Friday, January 05, 2007

Making a Killing: Reflections on Saddam's Exeuction


I've cobbled together my thoughts on Saddam Hussein's execution, the article is also posted on over on blogcritics.

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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