By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Saddam’s last minutes?

It looks like Saddam Hussein will hang not long after this item is posted. Though I’m personally opposed to the death penalty, such opposition strikes me as ridiculous in the Iraqi context. Still, I’m of a mixed mind.

On the one hand, it seems a shame to execute him while he’s still on trial for far greater crimes than those of which he’s been convicted. Accountability is important, and this short-circuits that process.

On the other, from my safe perch at Media Nation Central it seems as though some segment of the Iraqi population is still afraid that Saddam will return to power — and that the Sunni insurgency is actually hoping he’ll come back. In the end, that might be even more important than formal accountability. (I say “formal” because it’s not as though we don’t know what he’s done.)

Thus, now is probably as good a time as any.

Photo by Alessandro Abate and used under the terms of Creative Commons (cc). Some rights reserved.

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  1. Aaron Read

    I largely agree with you, Dan…but at the same time, look what a mockery of justice the Slobodon Milosevic trial was. If Saddam was kept alive to stand trial for every crime being levied against him, he wouldn’t be executed for another 100 years.I also wonder what “justice” could truly be served by these trials. The outcome is never really in doubt, and the process is shaky in cases like this; if Saddam’s word is law, how can anything he does while in power be “illegal”? Obviously I’m oversimplifying but you see my point: these trials are not about justice, nor are they about “accountability”…they’re about revenge and closure.”Accountability” means something different at this level. It means that other dictators should know that if they’re ever overthrown, they’re dead ducks. Executing Saddam now accomplishes that. Drawing out the process actually works against accountability because other dictators only see a desparate man skillfully “playing the system” to stay alive while those now in power look impotent.Ergo, what’s left is revenge and hopefully closure for the victims. I think that’s important, but not important enough when those who would support Saddam are killing freely in the streets of Iraq. If killing him serves to lessen these more recent atrocities, then so be it.

  2. Bill Baar

    It puts to an end Sunni hopes the US would return the Baath as allies against Iran.

  3. Anonymous

    As I posted on other sites:Yawn. So Bush finally got the guy who tried to kill his daddy. Big deal. I wonder what the Mighty Righties are going to start beating their breasts about now.All this was at the cost of almost 3K American lives and tens of thousands of injured Americans–to date, of course. And not to be forgotten–although more than a few Americans would prefer to do–at the cost of hundreds of thousands of other Iraqis, of course.One would have thought that, to give Saddam’s execution the maximal impact on the American psyche, the Bushies would have had him executed either before Christmas or after New Years, not between Christmas and New Years when few Americans are paying attention to much of anything. It appears that the Bushies have lost all appreciation for the wonders of public relations.The only things of moderate interest in this is (a) it’s all over the news media, and (b) it has pushed the continuing fawning over Ford off the news media.–raj

  4. David S. Bernstein

    Dan:You wrote: “Accountability is important, and this short-circuits that process.”Also applies to Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon, no?Interesting juxtaposition of the two this week. (Not trying to equate Saddam anbd Tricky Dick by any means.)As you pointed out in an earlier post, there seems to be an overwhelming public agreement that the pardon was good, because the “healing process” was more important than accountability. Arguably, that very decision allowed the hard-fought rehabilitation of RMN’s image, which helped prep the country to uncritically accept the abuses of the current administration.

  5. A.J. Cordi

    Dan, we’re both in the same boat. However, I was angrier with the way he was executed. The U.S. wanted him to be hung with ‘respect.’There was obviously no respect; not from U.S. media or the people who were present. I haven’t seen any video from after the hanging, but there were reports of people dancing around his corpse.Like him or hate him, I believe if a person is to be executed, despite their crimes, should be treated with respect and not revenge. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t support Saddam one bit, but hopefully you know what I’m trying to say.I even had trouble writing about this on my blog; I can’t seem to get what I want to say clear, but at least I tried. Just too many mixed feelings, but my main concern was for the people over there, including our military (and it still is.)

  6. Anonymous

    That’s a nice thought. I wonder if the wife of one of the hundreds of “traitors” he threw off buildings (with the cameras rolling) would agree. How about those dead bloated kids in Kurdistan. Wonder if they would call for a “dignified” execution. It’s nice to be reflective sitting on leather sofa watching your flat screen TV.

  7. whispers

    “Though I’m personally opposed to the death penalty, such opposition strikes me as ridiculous in the Iraqi context.”I don’t quite understand what this is supposed to mean. If a person is opposed to the death penalty in any serious manner, then they have to be opposed to the death penalty of Saddam Hussein. Contingent opposition to the death penalty is not actually opposition to the death penalty at all. It’s just a desire to draw the line at a different place than other people do. I say this without making reference either to the question of Iraq sovereignty (why is the US seemingly in charge of the timing of all of these things?) or the question of the many flaws of the trial in Iraq, or the flawed implementation of the death penalty in general.

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Whispers: I could have worded it more artfully. I’m against the death penalty with a very few exceptions. Genocide and crimes against humanity would be the exceptions. Saddam was certainly guilty of the latter.

  9. Feisal-Eusoff

    Definate a public murder, as it was done with such distaste and without regard to human basis rights. It was clear from the very beginning that he has been condemned and the US Administration has a lot to answer to the world. What now? Do we hang and condemn all leaders that fail to comply to the wants of the US and its allies?. The US and its allies have destroyed centuries of civilization and art, not to mention a whole country. It is not surprising that the public opinion of the US and its allies, is at its lowest point. Do this serve justice? And to whom? I believe we have left the Iraqi people with more misery in the days to come, where would the US admnistration be, then? As usual, packing their tail and admit to the world it was a mistake after all, in the next 20 years. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely…..this has corrupted the US and its allies. Now you are just the same as the man you want to condemn, there will not be any flag waving when it is your time to go

  10. Alex

    Hello, Thanks for posting my photo. Since you liked it well enough to put on your blog. how about a link to the original photo on Flickr?

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Alex: Done and happy to do it.

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