From The Times:
We’ve seen a lot of Iraqis in those masks these past few years. Just wanted to highlight when they’re not all bad.
The Times – Iraq deserves more than a hanging, by Tim Hames<br/> Saddam Hussein’s death cannot bring ‘closure’
Saddam spent most of his decades in power seeking to divide Europeans from Americans. His death will continue that policy. There will be few US politicians of real standing who do anything other than recognise Iraq’s absolute right to have its former strongman hanged, indeed applaud this outcome as justice pure and simple. Yet America is a nation that concluded its bloody civil war by depriving Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, of his vast estate at Arlington but otherwise allowing him a retirement of some liberty.
Um, I appreciate that Americans have no sense of history, and ordinarily I’d appreciate any instance of a longer view of things, but while Europeans are so keen to remind us of our own, a) I’d feel better about it if they weren’t so determined to piss away theirs and b) I wish they’d take a moment of quiet contemplation before doing so, just on the off chance that such a moment might lead them to choosing a historical parallel that had some distant, glimmering, faint relevance to the topic they think they’re discussing.
One of the great ironies of Saddam’s year-long trial for ordering the 1982 massacre of 142 villagers in the Shia town of Dujail was his lawyers’ constant reference to the Geneva Conventions to save their client from the gallows, a fate that was effectively pre-ordained from the moment he was dragged unceremoniously out of his hiding hole in Tikrit by American Marines in December 2003.
As president of Iraq, Saddam completely ignored the internationally recognised treaty on the conduct of war. When the Kurds sided with the Iranians during the 1980s, Saddam silenced them by dropping chemical weapons on their villages and forcibly driving the survivors into exile. Kuwaiti civilians captured after Saddam invaded their country in 1990 were subjected to the most horrible torture imaginable, from being slowly electrocuted to death to being thrown into vats of boiling water.
Even during his trials in Baghdad – both for the Dujail massacre and the notorious chemical weapons attack on Halabja at the end of the Iran-Iraq war – at no point did Saddam concede that he had done anything wrong. In the case of Dujail, he insisted it was his duty as president to take punitive action against the villagers after their failed assassination attempt; a similar argument was made with regard to the Halabja massacre, where Saddam’s defence was that he was defending the nation’s interests in attacking the Kurdish villagers who were siding with the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq war.
This twisted logic and utter lack of any moral or ethical compass made Saddam a threat not just to his own country, but also to the entire region. About the only serious political aspiration he held throughout his career was to be the leader of a Saladin-like pan-Arab revival, in which all the Arab nations would be united under the rule of one benevolent leader – Saddam Hussein.
Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of America and Britain launching a military campaign to depose him in the spring of 2003, few can deny that the long-term future of Iraq and the wider Middle East is brighter without the butcher of Baghdad.
And while squeamish Western sensibilities may feel uneasy about the former dictator being dispatched by a hangman’s noose at Abu Ghraib jail, it was always going to be impossible to keep Saddam alive in captivity while his country hovered on the brink of civil war.
Even if support for Saddam is confined to his immediate family and criminal associates from Tikrit, there remains a substantial constituency among Iraq’s disfranchised Sunni community who still fondly remember the hegemony they enjoyed over the country during his rule. The remnants of the old Ba’ath party, who have proved remarkably proficient at sustaining the vicious and unrelenting insurgency that has done so much to undermine the coalition’s attempts to restore order to Iraq, have even gone so far as to threaten reprisals against those responsible for his demise.
With such strong emotions still in evidence, the Iraqi government had no hesitation in approving the death sentence handed out by the court to Saddam following his conviction for the Dujail massacre. Indeed, such was their haste to expunge Saddam and his cohorts from the public consciousness that they did not even bother to wait until the Halabja trial had been completed.
Certainly, with Saddam out of the way, the government will be able to concentrate its energies on the altogether more pressing priority of addressing the parlous state of the country’s national security, which has profound implications for the wider region and international security, too.
The headline the Telegraph uses:
Hanging Saddam won’t bring peace to Iraq