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Saturday, December 30, 2006
Saddam was hanged a few hours ago. No doubt he was one nasty piece of work and he deserved a bitter end. But has this particular end served anyone? Has it served your idea of Justice?
Saddam was officially charged with the killing of 148 Shiites, men and boys, in the village of Dujail in 1982. This was clearly the least of his crimes. He was a man who reveled in his own atrocities and had an enormous, and apparently accurate, reputation for bloodlust. There can be little argument about the brutality he visited both on enemies and his own people.
But when capital punishment is on the table, the same question is always before us: "Shall we sink to the level of the murderer? Can we call ourselves civilized if we continue the bloody trail ?"
Of course, we all have within us, often not far at all from the polished surface, the instinct for revenge. We are outraged at the Clifford Olsons and Pol Pots. We are offended at a level so deep, so basic, so truly human, that we are astonished at its inherent beauty and power. Our reflex is to strike back.
But instincts and reflexes aren't necessarily the mechanisms that will lead us forward to a just and civil society.
Listen to the opposing twins as they reacted to this morning's news.
"The execution of Saddam represents a big happiness for Iraqis," says a young Bagdad Shiite.
"The president is a martyr. He has died the death of a Holy Warrior," answers a Sunni in Tikrit.
In what century are we?
The British Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, with perfectly crafted two-headedness adds that while Saddam has been "held to account," her country remains opposed to the death penalty.
Saddam's trial was a kangaroo court of the oldest and shabbiest order. The trial should have been held in Europe, delivering the very highest standards of international justice. Saddam should have been kept alone in prison for as long as he lived, and the intelligence community should have mined him for every tidbit of information they could possible find about the realities of the middle east.
A hanging is a hanging is a hanging. Saddam Hussein may have been a murderous sonofabitch, but there is no special joy in my heart tonight.
Posted by David Berner at 9:56 AM