Saddam Hussein’s execution was pretty much inevitable, but the way it was carried out still struck me as sudden, as if there was a rush to hang him within a certain time frame. And then I read Juan Cole’s mention that Hussein was executed on a Sunni holy day, and it started to make sense.
This execution was an obscenity, top to bottom. Let’s ignore my qualms about using the death penalty for anyone, even somebody like Hussein. Let’s disregard the extremely questionable state of the Iraqi courts, and the way in which this trial was prosecuted. Let’s even forget about the way that the media is covering this execution, attempting to strip Hussein of what little humanity he has left but instead just revealing something cold and disturbing in our national psyche.
What we’ve still got is a calculated slap in the face to what’s left of the Baathists in Iraq. You think “Bring ‘em on” was bad for sectarian violence? See what happens next here. The timing was, of course, coordinated with the Bush administration, though they deny it.
And because Josh Marshall has the best take on the administration’s bloodlust for Hussein, I’m going to pretty much just quote his entire post here:
This whole endeavor, from the very start, has been about taking tawdry, cheap acts and dressing them up in a papier-mache grandeur — phony victory celebrations, ersatz democratization, reconstruction headed up by toadies, con artists and grifters. And this is no different. Hanging Saddam is easy. It’s a job, for once, that these folks can actually see through to completion. So this execution, ironically and pathetically, becomes a stand-in for the failures, incompetence and general betrayal of country on every other front that President Bush has brought us.
Try to dress this up as an Iraqi trial and it doesn’t come close to cutting it — the Iraqis only take possession of him for the final act, sort of like the Church always left execution itself to the ‘secular arm’. Try pretending it’s a war crimes trial but it’s just more of the pretend mumbojumbo that makes this out to be World War IX or whatever number it is they’re up to now.
The Iraq War has been many things, but for its prime promoters and cheerleaders and now-dwindling body of defenders, the war and all its ideological and literary trappings have always been an exercise in moral-historical dress-up for a crew of folks whose times aren’t grand enough to live up to their own self-regard and whose imaginations are great enough to make up the difference. This is just more play-acting.
These jokers are being dragged kicking and screaming to the realization that the whole thing’s a mess and that they’re going to be remembered for it — defined by it — for decades and centuries. But before we go, we can hang Saddam. Quite a bit of this was about the president’s issues with his dad and the hang-ups he had about finishing Saddam off — so before we go, we can hang the guy as some big cosmic ‘So There!’
Marx might say that this was not tragedy but farce. But I think we need to get way beyond options one and two even to get close to this one — claptrap justice meted out to the former dictator in some puffed-up act of self-justification as the country itself collapses in the hands of the occupying army.
Marty Peretz, with some sort of projection, calls any attempt to rain on this parade “prissy and finicky.” Myself, I just find it embarrassing. This is what we’re reduced to, what the president has reduced us to. This is the best we can do. Hang Saddam Hussein because there’s nothing else this president can get right.
What do you figure this farce will look like 10, 30 or 50 years down the road? A signal of American power or weakness?