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Making a Killing: Reflections on Saddam Hussein’s Execution

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What do I know about international relations? I’m no man of the world. I’m not cunning like Richard Perle. I don’t pretend to know anything about the required ingredients for international "democratic reform", like so many involved in that budging cottage industry. I have my own, mundane problems to solve.

Still, there’s Saddam Hussein’s execution, weighing on my mind. And, I suppose, it should be since so many of my tax dollars have gone to see it through; since so many of my fellow Americans have died to enact this justice. For what it has cost us all, directly or indirectly, Saddam's execution calls us all to reflection.

The dictator’s eerie resemblance to my own father aside, I have misgivings about our heavy hand in this sad chapter of world history. We selected and invaded a country. With one hand we put its ruler on trial, and with another we attempted to rebuild what was broken. Such an idea is beyond the fiction any wild-eyed writer could ever hope to dream. Yet this is our reality, and it should be considered carefully.

There’s no arguing that Saddam was a tyrant. But there are a lot of tyrant dictators holding sway over countries; some, obviously, much more dangerous than Hussein. Why did we chose him and not another leader? Asking hard questions is one thing, but the answers are far more disconcerting. Saddam was selected because he was a deemed a threat to our country, for his stockpile of WMDs and his ties with terrorism. Thus, the man had to be destroyed, and a blow would be dealt to terrorism, and reform would begin in the region.

Only one of those things has happened. And our initial reasons for toppling Saddam proved to be entirely inaccurate: he had no weapons of mass destruction (the ones we had sold him he had already used). He was no threat to America; he also had no loyalty to terrorists. He may have been an evil man, hardly exceptional, but he was also quite innocuous. It is not that he did not deserve justice, what bothers me is the manner in which we extracted it and the delusion that we have accomplished something positive.

There can be little satisfaction in breaking into a man’s home, dragging him into the street, and lynching him, while the rest of the neighborhood watches horrified. Even if that man was evil. Especially after our reasons for dragging him into the street proved false. In that story, which agent commits the greater evil? In World War Two we fought two empires at the same time. Today we destroy crippled countries, preemptively. We wonder why, in that reality, so many rule absolutely, and clamor to acquire a nuclear deterrent. It was not Iran we invaded. Not North Korea. But Iraq, the one with no real deterrent. I have no doubt the rest of the world has gotten the message.

And was this the embodiment of civilized justice or a blistering repayment? As the rope was put around his neck Saddam was mocked by his executioners. Is that justice or vengeance? What started as a spectacle in shock and awe ends in the spectacle of execution. When the video hit YouTube it was an explosion in sadistic voyeurism. And why not? This whole endeavor, of course, has been, not in the least, to satisfy our blood-lust. The public wanted a crucifixion and it got one. Now that we have extracted repayment for 9/11 will we leave Iraq?

We will see where the priorities lie now, but with Saddam dead I feel our idealism for Iraq much deflated. This thing, for all intents and purposes, is over. Saddam's blood is on my hands, but the mess is for someone else to clean up.

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  • Miguel

    Yes, he was evil. He started a war against Iran 30 years ago, where millions of people died. And guess who trained and armed him…
    Making people feel angry against “The Empire” is becoming easier and easier . Many of them don´t see any difference between powerful western democratic countries and people as Osama Bin Laden. Both use all their weapons to destroy their enemies. Some are much more “bloody”, but the objectives and the results are always the same, innocent people dying.
    I don’t see any difference between people that died in Irak and people killed on 11S. They’re always innocent people… and you know what, all of them are dead, it doesn’t matter their religion, country, culture….

  • Mohd.Asif

    America has a history of making bloodshed in the other nations and killing millions of innocent people in countries like Japan, Vietnam, U.S.S.Russia, Afganistan, and Iraq. In today’s scenario some of Iraq’s neighbouring countries are sitting calm and some are cheering up like Iran regardless of it could be there turn next.And as far as Saddam Husain is concerned he will be remembered forever as a martyr because even in a country like India where Hindus are in majority people are appreciating Saddam’s behaviour as a human being even at the last moments of his life.

  • http://www.booklinker.blogspot.com Deano

    I find it hard to pull up any dregs of sympathy for Saddam…and bluntly I am somewhat astonished that anyone could. He rose to power on a policy of brutal ruthless bloodshed; murdered, executed and tortured his rivals and their families; instigated a systematic policy of internal repression and terror; kicked off one of the bloodiest wars of recent history against Iran; repressed, murdered and gassed the Kurds; invaded Kuwait…it’s a fairly comprehensive list.

    I’d prefer to save my sympathy for his victims.

  • Sisyphus

    “…hard to pull up any dregs of sympathy for Saddam…”

    No, but the point lies elsewhere.

  • STM

    Mohd (as if) wrote: “America has a history of making bloodshed in the other nations and killing millions of innocent people in countries like Japan … .”

    Yeah, nice one, that. Wonderful piece of research, too. Let’s forget to mention while we’re trotting out the same old ill-informed propagandist/fundamentalist drivel that Japan attacked the United States and Great Britain and her Empire/Commonwealth in 1941, waged a war of unspeakable brutality across the Pacific and in China and South-East Asia, starved, tortured, murdered and generally maltreated many, many hundreds of thousands of POWs and civilians in the conduct of their war, and threatened not to surrender even if the Allies attacked Japan’s mainland, which would have cost millions more lives.

    Although it would be cold comfort to the victims, dropping the atom bomb on Japan paradoxically probably saved millions of Japanese who had been whipped into a frenzy of bloodlust by military leaders demanding that all Japanese make the ultimate sacrifice.

    But, you know, why let truth and the little indisputable facts of history get in the way of bullsh.t and clownery

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I don’t see any difference between people that died in Irak and people killed on 11S. They’re always innocent people… and you know what, all of them are dead, it doesn’t matter their religion, country, culture….

    It makes a difference when it is their religion or culture which made them the target of murderers, not because awareness of this will help them – they’re dead – but because knowing what happened to them gives us a starting point for making sure it happens to no one else.

    Dave

  • Franco

    It is a well-worded and well-written opinion piece. In fact it is so well written I wish I could agree with more of it.

    The execution of Saddam was a 1920 Alabama lynching. But I’m not so eager to agree that the US is at fault for the actions of the Iraq’s who personally carried it out. The US had already turn Saddam over the the Iraqi government. There were no US military personal attending the execution. He was 100% in the hands of the Iraqi people for the first time in their lives. If the US is at fault for anything, that is where an argument could be made.

    In all the barbaric taunting of Saddam by hooded executioners and from some standing below the gallows, in all of this ugly agitation, there was one voice that spoke up and said stop all of this, this man is about to be executed.

    That one lone voice was the voice of reason. It was a voice of hope for Iraq. Hearing that voice encompass all the reasons for me that we need to stay there and allow those with such voices to grow and multiply.

    As for Saddam, he did things that were so unthinkable, that if most of any of us had done, we could never sleep again. Yet Saddam showed himself at his execution a be a bigger man then most everyone else in the room, except that one lone voice. That voice was the light that needed presents there and it out shined all the darkness of Saddam and those taunting him.

    That one voice is all we can rest our hopes on.

  • Col. Mustard

    “why let truth and the little indisputable facts of history get in the way of bullsh.t and clownery”

    since you are on the Internet, please feel free to do a little research. The more I read the bomb was dropped not to stop Japan, but to keep Russia in check.

    I’ll take the statements of these men over yours.

    “Japan was already defeated and dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary.” Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe

    “The War would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the War at all.” Major General Curtis LeMay

    “The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace.the atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan.” Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet

    “The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.”
    Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Truman

  • Sisyphus

    I must agree with franco on this one. The botched execution was carried out by the rag-tag Iraqi government — not the U.S. But it exemplifies the current state of affairs in Iraq being out of the control of anyone. The Iraqi government can hardly be expected to take responsibility for restoring order to a vast territory when they can’t even keep civil order in a small and supposedly secure room.

  • Mahan

    I thought the article was excellent. Saddam was pure evil, but no more than many other dictators. All of our reasons for invading were preexisting and self serving and all proved to be wrong. Perhaps it takes a Saddam to control this region. I wonder how many we have killed over there compared to him and his regime?

  • Daniel

    Of course, Saddam Hussein is a martyr, a bigger man than most of us! It doesn’t matter how humungously murderous and genocidal any one of us maybe, as long as we can portray ourselves a bigger man at the end,then all hail to a butcher who may be lauded as saintly and dignified in the end.

    This line of thinking should not make us wonder why the world is as miserable as it is. It is morality turned upside down. While we shed crocodile tears for the slaughter of the innocent and the civilian, we now have to feel guilty for eliminating the perpetrator of evil in our midst. We rue over the wolves devouring the sheep, and yet have no courage to hurl the spear at the wolves.

  • PeterJ

    It’s an excellent article Fred although I have to say that I find great deal of satisfaction in seeing the product of the Democratic process, a trial by jury, convicting a man of the inhumane crimes such as those perpetrated at the hands of Hussein and carrying out a swift and inhumane execution.

    The only quarrel I have is in the fact that there are men all over the world calculating the extinction of segments of their societies who will carry out their murderous antics with less refrain than a butcher in a slaughterhouse with not a soul to step up with aid. These people are dyeing for no other reason than because they aren’t fortunate enough to be living on top of oil reserves yet we hear very little of their plight.

    This is fortunate, I have enough to worry about without having to hear on the news every day of innocent men, women and children being hacked to death with machetes, raped or burned alive.
    What kind of world would this be if we had to hear this depressing news day in, day out?

  • Fred

    I appreciate everyone’s comments. I know, obviously, there are strong feelings on this issue. I just don’t think Saddam Hussein, as we found him, was worth the incredible price we’ve paid and will pay; not the least of which has been losing our integrity by hyping the intelligence and stoking a fire of anti-Saddam hysteria to generate the rage needed to do this thing. After all of that, and the huge sacrifice since, I don’t see a correlation with what we’ve gotten out of it. Did he deserve to die? Sure. Did we have to lose ourselves to do it?

  • PeterJ

    Yea Fred, he deserved it. Was it worth it to us? Did we stop a potential global takeover by hussein?
    Was it worth thousands of our childrens lives (yes, 19, 20 or so year olds are still children, at least in America) to put him there?
    Was it worth the damage done to the name of the greatest nation on earth for the sake of a spoiled wanna be cowboy millionaire’s ego?

    Absolutely not!

    Can we learn anything from this? I hope so but after all we’ve been through and where we’re at, I’m afraid not.

  • arzu

    The execution of Saddam is inhuman.

  • ct

    “Why did we chose him and not another leader?” you forgot he (Iraq) was an easy target for amerikkka because of the years of sanctions that crippled his country. That’s the bottom line.

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