Sunday, December 31, 2006

Good riddance to a dictator

They hanged Saddam Hussein yesterday. I certainly won't mourn him, except in the sense that I disapprove of the death penalty, and I consider his trial was barely better than a kangaroo court. When you consider the circumstances of his trial, the defence lawyers who were assassinated, the rush to return a guilty verdict, and now the unholy haste to kill him, this wasn't the finest hour of international justice.

But if you step back and consider the bigger picture, this was a death that will accomplish very little beyond a personal feeling of closure to his victims and enemies. (No doubt Mad King George will be grinning right about now.) His death will make him a martyr to many. Even those who would cheerfully have slit his throat, like Osama bin Laden, will no doubt be using Saddam's execution as "proof" (by which I mean propoganda) that the Iraqi government is nothing but a puppet of the Americans, killing Iraq's sons for the benefit of the USA.

It would have been better for Saddam to spend the rest of his life in jail as a warning to other dictators: you won't go down in a blaze of glory, shouting defiance at your enemies, you'll become irrelevent, unmissed, slowly drifting into old age and senility.

Be that as it may, whether Saddam's death would be more or less of a deterrent to others, one thing is absolutely certain: it will have no real effect on the Iraqi civil war. Unrepentent Baathists looking to put Saddam back in power have never been more than bit players in the Iraqi tragedy.

[sarcasm] However, on the plus side, at least now I no longer have to fear Saddam's invisible nuclear, chemical and biological weapons! [/sarcasm]

Professor Juan Cole has a detailed list of the top ten ways that the USA helped build Saddam's dictatorship. If you'd rather a brief overview, set to Bing Crosby's Thanks for the memories, Eric Blumrich has a very well done Flash slideshow.

Update, 1st Jan 2007 11:45pm:
The New York Times (DNA sample required) has a moving report on Saddam's execution. I hate to say it, but the old monster went to his death with more dignity and grace than his executioners showed. He was defiant until the end, and his bravery will surely give more ammunition to at least one side of the civil war.

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