Saddam's Last Video

After I wrote here and here about the Saddam Hussein execution, I figured the story would be over. Not so, not since that grainy cell phone video revealed the taunting chants of his executioners.

As I've said, when we must execute someone it is not reason for celebration. It is a sad duty that must be performed in the name of justice. Whatever you think about the ethics of capital punishment, I hope we can all agree this is not how it should be done. Nor will it be helpful to the political process in Iraq. Columnist Richard Woodward said it well at OpinionJournal:

The intention of the U.S. in putting Saddam in the dock for crimes against humanity was to demonstrate the rule of law, a process he never followed while in power. The trials of Nazi and Japanese war criminals after World War II were a model, along with the more recent (and much slower) prosecutions for genocide of Serbs, Croats and Rwandans at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Damning testimony about Saddam's treatment of the Kurds went unheard, but witnesses before the Iraqi judges--his trial began in October 2005--offered enough evidence to prove his direct role in ordering hundreds of deaths, a fraction of the hundreds of thousands he reportedly ordered over his 23-year reign.

In less than three minutes, the video undid that deliberate process. Saddam will now be frozen in time looking like a tested leader--angry but resigned to his fate--while the Iraqi government is seen hurrying to complete its nasty business before the new year. Even though that government granted him the kind of dignity he seldom granted the people he killed, his uncovered and unbowed head contrasts favorably with the masked executioners shouting "Muktada" and acting up for the camera as if this were a soccer match. Ironically, it is Saddam's stoic behavior on the scaffold that makes his hanging bearable to watch. MORE

Great - so the main thing history will record about this tyrant's death is the relative dignity he displayed. This was not an image of justice. It was an image of victor's justice, carried out by the winning faction (Shiites) against the losers (Sunnis).

"This was for the Iraqis to do themselves," you may say. True enough. Yet the United States had Saddam in its physical custody right up to the moments before his death. He died only because the Bush Administration handed him over to a gang of hooligans.

That the U.S. allowed this historic event to turn into a debacle is another sign of the incompetence with which our Dear Leaders have carried out this whole Iraqi adventure. It should have been a cleansing experience for all. Instead, it probably aggravated an already desperate situation.

More thoughts from Slate via Mark Shea.

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