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December 30, 2006

Saddam spectacle: The gallows is the new aircraft carrier


What better way to say "Mission Accomplished" than to execute a vanquished enemy after a show trial?

As Josh Marshall says, "This whole endeavor, from the very start, has been about taking tawdry, cheap acts and dressing them up in a papier-mache grandeur -- phony victory celebrations, ersatz democratization, reconstruction headed up by toadies, con artists and grifters. And this is no different. Hanging Saddam is easy. It's a job, for once, that these folks can actually see through to completion. So this execution, ironically and pathetically, becomes a stand-in for the failures, incompetence and general betrayal of country on every other front that President Bush has brought us."

Executing Saddam Hussein was no more meaningful than pulling down the Saddam statue after the invasion. Hussein's trial and punishment could have been an opportunity to get Saddam's crimes on the record and administer real justice to a war criminal. Like every other opportunity in this war, the Americans managed to squander it.

Human Rights Watch, a group that has been lobbying to bring Saddam Hussein to justice for 15 years found published a 97-page report detailing the miscarriages of justice in Saddam's trial.

Giving Saddam Hussein an unfair trial is the equivalent of the cops planting evidence at the OJ crime scene. If you need to cheat to get a conviction against someone who committed as many crimes as Saddam, there's something very wrong with your justice system.

Saddam wasn't hanged for genocide against the Kurds, in fact, he wasn't even tried for those crimes against humanity. Instead, Saddam was executed for his role in a government-led purge following an assassination attempt in 1982. No doubt, the Americans wanted to make sure Saddam was executed on lesser charges before he could be tried for his larger crimes against humanity in which the United States and its allies were complicit.


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Speaking of "show trials", how's the "Duke Rape" trial coming along? Haven't seen many posts on that lately.

Why, as Professor Cole tells us here, it's worse than merely a missed opportunity; it's as if we're trying to incite Sunni resistance, which we have allowed Saddam to become a symbol of in our ham-handed way. For one thing, the charge selected involved a retaliatory massacre of Shiites... but this is the same kind of tactic that, as Jim Henley tells us here, many right-wingers are urging the United States to engage in. Throw in the timing of the execution on the Sunni Eid-al-Atha (but not the Shia which starts tomorrow) and during the Hajj and the situs of execution in the Green Zone... and it looks as if the execution of Saddam iss calculated to drive and incite Sunni violence.

If one were cynical, one might think this was even intended to justify "the surge". No... couldn't be.

yeah. good thing we got the guy responsible for 9/11.


Jesus' General suggests that Commander Codpiece should sodomize Mr. Hussein's naked corpse on national television to demonstrate to the whole world his complete domination of the man his father couldn't control. I suggested a Goldstein-esque dickslap at the end after Our Leader was done, just to cap off the humiliation. This will show the Iranians what they're fate will be after we're forced to invade their country. That should weaken their resistance enough to make the upcoming invasion a cakewalk. At long last, we will finally be greeted with flowers. We better, God damn it.

You so hit it on the head, Lindsay.

And after all those comparisons to Hitler and Stalin, they end up limiting his charges to the murder of 148 people. Of course, our government had to choose carefully to avoid bringing up an atrocity they could be tied to themselves.

I'm sorry Lindsay, I didn't notice you'd already written my comment!

The year's going out with a weak, very predictable post, as are the "yeah, right" responses.

You'd be a fool to not admit that the Americans have great influence over the Iraqi government, but it is almost as foolish to think that this was an "American trial".

Like it or not, Iraq is governed by a government that its citizens voted for. Like it or not, with all of the trial's vast imperfections, it was an Iraqi trial, governed by Iraqi law, that convicted the undemocratic despot, killer of Iraqis.

The vast majority of Iraqis are Shia and Kurds, and you can bet your bottom dinar that they're not moaning about OJ and what a shame it is that ole Ssddam wasn't kept around much longer. They're happy that justice was done. Which it most certainly was.

So long as Saddam was alive, many Sunni held out a hope of some kind that he would return to power one day, so that the Sunni minority could resume bludgeoning the majority, like in the old days.

The government there decided that the cost-benefit analysis showed there would be less benefit by trying him and learning some new details on how the Kurds were killed than there would be by chopping the snake's head off. There will be no second act to the Saddam Reign of Blood.

If you can't get executed for killing over a hundred people, there's no purpose in having a death penalty.

Congratulations to the Iraqi govt for resisting European and other pressure in this matter.

Justice was done in Baghdad today. Everyone reading this knows it.

it was an Iraqi trial, governed by Iraqi law

Right. And we couldn’t have foreseen the outcome. And we have no way to bring pressure to bear on the Iraqi government.

Since the Bush admin/GOP wouldn’t have anything to do with any international criminal court, we couldn’t send him to The Hague. (And don’t start on that.) W. could have brought him to the States as his pop did with Noriega, and one has to wonder why he didn’t. The spin went that this was an Iraqi matter best left to the “Young Democracy” and we shouldn’t be showing an overweening interest in Iraqi internal affairs. As if we hadn’t already.

Perhaps Saddam’s defense lawyers couldn’t be counted on never to bring up any pre-Gulf War I U.S.-Iraqi contacts. Then again, perhaps the U.S. Government had nothing to fear in that department, but if they didn’t, why the rush to dress him up with the hemp necktie? Why the conviction on the lesser charge, without pursuing the other, arguably more important, charges? You’d think that Bush would want to show how clean Dad’s (and Dick’s and Rummie’s) hands were.

Then, what about the general tawdriness of the whole thing. This was supposed to be a new beginning, a break from the brute force law going back to the Mesopotamian ziggurat times. We were supposed to be demonstrating the enlightened governance we’d been developing in the West, specifically the U.S., for the last couple centuries. Or did I miss something here? Even if all we wanted was to give them the debased jurisprudence of Texas, shouldn’t we have at least tried to keep the defense attorneys alive? In The Great Lone Star State defense lawyers are allowed to show up drunk and to sleep in the courtroom, but at least they’re not shot.

As always, Bob Harris has the most apt comment on the whole thing:

Was it just me, or did the media build-up to execution feel weirdly like New Year's Eve in Times Square, waiting for Saddam to drop instead of the giant shiny ball?

Full post here.

Speaking of "show trials", how's the "Duke Rape" trial coming along? Haven't seen many posts on that lately.

How'd that whole Jamal Hussein thing turn out for Michelle Malkin? Did she pull out of the Iraq trip once she was told she'd been spelling the guy's name wrong, which was why she couldn't "find" him?

Bob Harris is a funny guy.

Saddam was guilty but he didn't get a fair trial. In a decent society you need two things in order to carry out a just punishment: Guilt and due process. If the US can exercise moral suasion on behalf of other people who don't get due process, like the Tripoli Six, they can suggest to their good buddies in the Iraqi government that it would be nice not to execute Saddam by kangaroo court.

I'm not a big proponent of the death penalty for ordinary crimes, but I can't object too strenuously for true war criminals and other architects of genocide. AFAIK, the Saddam trial didn't even bear on how Saddam killed the Kurds en masse. He was tried for an internal purge, a minor atrocity compared to most of his crimes.

It would have been easy to give Saddam a fair trial, yet somehow the Iraqis (and their US advisors) felt the need to cheat. Why? Is Iraq so chaotic, is the justice system so weak and inept that it can't even get a fair conviction for one of the biggest and most public murderers in the country's history? If so, did we really create a democracy?

>If so, did we really create a democracy?

If I might suggest an edit:

Whether or not this is so, did we really create a democracy?

Anticipating the response in the affirmative, my response is that Iraq can't be considered a functional democracy as long as people are dying in what can only be (and what should only ever have been) described as a continuing civil war. Our founding fathers couldn't have declared themselves the successful creators of a functioning democracy until after the Revolutionary War was over. The war in Iraq has never ended, Mission Accomplished banners notwithstanding.

I shed no tears for this person's death. But as the BBC World News said tonight (paraphrasing), will it do much to help stop the bloodshed?

What's going on in Iraq today is nothing like the Revolutionary War of course, and its not even a civil war, in the sense of the Spanish, English or American versions. Its a war of "all against all", like Lebanon, with the factions that make up the government participating as enthusiatically as anyone else in the murder and ethnic cleansing of their neighbors. Its perfectly appropriate then that the execution video looks more like one of those homemade terrorist-hostage murder tapes released on the Internet than the hanging of Adolf Eichmann. Saddam may have gotten what he deserved, but his victims, and those who believe in something higher than mere vengeance certainly didn't.

Back before this war started, in fact, before we talked much more about Iraq than al-Qaeda, I used to frequent an Internet discussion site. There was one vocal fellow there who was generally ignored by everyone, but never hesitated anyway to share his profound fear and loathing of everyone Arab or Muslim... I'm sure he's migrated since to LGF, or Slave Republic. Well, you can guess what happened as soon as Bush dropped all references to Osama out of his speeches, and we began to hear what a terrible threat Saddam was to civilization: suddenly instead of calling for the heathens to be slaughtered en masse, he developed a profound humanitarian concern for the poor, opppressed Iraqis, and denounced the rest of us as morally depraved appeasers. Like most of the Bush cultists trumpeting their Master's virtue today, he hated Saddam because he was told to; without his Leader's guidance he would have been no more aware or concerned about Saddam's viciousness than the plight of Nigerian war orphans. Moral posturing, self-worship, and idealization of authority are all obnoxious traits in individuals, of course, but on a collective level they're positively dangerous, and a good part of how our ruling class gets away with about anything they please on the international level, while still claiming to inhabit the moral high ground. Which is precisely why its so important to call bullshit on them, as often as we have the opportunity to.

I am against the death penalty on principle. However, in life sometimes principles face reality and they have to be viewed again for particular cases.

This was a man in a similar vein to Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini. You cannot keep these people in prison - they are far too dangerous. They hold too many people back in fear.

You have to kill them - it's as simple as that. It's the only way for Iraq to move on.

This sympathy for a man who happily killed children in the most horrific and brutal way known is chilling. Where is their blog report on the injustice they suffered? Where is their sympathy?

There is a lot of crocodile tears when we all know he is guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Hitler and Stalin were never tried but they were guilty too. Mussolini was tried by the mob, but he too was guilty.

To suggest by indirect implication that his trial was unfair is disgusting self-righteousness that spits in the face of those thousands tortured and killed. It is the words of the morally superior. It smells of racism - not only are those Arabs incapable of justice, but they are also not responsible for their actions. It's always the West's fault.

It seems it is easier to sympathise for a brutal monster than hundreds of thousands of the nameless unknowns.

> This sympathy for a man who happily
> killed children in the most horrific
> and brutal way known is chilling.

I have seen zero "sympathy" expressed for Saddam Hussein on this or any other forum over the last three days.

What I have seen is regret that _we_ have hurt _ourselves_ by short-circuiting due process to obtain a pre-determined result for political ends. Rule of law and due process either apply or they don't - you can't be a little bit pregnant in that respect. And rule of law and due process exist to protect /all citizens/, not the "guilty".

I have zero doubt that Saddam would have been convicted at the Hague or any other reasonably neutral international court. Of course, he might have also been tried for crimes that certain people (say, Mr. Rumsfeld) would have found inconvenient to have discussed in public. There's that due process thing again.



He was tried in Iraq by Iraqis. So who is the "we" you speak of?

Shouldn't the Iraqis convict their own people? What kind of arrogance supposes that "international" justice is the correct one?

You also say the conviction was "a pre-determined result" but then say "I have ZERO doubt that Saddam would have been convicted at the Hague."

So the guilty verdict was correct after all?

I would challenge anyone here to say Saddam was innocent. Not one of you will. You just want to be self-righteous because it makes you feel important.

"It is easier to sympathise for a brutal monster than hundreds of thousands of the nameless unknown."

"I am against the death penalty on principle."

"It smells of racism..."

I've already covered this ground above... but Sir, this political drag-act is MOST unconvincing.

"Its always the West's fault."

Now, that's more like it!

From the AP:

The time [of the execution] was agreed upon during a meeting Friday between U.S. and Iraqi officials, said the adviser, who declined to be quoted by name because he was not authorized to speak to the media.


As American and Iraqi officials met in Baghdad to set the hour of his death, Saddam's lawyers asked a U.S. judge for a stay of execution.

Right...this was purely an internal Iraqi affair. Nothing to do with us, no sir.

You also say the conviction was "a pre-determined result" but then say "I have ZERO doubt that Saddam would have been convicted at the Hague." So the guilty verdict was correct after all?

Reading the reactions to Saddam's hanging from the right side of the aisle has been very instructive, in a depressing kind of way. It's always important to be reminded how many of our fellow Americans are either utterly unfamiliar with the concept of the rule of law, or simply don't give a shit about it when it interferes with their political agenda.


You have let the cat out of the bag.

To blame the west for everything is to say that not only are they superior to the rest of the world, but that the rest of the world are so stupid that they are not morally responsible for their own actions.

I do not see non-westerners as non-responsible morons who are controlled by the superior west in everything. You obviously do.

Saddam Hussein was responsible for the death of thousands of people? He was guilty. Do you think he was innocent? I am sure you will not reply directly because that blows your argument out of the water.

Uncle Kvetch,

Who said I was American? Who said I was right wing? The problem with America is that both sides of the political divide have to compartmentalise everyone from a few points of view.

Like American mindset, it seems there are no shades of grey in your politics. Everything is black or white.

You are either a right-wing Dr Srangelove who wants to bomb everyone and who believes America is the only good on the Planet, or some Left-Wing tree-hugger who thinks Bush is the spawn of Satan and that everything wrong in thr world has it's roots in the Pentagon or CIA.

Neither is true.

Both the Liberal and Conservative viewpoints dismiss reality if it conflicts with their idealised perspective.

To blame the west for everything

Uh, what?

The ability of people to believe in things based on how they seem - "that's America-blaming" - rather than based on how they actually happened keeps me up at nights.

You also say the conviction was "a pre-determined result" but
then say "I have ZERO doubt that Saddam would have been convicted at
the Hague." So the guilty verdict was correct after all?

Saddam’s guilt is not the point, rather it is whether what with the shabby trial proceedings this had become essentially an extra judicial killing. If you get pulled over for speeding and the cop asks for a bribe or beats you up instead of writing a ticket, you're on your way to becoming a banana-republic. No one is arguing that reckless speeding is not a very serious offense and violators do not deserve punishment. The essence is there is a legal way to handle legal problems or there is chaos. There is no middle way, not if your aim is a smoothly functioning nation state that can deliver petroleum to the world market reliably, at a tolerable price for decades to come. There are larger issues here than whether the little snot Hussein deserved to be hanged.

"He was guilty. Do you think he ws innocent? I'm sure you will not reply directly because that blows your argument out of the water."

O.K., I'll bite. Saddam Hussein was a bloody tyrant, who deserved a trip to the gallows as much as anyone walking the earth today.
This, alas, has no more effect upon my arguments than the wave theory of light.

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