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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Death of a dictator

The execution of former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, has left me feeling very uneasy. Don't get me wrong, I have no sympathy for him. He was a murderer, a thief, a rapist and a torturer, to name but a few of his crimes. I think genocide belongs on that list somewhere, too, as he made a sizeable attempt to eradicate several Iraqi Kurd tribes.

What makes me uneasy is not that he was executed. Rather, it is the swiftness of the execution and the fact that such a brutal method was employed, that unsettles me. Again, this is not out of sympathy for him, as he felt no compunction whatsoever about eliminating anyone who crossed him. He poisoned several political figures who stood in his way. He even had his own sons-in-law murdered for defying him and defecting to Jordan. But how can any justice system claim the moral high ground when it metes out punishment as barbaric as anything Saddam himself inflicted? When Saddam was brought to justice, it was by individuals and institutions with greater moral integrity than he ever demonstrated. Yet, I feel they've now lost a big part of their symbolic moral high ground by sullying their hands with a barbaric execution. What was wrong with a lethal injection?

I also feel the timing of the execution was inappropriate. The swiftness of the execution means he never faced justice for what he did to the Iraqi Kurds. Symbolically, I think the Kurds needed to hear a guilty verdict in light of the evils he perpetrated against them, before he met his fate.

Part of me also questions whether execution was the right move at all. It makes him the martyr he so wanted to be. Furthermore, execution almost seems like an easy way out for him. Lifelong incarceration, stripped of all his potency and luxuries, would have been a harsher and more fitting punishment for someone who tortured so many innocent people. Then again, I'm lucky enough never to have lost a loved one to him. If I had, I'd no doubt be dancing in the streets, like some of Iraq's Kurds and Shia are doing today. It's a sorry episode from start to finish, from his barbaric rule to his barbaric end.

The evil tyrant may be dead, but his legacy will live on for a long time, in the minds, hearts and souls of all who suffered because of him. At least, with Saddam dead, those who feared he would one day return and seek reprisals, can rest a little easier. But not too easy, as supporters of his deposed Ba'ath party have already sworn revenge. What a mess. Maybe it's time the US and UK got the hell out of Iraq. The presence of foreign troops can only rub salt into the country's festering wounds. Maybe it's time to let Iraq try to heal itself. Maybe.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I also felt distinctly uneasy about this. I am very much against the death penalty and cannot see any justification for it. To arrest someone for murder and then murder them for that crime seems ludicrous and does the human race absolutely no justice at all.