carcasses and produce at Alien Troopers, hoping to infect them with deadly-to-Martians Earth germs? To withstand the reprisals inflicted by searing heat rays vaporizing all in their path and yet continue resistance? Or would our duty be to make peace, to realize that warfare, mass killings and resistance were useless, that we should surrender to a greater power and accept our designated roles (and perhaps live in our designated reservations); and that we should implement the will of our new rulers including the prosecution and execution of our former Earthmen overlords? Who defines "duty," "honor" and "country?"
Saddam's execution was no victory for people outside the Washington D.C. imperial elite. There is no doubt that Saddam was guilty of great crimes, and any truly independent tribunal would have found him undeserving of retaining his liberty. A victory for the world public would have been a judgment requiring Saddam to reveal all the details of his career, during the course of a lifetime imprisonment. Historians and prosecutors in many countries would work from this record to winnow the truth from the lies, and to then enable the many agencies making up our international system of justice to pursue other perpetrators implicated in the tale.
The quick execution of Saddam Hussein is not simply "victor's justice," it is a demotion in a Mafia-style reorganization, the elimination of capo fallen from grace, to protect the power elite from any exposures that would threaten its control.
(Manuel Garcia, Jr. is an engineering physicist and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
5. Dictator Hangs to the Warm Applause of Sycophants -- by Nathaniel Mehr/www.dissidentvoice.org
Congratulations America. The UK and international press is today reporting the execution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with an affected solemnity which seems to say, "Alas, it is sad that it has come to this, but this is how it had to end." This approach is perhaps best summed up by the BBC's John Simpson , who confines criticism of the show trial which preceded the execution to the following extraordinary understatement: "It proved to be divisive, and certainly did not receive international approval," before reassuring the reader, in his usual inappropriate verboseness, that "These things will certainly continue to affect the way the world will see Saddam's death. But now that he has finally been swept off the political chessboard, the Iraqi government hopes that 2007 will be a better year as a result." The use of the "chessboard" analogy is appropriate enough in that it potentially provides an unintended insight into the mindset of the reporter himself, and his sympathy with the invading power -- perhaps he sees the Iraq situation as a game of chess in which all the key actors need to be physically removed in order to achieve complete conquest. However, let us not forget that this is the very same John Simpson who, in his excitement at entering Kabul alongside the "liberating" forces in 2001, declared that he felt as though he -- and the entire BBC -- were partaking in the liberation and carrying it out themselves. So Simpson's childlike enthusiasm for the mechanics of conquest can reasonably be attributed to a personal characteristic, and not necessarily signs of any political sympathy for the invading power, although there is an arguable case that such an outlook, perhaps achieved by many hours as a child spent playing "Risk" or more likely instilled by the detached chauvinism of the British public school system, might preclude objectivity and seriousness in reporting.
Of more serious concern is the obsequious tone of the article, which is quite typical of the reaction of the mainstream media generally. Simpson rather fancies himself as a dramatic storyteller, for although his article is thin on critical thought, there is plenty of unnecessary detail. For example, we are told the approximate time that the execution took place, and we are further advised that this was "just as the call to prayer was sounding across Baghdad," presumably on the basis that although discussion about the legitimacy of the court merits only a single dismissive line (see above), it is reasonable to speculate as to the possible religious significance which the pious people of Iraq might wish to attribute to the timing of the execution. The trouble with many mainstream journalists like John Simpson is that they do not credit either the Iraqi people or, for that matter, their own readership with the intelligence to consider questions of real importance, and instead bury the issues in a haze of Orientalist clichÈs.
Simpson's weak conclusion, "the Iraqi government hopes that 2007 will be a better year as a result [of Saddam's death]," is somewhat revealing. There is, of course, no Iraqi government to speak of, at least not a government whose "hopes", to the extent that they may differ from those of the US occupying power, are a relevant consideration for any journalist covering the present conflict. The Iraqi government is a proxy government controlled entirely by Washington, and therefore its hopes are Washington's hopes. What Simpson means to say, therefore, is that "the occupying power , and the Iraqi officialdom to which it has delegated some administrative responsibilities, hopes that 2007 will be a better year as a result of Saddam's death." By phrasing his conclusion in the manner in which he has chosen, Simpson is playing along with the charade, which is best summed up by George Bush's own ludicrous appraisal of the execution as "an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself."
A truly important milestone might have involved allowing the former dictator to be tried at the international court at The Hague, so that justice could be seen to be done in a neutral venue with respect for the rule of law. This could not be done for the simple reason that it was absolutely necessary for the US to control this trial. That the US armed Saddam to the teeth in the 1980s is reasonably common knowledge, but the notion that a court could peruse, in detail before the eyes of the world's media over a period of months and possibly years, a chronology of US and European support for the dictator, including shipments of the very gases used in chemical attacks against civilian and military targets even after the notorious Halabja massacre . . . this notion simply does not bear thinking about for the US planners. Amid much sanctimonious talk from politicians and journalists, of "holding people to account," the reality is that the people ultimately responsible for the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein will probably never be held to account. And this is of course not an accident, but the very purpose behind the show trial with which the US "convicted" their former agent Saddam Hussein.
The most appalling aspect of the news coverage of this event is the way in which the journalists have simply internalized the government position, as with John Simpson's understated reference to the international outcry over the show trial as some sort of unfortunate minor inconvenience, and the astonishingly inane conclusion that those in power will hope that next year is better than this year. When the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet died earlier this month, it was noticeable that most mainstream UK media referred to him principally as "the former ruler of Chile," i.e. not "the former dictator of Chile." That man, a dictator, a mass murderer, a torturer, a rapist, a mutilator, was of course on our side, in that he was installed and supported by the US and a fervent ally of Margaret Thatcher. So even long after the end of his rule and long after the premierships of Reagan and Thatcher had ended, he is nevertheless referred to euphemistically by an obliging media, much as Saddam would have been in the 1980s when he was doing the bidding of the United States. The same can be said today of the Pakistani military dictator Pervez Musharraf, a staunch supporter of the United States, who is generally referred to simply as a "President." Saddam, of course, is quite correctly identified as a "dictator" at almost every opportunity. By playing its part so obligingly, the mainstream media is nothing less than a knowing accessory to government policy, so that as unelected leaders and corrupt regimes sympathetic to the United States will continue to go about their business without serious challenge, the foundations are laid for future conflicts throughout the world -- a highly beneficial outcome for the armaments industry that is so heavily influential in Washington, but an outcome nonetheless which leaves Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki open to accusations of insincerity or, at the very least, incredibly naive optimism when he asserts that "Saddam's execution puts an end to all the pathetic gambles on a return to dictatorship."
(Nathaniel Mehr writes for www.iShotTheDeputy.com. He can be reached at: email@example.com)
6. A Dance of Death: The Hanging of Saddam Hussein -- by Jack Random/www.dissidentvoice.org
An American in the French Assembly before the Revolution became the Reign of Terror, spoke out against the execution of the royal monarch of France. Those who knew him were not surprised at his courage, conviction and strength of character. It was not a popular stance and he was no friend to the monarchy. He was in fact its greatest foe yet his principled position landed him in the Bastille and very nearly cost his life.
His name was Tom Paine, without whom it is unlikely that the great experiment we call democracy would ever have been launched on the American continent.
Saddam Hussein was hanged until the spark of life drained from his flailing limbs.
It is not politically astute to defend the fallen dictator any more than it was for Paine to plea for the life of the French monarch, yet there are occasions when principle must speak.
I am no more sympathetic to tyranny, despotism, oppression, brutality or crimes against humanity than Paine was to the monarchy, yet I felt only shame in observing the morbid dance of death surrounding the execution of Saddam.
Granted, the head of state is ultimately responsible for the crimes of the nation.
Saddam Hussein was executed for causing the death of 150 men and boys in the city of Dujail after an attempted assassination.
Only history can decide if he is accountable for genocide and other horrific crimes against humankind. The record is sufficiently clear that the great dictator was by no means an innocent man. The best that can be said, in light of what has transpired since the fall of his government, is that the divided, artificial and dysfunctional nation of Iraq required the brutal hand of a dictator if only to survive.
(I do not believe this is true. I cannot believe that tyranny and oppression are ever justified but the evidence is mounting with every corpse deposited on the streets of Baghdad or plucked out of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates.)
Consider the actions of our government.
There is compelling evidence of a conspiracy to deceive the American people and extort Congress into a cause of war.
There is compelling evidence of that an aggressive act of war, in direct violation of the cardinal principle of international law, was committed against a non-threatening nation with premeditation and little regard for the bloody consequences of our actions.
There is compelling evidence that the tactics used in this war -- from Shock and Awe to Fallujah, where every man and boy of fighting age was prevented from leaving before the siege, from the use of cluster bombs and white phosphorous to spent uranium munitions -- were used with full knowledge of the massive civilian casualties that would result.
There is compelling evidence that over 200 Iraqis have died for every American soldier who has fallen during this war. Even without consideration for the events of Haditha, Abu Ghraib and countless other atrocities that have no names, the war itself is a crime of genocidal proportions.
So if the head of state is ultimately responsible for the crimes of the nation, why isnít our president facing trial?
This was not the heavy hand of justice. It was state sanctioned revenge. It was the justice of the conqueror, of emperors and kings.
For those who suggest that the dictator did not deserve a fair trial, I am compelled to remind you that justice is blind. That justice which is reserved for the good and virtuous is only a masquerade. It is the path to trial by drowning. Justice considers all who come before her with absolute equality. There can be no exceptions to the rule and process of law.
What we witnessed in the execution of Saddam was the killing of Iraqi justice by the poison of vengeance. It was a morbid dance of death.
The hanging of the dictator, however justified, however gratifying to those he victimized in a reign of terror that would not have been possible without the collaboration of western powers, was yet another crime against humanity for which our president must eventually be held accountable.
[Jack Random is the author of Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press) the Jazzman Chronicles, Volumes I and II ( City Lights Books). The Chronicles have been published by CounterPunch, the Albion Monitor, Buzzle, Dissident Voice and others. Visit his website: Random Jack]