Wonky Muse
Wonky Muse

December 29, 2006

Saddam Hussein May Be Executed Tonight (Updated)

[Update: CNN reports Saddam has been executed shortly before 10 p.m. EST. Reuters reports the same, quoting Al Arabiya.]

The A.P. reports he may be executed as early as 10 p.m. EST tonight.

Amnesty International has condemned his death sentence and so has Human Rights Watch, which published an extensive report after observing the trial.

Saddam was charged with crimes against humanity and should have been tried at the International Criminal Court at the Hague. Instead, he was tried in an Iraqi court, not exactly the paragon of impartiality considering the trial was held with the country under an occupying force.

There were glaring irregularities that should've resulted at the very least in a mistrial:

• The chief judge who made a statement deemed favorable to Hussein was replaced with a more hardline judge.

• Two of Hussein's defense lawyers were abducted and found murdered.

• The Maliki government declared the guilty verdict even before the court's final brief has been released, indicating further interference with the case.

• When the fourth defendant was sentenced to life in prison, the appeals court decided it wasn't tough enough and demanded he be sentenced to death like Saddam and two others.

A Washington Post editorial vehemently disagreed, calling the demand of human rights groups for a fair trial "unreal" because a "perfect trial would have yielded the same result".

The New Republic's Marty Peretz barely hides his disgust for the Vatican protesting Saddam's execution:

So now the Vatican has been touched by the soul of Saddam Hussein. He should not be executed, said Cardinal Renato Martino, the prelate in the entourage of Pope Benedict who is responsible for the Council on Justice and Peace, that is, matters of justice and peace apparently everywhere. [...]

In the statement speaking if not for the Holy Father than for the Holy See, there's a lot of stuff about how nobody should take a human life. It must end naturally, the pronuciatmento asserts, as if this were a debate on abortion and Saddam were an innocent fetus in his mother's womb. Actually, the Vatican had been soft on Saddam's regime in order to buffer the Chaldean Catholic Church during and against the worst of his depradations.
Peretz also called Martino "Anti-American", as if protesting a death sentence is a direct affront to American values, instead of a reiteration of the Vatican's long-held opposition to capital punishment. As for the Catholic Church being "soft" on Saddam to protect its own interests, what should we call this?

The video clip above is of the December 20, 1983 meeting between Saddam Hussein and Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan. More on this meeting and the U.S. government's tilt towards Hussein at the National Security Archives website.

The Washington Post, Peretz and countless others rejoicing in Saddam Hussein's impending execution is missing the point. There might be little doubt of his guilt, but that is no excuse not to hold a fair trial. The very concept of justice demands it. If a nation is to adhere to this most fundamental tenet of a civilized society, then it should uphold it for everyone, even for a monster like Saddam Hussein. Otherwise, it is no different than executing Saddam on the spot the moment he was captured from the foxhole where he was hiding.

The trial seemed only a formality, yet even as a formality it wasn't very convincing. The trial was at the very least compromised, and if the Iraqi government's intent in holding it is to show that Saddam had his fair day in court, it clearly failed.

The New York Times understand the implications:

The important question was never really about whether Saddam Hussein was guilty of crimes against humanity.[...]

What really mattered was whether an Iraq freed from his death grip could hold him accountable in a way that nurtured hope for a better future. A carefully conducted, scrupulously fair trial could have helped undo some of the damage inflicted by his rule. It could have set a precedent for the rule of law in a country scarred by decades of arbitrary vindictiveness. It could have fostered a new national unity in an Iraq long manipulated through its religious and ethnic divisions. [...]

What might have been a watershed now seems another lost opportunity. After nearly four years of war and thousands of American and Iraqi deaths, it is ever harder to be sure whether anything fundamental has changed for the better in Iraq.
Saddam Hussein's execution after a flawed trial would only enforce the cycle of bloody vengeance and counter-vengeance. It is only a question of how soon and how grave.

Other reactions in the blogosphere:

Matthew Yglesias
This Modern World
Brilliant at Breakfast

Liberty Street
Talk Left

Tennessee Guerilla Women
Baghdad Burning

posted at 6:38 PM by Wonky Muse

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"Sapere Aude."
(Dare to Know)
-- Epistularum Liber Primus, Horace

Wonk (noun): def. A political nerd. Know spelled backwards.

Wonky Muse is the other Filipino American female political blogger. The sane, liberal one.


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