Sunday, November 5, 2006

Saddam Hussein: Condemned but defiant

Barring an incredibly successful and lucky appeal, former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will be facing the same fate he subjected so many of his opponents to during his rule -- he will be executed. The specific crime in this case isn't the infamous gassing of 5000 Kurds back in 1988 during the closing days of the border war with Iran, but rather the assassination of 148 Shi'ites in Dujail which he ordered as revenge for an attempt on his life in 1982. (Hussein, of course, is a Sunni.)

I've noted several times on my blog that I am against capital punishment -- I have been since my teenage years -- and have applauded the courage of those who have both remained consistent in their opposition to the death penalty, as well as those who have changed their mind and now oppose it. So in that sense, I don't like what is going to happen to Hussein. However, one can't deny the significance of today's events. For the first time since World War II and its aftermath, a country has tried one of its own -- as opposed to an international tribunal set up for the purpose -- for crimes against humanity. By my recollection, the last time this happened was when Vidkun Quisling, the Prime Minister of Norway, was shot for selling out his country to the Nazis and thus lent his name to a synonym for traitor.

What I find so weird and even pathetic is that Hussein persisted in seeing himself as an historical character, someone who did what he did in order to further another cause, the liberation of the Palestinians. That he was even willing to die if it would free the Palestinians. It just doesn't square with me -- and a lot of people on both the left and right -- that he would kill thousand of Arabs to free a couple million more. As we all know, during the First Gulf War, people in the West Bank and Gaza actually bought his line with rather caustic consequences -- their case was actually set back. I really don't know what made him think there was a link between the two or why he felt the need to persecute the Shi'ite majority or the Kurds in order to pursue his agenda. Suffice it to say, one of my classmates from high school who happened to be a Palestinian Christian thought he was out of touch and that the future lay with the Arab League recognizing the Jewish fact -- not trying to destroy it; which I elaborated on in reply to Ed Morrissey's comments about the "martyr" ssue over a year ago.

To be honest, I won't really be sorry to see Hussein go. He -- and Iraq -- wasn't the obstacle to Middle East peace. It was and continues to be the leadership in Iran. However, he was a hero to the Sunnis who ruled Iraq for so long, and when the curfew is lifted anarchy will be the natural follower.

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