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December 29, 2006

News of the night
Posted by Patrick at 10:20 PM * 134 comments

Saddam Hussein hanged1.

Josh Marshall writes:

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. […]

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?

Matthew Yglesias is good too:
The Washington Post editorial page is mad at human rights groups for complaining about procedural flaws in Saddam Hussein’s trial since, after all, we all know Saddam is guilty. Martin Peretz is upset that death penalty opponents oppose executing Saddam Hussein since, after all, we all know Saddam’s a really bad guy.

Do these guys not understand the concept of principles? The point of the belief that all people are entitled to fair trials before receiving criminal sentences is that all people are entitled to fair trials. The point of the belief that capital punishment is immoral (not a belief I share, incidentally) is that it’s always immoral. It’s not as if Amnesty International is confused and doesn’t understand that Saddam isn’t a very sympathetic case. Rather, the point is that organizations committed to principles of human rights—fair trials, no executions—need to uphold those principles even when violating them sounds appealing. If they didn’t, the groups wouldn’t be standing for anything.


(1) Thank you, grammar nitpickers, you were right.
Comments on News of the night:
#1 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2006, 10:52 PM:

Rather, the point is that organizations committed to principles of human rights—fair trials, no executions—need to uphold those principles even when violating them sounds appealing. If they didn’t, the groups wouldn’t be standing for anything.

See also: Bush, Cheney, Rice, Yoo, Gonzales, Lieberman....

#2 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2006, 10:55 PM:

Oh...god.

We're preaching justice and democracy and due process?

#3 ::: cap ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2006, 11:02 PM:

I read that, and was reminded of Robert Burns' "A Man's a Man for A' That". Which didn't make sense to me, but gave me an excuse to read the poem again, anyway.

I don't understand how we kill people to make our problems go away. The dead people, no matter who they were in life, end up dead, and we still have the(ir) problems.

#4 ::: JKRichard ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2006, 11:05 PM:

What do you figure this farce will look like 10, 30 or 50 years down the road? A signal of American power or weakness?

...more like the signal of the weakness of those in power.

-=Jeff=-

#5 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2006, 11:09 PM:

And my first thought was to see what The Rude Pundit would have to say about it.

#6 ::: Debbie Notkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2006, 11:38 PM:

*sigh* It's just sad. Except for the parts that are cruel.

Bill Humphries found the right quotation: "Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life." Most of you know the rest of it. (Tolkien, of course.)

"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just." -- Thomas Jefferson

#7 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2006, 11:46 PM:

Should be "Saddam Hussein hanged" instead of "Saddam Hussein hung".

#8 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2006, 11:52 PM:

Debbie @ 6

So do I. Unfortunately, there are a bunch of people at the top who don't, because they think God is on their side (they have no evidence for this; I think they're getting told stuff by the other guy: 'Hi, you want to run the world? Just follow me.')

When these guys die, someone put wooden pencils or bamboo skewers or something similar through each of their hearts, and remotely-activated thermite devices in their coffins, to be set off after being lowered, but before they're covered, and while tha cameras are still around (for that hell-bound effect). And give them NOLA-style jazz funerals, because those of us who survive will want to party.

#9 ::: Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 12:01 AM:

"Hanged," surely?

But grammar-wanking-while-Rome-burns aside, I am brought to a very strange pass. I find myself far sadder at the death of Saddam Hussein than that of Jerry Ford.

And you know what this means, don't you? That the names of Jerry Ford, Saddam Hussein, and James Brown will be forever linked in history. So wrong.

#10 ::: dr. iodine ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 12:05 AM:

Can something be haunting, ridiculous, pathetic, just, unjust, cruel, foolish, etc.... all at the same time?


#11 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 12:29 AM:

You don't suppose the NY Daily News will go with the headline "Bush to Saddam: Drop Dead", do you?

#12 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 12:40 AM:

OK. Who's the genius who picked this particular date?

Because it is Eid Al Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, commemorating the sacrifice of Ismail (in mythic terms, forefather of the Arab nation) by his father, Ibrahim (Abraham, in the Christian and Jewish traditions).

It also coincides with the end of the hajj pilgrimage over in Mecca. So, we have an actual killing on a day commemorating sacrifice, remembered by people who are atuned to the end of the pilgrimage and feeling that tickle in their feet that people who haven't done pilgrimage - and wish they had - have. And the many (tens of thousands? hundreds of thousands? I'm not following the reports) people who have just gone through the rituals of the pilgrimage and felt that they themselves were present in some sense at that sacrifice.

To transpose it to Christain terms, imagine a foreign conqueror kill some prominently Christian leader on Good Friday.

It feels like a recruitment poster (with Saddam being the unwilling poster child) for war against those who force the point, force the sacrifice.

Whoever set this date must have known what the date signifies. Why was this permitted?

#13 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 12:41 AM:

Well, that'll teach those guys not to mess with Uncle Sam.

#14 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 12:56 AM:

Dena, I thought I'd read that they timed to execution as they did because they wanted to get it done before Eid. But looking around, I guess not.

Of course, Saddam wasn't a religious leader. His Baath party was secular, and he probably thought of himself as a secular bulwark against Islamic extremism in the middle east, and therefore didn't think we'd actually take him out. That detail may wind up on the editing-room-floor of history.

#15 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 12:59 AM:

Wait, Isaac wasn't sacrificed. He was spared at the last minute, remember?

Maybe that's the message the Bush administration is trying to send, to the insurgency: Isaac was spared, but you won't be.

But that would require brains and subtlety on the administration's part.

#16 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 01:02 AM:

Avram @14, Saddam was indeed not a religious leader. He was secular, mostly - but he was a secular Moslem leader, and had actually added the Arabic word Allah (God) onto the Iraqi flag a few years before Bush went after him.

But what he actually was won't matter, if there is sufficient will to present him as a martyr to galvanize support.

#17 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 01:02 AM:

Deana (#12): Speculation is that the Iraqi puppet government, secure in the knowledge that American leaders know virtually nothing about Islam, chose the date specifically FOR its symbolic punch. If they have to kill him, they're at least going to do so in the way that does them the most good and us the most harm.

#18 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 01:04 AM:

Wait -- was it Ishmael who went through the not-sacrifice in the Koran, instead of Isaac as it is in the Torah?

#19 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 01:07 AM:

Well, you know, if we had had a legitimate trial in an international court, and tried Saddam on ALL of his crimes, sooner or later, we'd be dealing with some direct and uncomfortable accusations about certain of our leaders, and their own role in Saddam's rise to power. And we can't have that. Ergo, we have this ersatz war crimes trial, and by gum, the man's guilty, let's hang him now.

Not that he didn't deserve to die. But we need to preserve the principles of law and of human rights. Plus, you know, it would be fitting if all of the people who helped him into power, gave him funding, weapons, and the means to carry out his atrocities were also brought to trial.

#20 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 01:14 AM:

Avram @15, Isaac's sacrifice is part of the Jewish tradition. The Quran tells of a previous sacrficie, that of Ismail (traditionally, father of the Arab nation; note: the Jewish and Moslem traditions both agree that Ismail was Abraham's first son, and that Abraham cast both him and his mother, Hagar, out into the desert at Sarah's request, when she became pregnant with Isaac. Later on in the same timeline, this time as reported in the Jewish tradition, God refers to Isaac as "your son, your only one, the one you love" - rather ignoring Ismail's ever having existed).

Here's the Wikipedia entry for Eid Al Adha: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eid_ul-Adha

And here's a Quarn-based description of the sacrifice of Ismail:
http://www.amaana.org/arch/ismail.htm

Ismail was spared, indeed; however, he became the father of a nation (rewarded, as it were, for being so shabbily treated by Abraham). I really don't want to see that title conferred on Saddam.

#21 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 01:18 AM:

Lee @17, that's what it looks like, indeed.

Not that I see what good it will do to the puppet government in Iraq - they'll (personally) be in very precarious positions if they appear to be collaborating with the United States.

#22 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 02:03 AM:

Juan Cole's Salon article on the execution makes much of the date. It turns out that there are two dates for Eid al-Adha --- it is celebrated on Sunday by Shiites, but on Saturday by Sunnis. Iraqi law forbids executions on major holidays --- which this is for the Sunnis, but not the Shiites. Add to that that prime minister al-Maliki is a member of the Dawa party, whose assassination attempt provoked the reprisals that constituted the one crime for which Saddam was formally tried and convicted, and the whole thing looks like an act of sectarian revenge, timed to add insult to injury.

#23 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 02:46 AM:

Seems like Josh Marshall's being quoted everywhere today. I did it myself earlier this morning.

#24 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 03:21 AM:

A very close friend of mine just sent me an email about this. While he didn't quote Josh Marshall (he's not a blog reader) he did point out this bit in the New York Times (which seems to have been redacted - I have no reason to believe my friend made this up) that said:

The current President Bush, who keeps the pistol soldiers confiscated
from Mr. Hussein when he was captured mounted in his private study off
the Oval Office, did not say anything publicly about the impending
execution.

Aha! Before I hit post, I ran some searches, and this link popped up, but the target was stripped of the text. But, it's still in the International Herald Tribune.

#25 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 06:56 AM:

Good thing Iraqi Law allows hanging, the electrical service being what it is they may have had to wait until the blackout was over.

#26 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 08:34 AM:

Not so much a grammar nitpick, as that...well, let's just say that Saddam might have been hung, but I really, really don't want to know!

Gallows humor aside...it's a bad thing. It doesn't make the world a better place; it's not what he deserved (even as Pinochet's death was not); it denies justice to all his other victims (aside from those of the massacre for which he was convicted), since those trials will be unable to go forward. It may even make it harder to convict other participants in his crimes.

I predict that the Shiite jubilation will be short-lived.

What a lovely Eid present for Iraq. It sickens me.

As for Matthew Iglesias' point, he's absolutely right. I oppose the death penalty on principle, a fact which became clear to me when I found that I still opposed the death penalty for Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney. In my opinion, if the death penalty could ever be justified, it would have been in their case; and it was not, because it never, ever can be.

The reason for that is that my opposition to the death penalty is not about the executed; it's about the society that executes. (I don't ignore the innocence of many victims of the death penalty, nor do I discount its racist application in our uncivilized country; I'm just talking about the fundamental principle of my opposition, not the additional arguments against it.) I think executing people lets us off too easily; I think a society that produces monstrous people like Henderson and McKinney should have to find a way to deal with them. In a way it's a Behaviorist principle (nearest thing to a family religion that I have); the consequences of certain behavior must be fully felt if the behavior is to change.

I also just think (or maybe 'feel' is a more accurate word) that killing one's own species is wrong on such a deep level that I can hardly put my reasoning into words. I guess I need to think about it more before I can verbalize it. And if it's wrong, it's always wrong, whether by an individual for hate or rage or money, or by a state to fulfill "justice" (what a travesty!), provide "closure" for victims' families (which doesn't work anyway) or to save money (an argument I've heard from proponents of it, and no better in my opinion than simple contract murder).

Yes, I've said that I'd like to torture Osama bin Laden to death. But this is the same as my response to the "if it were your sister" argument: one of the reasons we have society at all is to restrain that very understandable, even laudable impulse, because as human as it is, it runs counter to justice. While my heart wants OBL to be tortured to death, my sense of justice would oppose his execution. Whether I'd have the strength to speak out of justice, and not my heart, if he should be captured...I don't know.

Even if you don't oppose the death penalty on principle, this was a stupid execution; but I've gone on long enough for one post.

#27 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 09:13 AM:

Hanging, done right, can be an incredibly fast method of execution. At least, as far as anyone can tell: the jerk that breaks the neck will also concuss the victim, giving immediarte unconsciousness.

Done wrong, as in a lynching, it's slow, choking, suffocation.

This is the book I read on the subject. I think the review is a fair picture of the book. The Wikipedia entry on Syd Dernley gives a completely different reason to that in the book for why he stopped being a hangman. With a citation.

#28 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 09:43 AM:

What good does it do? That's what I want to know. It looks like a pretty petty act of revenge (NPR has been pointing out that the Kurds are upset that they didn't have a chance to try Saddam for his crimes against them).

#29 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 09:59 AM:

PixelFish @ 19

You're not the only one who's had that thought.

#30 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 10:02 AM:

Hullaballoo is where I usually head for sharp analysis, and, as usual, digby delivers:

I can't help but wonder what would have happened if the US had behaved like a world leader and sent him to be tried in the International Criminal Court instead of having the "Iraqi government" (which clearly has no real legal system) stage a show trial and now execute him in the middle of a civil war...

I'm sure Bush will have a very serious press conference in which he will state that "the tyrant has been brought to justice" (mark my words) which is what's important.

And hey, they just got to put out a terror alert. The Baathists are coming! Run for your lives!

For myself, I still maintain that (a) he almost certainly deserved the sentence, though (b) it ought to have been imposed by a competent international court for his more serious crimes, and (c) in no way did those crimes justify the invasion and destruction of Iraq, especially at the time we actually invaded.

#31 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 10:24 AM:

I suppose the argument for having Saddam tried in Iraq, rather than in the International Criminal Court (which Bush rejects in case it tries anyone for war crimes, such as Abu Ghraib, shooting unarmed civilians, etc.) is that if he can be tried in Iraq, it's better to have justice seen to be done there rather than far away in The Hague, so that it's "us Iraqis" (for some meaning of "us") rather than a remote "they" who are doing the trying and executing.  And even if it was under US control, at least some Iraqis seemed to be involved in the trial.

#32 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 10:37 AM:

John at 31: That's the argument. However, as far as I can tell, much of the Arab, especially the Sunni Arab, world has already proclaimed Saddam's hanging to be an American act, designed by Americans, even though it was done by Iraqis with no Americans present. Of course.

#33 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 10:57 AM:

I think W. Bush feels he has validated his presidency by this execution. Brrrr. The date, of course, was chosen to be before the US New Year; I think there was nothing else beyond that. Brrrr. Brrrrr.

#34 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 11:18 AM:

Yes.  Bush's prepared statement (he didn't bother to get out of bed, so it was issued by a flunky) said in part "It is a testament to the Iraqi people's resolve to move forward after decades of oppression that, despite his terrible crimes against his own people, Saddam Hussein received a fair trial."  Quite so.  Now, if even Iraq can give a fair trial to a hated dictator, surely the great supporter of Liberty and Democracy could give a fair trial to certain people - not hated dictators - who are still held in legal limbo at Guanatanamo Bay?

#35 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 11:42 AM:

Re # 28: What good does it do? That's what I want to know. It looks like a pretty petty act of revenge (NPR has been pointing out that the Kurds are upset that they didn't have a chance to try Saddam for his crimes against them).

The "good" it does is giving Shrub & Co. a way to claim "victory." They went in to get rid of Saddam & Co., and now that they've made it impossible for Saddam to ever regain power, they've "won", and when people say they haven't, they can just answer "Yes, we did win. You don't see Saddam in charge any more, do you?"

It gives a way to redefine "winning" to the lowest element, and ensures that this "winning" can't be taken away, because dead men can't take back control when the US gives up on the mess.

Weren't a bunch of Saddam's cronies on trial with him? Were they hanged, too?

#36 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 12:04 PM:

My sadness at this news isn't that an execution occurred (and Xopher articulated my feelings on the death penalty better than I have ever been able to do even for myself, so thank you for that) ... but that by killing Saddam, we let him off the hook. For some people, death is simply too good. He should have been taken back to his spider hole and left there to rot.

#37 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 12:05 PM:

Randolph @33: The date, of course, was chosen to be before the US New Year.

No it wasn't, according to Juan Cole. "The tribunal also had a unique sense of timing when choosing the day for Saddam's hanging. It was a slap in the face to Sunni Arabs. This weekend marks Eid al-Adha, the Holy Day of Sacrifice, on which Muslims commemorate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son for God. Shiites celebrate it Sunday. Sunnis celebrate it Saturday –- and Iraqi law forbids executing the condemned on a major holiday. Hanging Saddam on Saturday was perceived by Sunni Arabs as the act of a Shiite government that had accepted the Shiite ritual calendar."

As such, the timing can be seen as a deliberate provocation. And given the nature of the situation in Iraq, I find that gesture quite chilling -- it suggests that the Dawa party don't expect Sunni hagiography of Saddam as a martyr to be a problem for them in the long term. Indeed, it suggests that they don't plan on there being a long term for sunnis in Iraq at all ...

#38 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 01:15 PM:

This execution is probably as good an example of the sheer (evil) genius of this administration as we'll ever get. The timing with Eid al-Adha, the avoidance of icky issues surrounding the Kurds, the way it makes every group in Iraq even angrier at one another and at us...genius. The War Will Continue.

I want to puke.

#39 ::: Onager ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 01:24 PM:

It would be nice if those suggesting referal to the ICC had actually read the Rome Statue and understood the limited scope of the ICC's jurisdiction. You can't simply hand someone over to the ICC like frickn' Dawg tha' Bounty Hunter.
Unless the case is refered by the Security Council (which of course the US and the UK would have blocked or if not us then France or Russia who have their own reasons for blocking a close look into Saddam's dirty laundry) it may only be brought where the person in the dock is from a state signatory to the ICC (which Iraq is not) or where the crimes have been committed on the territory of a signatory to the ICC (see above). Furthermore, jurisdiction only kicks in for crimes committed after 7/1/2002.
The ICC is not the patented miracle cure everyone thinks it is. It's got potential and there are some truly amazing folks there but progessives who whip it out like its the last card of a winning hand ususally know next to nothing about it.
Should there have been an international court? Ideally, yes, but that would have been viewed as a defacto legitimization of the invasion and no one was going to do that and letting the US and its Iraqi goverment get rid of Saddam was a neat way to avoid accountability for their own dalliances with the dictator.

#40 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 01:56 PM:

Onager, I read the Rome Statute, and I have a couple of questions:

1. Where does the 2002 date come from? Milosevic and other war criminals were tried in the Hague for crimes committed in the mid-90s, weren't they?

2. The statute, if I read it correctly, says that a State not previously a signatory to the ICC may petition to have a person or persons tried by the ICC, or interested parties in the State may do so. Wouldn't this have gotten around Iraq not being a member?

#41 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 02:19 PM:

Charlie, possibly both; W. Bush wanted Saddam executed this year, and the Dawa party slipped an act of revenge past W. (a very Arab/Islamic political trick), who might even be pleased by it. Or possibly Cole is just seeing a pattern in the void. I do believe it was only done with W. Bush's permission, perhaps even his direct order.

Almost exactly three years ago, in rasff, I wrote:

I think they're hoping to press the court to order the death penalty. The more I think about it, the less wise I think that would be. If nothing else there's quite a bit of Iraqi history which Saddam knows, and knows how to find, which no-one else may know. He literally knows where the bodies are buried, and there's a lot of families who would really like to have that information. His family might feel compelled to pursue revenge. The Islamic radicals might declare him a martyr.

It seems to be coming true. I wish it was not.

#42 ::: badducky ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 03:12 PM:

Incidentally, while Saddam Hussein hanged, George W Bush hid in Crawford, TX, in his storm shelter.

Yup: tornadoes, massive lightning bolts, hail and flooding rains swept over Tejas last night.

While Saddam Hussein hanged, George W Bush hid from the sky.

#43 ::: Onager ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 03:18 PM:

1. Article 11 Paragraph 1: "The Court has justidiction only with respect to crimes committed after entry into force of this Statute." - 7/1/2002
Milosevich and company were tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia which, like the ICC operates out of the Hague, but which is an independent judical body charterd by the UN. The ICT-Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the East Timor thing, and the new Cambodia venture are similar in structure to the ICTY though they operate in or near the countries of their jurisdiction.
People use "The Hague" as a sort of catch all for the ICTY and the ICC where they shouldn't, it confuses the rather limited jusirdiction of the ICC and leads to the assumption that its powers are more sweeping than they actually are.

2. Articles 12, 13, 14, and 15 are pretty clear about jurisdicitonal issues. While a non-State Party to the convention can accept the jurisdiction of the court, generally speaking, unless the Security Council refers a case (as happened with Darfur) a State Party to the Statute must be involved, either through the crime having occured in their jurisdiction or through the accused being a national of that state.
Iraq had the option to refer Saddam to the ICC for trial but only for those crimes he committed after 7/1/2002, and in all frankness, given the crimes the ICC is currently looking into (Darfur, the various depravities of the Lord's Resistance Army, Charles Taylors madness in West Africa) nothing he did in that short span would have risen to the level of ICC gravity.

#44 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 03:49 PM:

Ah. Thanks much for the clarification, Onager!

And badducky: Were those pyrotechnics and other SFX aiming directly at Crawford? Maybe ol' Dubya had good reason to hide from the sky :)

#45 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 04:08 PM:

Ursula L #35: I have a feeling that this "victory" is going to taste of ashes.

It strikes me as really stupid to do the one thing guaranteed to turn a tin-pot tyrant into a hero-martyr figure. But perhaps the Shrub Administration has a vision that reality-based people such as myself can't understand.

#46 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 04:25 PM:

I am finding it peculiar that so far all the men in the pictures with him during the execution I see are wearing civilian street clothes which make them look like vigilante thugs. If this is an official act of law and state power and responsibility where are the uniforms or other indicators of officialness.
This creates a message in my mind that is not good at all.

#47 ::: Onager ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 05:15 PM:

No problem CaseyL. Somehting else that's worth noting about the ICC, it's explicitly intended to be a court of last resort. The whole structure of the statute is meant to encourage State Parties to take care of things in their own courts, only when they don't or they can't does the ICC step in to fill the gap. Uganda called them in and now that they're having peace talks with the LRA they're rethinking having done so. There was alot of internal debate at the ICC this summer as to how the Luis Mareno-Occampo, the ICC Chief Prosecutor, should respond if Uganda asked him to drop the investigation they originally asked him to intiate.

#48 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 05:42 PM:

You can't simply hand someone over to the ICC like frickn' Dawg tha' Bounty Hunter.

Now there's an image. Or, perhaps picking up Our George while he's "clearing brush" on his "ranch". I would definitely tune in for that.

#49 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 05:54 PM:

Could someone answer a question for me concerning the timing of the execution. As cited above, Juan Cole (who I tend to trust on this sort of thing) has stated that the execution was timed for Eid al-Adha as observed by Sunni Muslims. Other stories out there claim that the execution was carried out before dawn to avoid just that.

My question is, just when does this holiday begin under Islamic tradition and practice?

If this was a feast on the Jewish, Catholic, or Orthodox calendars, it would start at sunset of the "prior" day, as that is when the day begins and ends under Jewish tradtion. Hence the observance of the vigils of Christmas, Easter, All Saints, and so forth. (The Catholic bishops in the US currently rationalize that to 4pm for convenience and consistency.) But I have no idea what the rule is for Eid al-Adha and have had no luck with Google so far.

Thanks in advance.

#50 ::: Onager ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 05:56 PM:

perhaps picking up Our George while he's "clearing brush" on his "ranch". I would definitely tune in for that.

So would I.
But I think Bush thinks that he is, in a Cartman-esque sort of way, Dog.
If you look at Bush as Eric Cartman, a whole lot starts to make sense.

#51 ::: Tm Kgr ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 06:32 PM:

Th mn ws drcly rspnsbl fr th mrdr f 400,000 ppl. nd y fl *srry* fr hm?

Wht bnch f rvng lns. Y r ll bynd hp.

#52 ::: Onager ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 06:52 PM:

Which entry of the 51 made so far said "I feel sorry for Saddam"? I seem to have missed that one.
I guess all the spittle from my ravings got in my eyes.

#53 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 06:52 PM:

Tim Kyger #51: Would you be so kind as to point out who has expressed sorrow for Saddam Hussein? With precise quotations, if you don't mind. Just go along the thread.

#54 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 06:55 PM:

And your reading comprehension is lacking. Believing that the execution was a bad idea, or that it was not carried out in accordance with the ideals of justice has nothing to do with feeling sorry for Saddam. Grown-ups understand that.

#55 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 07:02 PM:

Tim,

I can feel some sympathy, on a strictly individual, human, one-on-one level, with the sorts of people that commit mass murder.

For example: All Americans, regardless of their political persuasion, can feel some sympathy for the way Rumsfield got treated shabbily by Bush. Just imagine: Help kill hundreds of thousand of people, and you get shoved out of office.

I don't understand, Tim. Aren't you patriotic?

#56 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 07:07 PM:

Tim @51

You all are beyond hope.

Ah, Tim, if only we were.

If we were beyond hoping for fair trials, even of people accused of bad things, we might be able to call this justice.

If we were beyond hoping for a better future for Iraq, we'd not despair at the way this execution was timed to deepen sectarian tensions.

If we were beyond hoping for peace, we might applaud this war.

If we were beyond hoping for the power of reason, we wouldn't bother to responding to your trolling.

If only.

#57 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 07:08 PM:

(If only I was beyond hoping for better, I'd not be bothered about my poor proofreading.)

#58 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 07:21 PM:

The man was direcly responsible for the murder of 400,000 people. And you feel *sorry* for him?

George Bush is indirectly responsible for the deaths of half again as many. What should we feel for him?

#59 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 08:18 PM:

Badducky, @42

Far be it from me to defend W, but if that's what the weather was like in Texas only a damfool wouldn't be hiding from it. (I won't be addressing the 'was it a message' question as I don't believe in that stuff.)

MKK

#60 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 08:52 PM:

The question of whether the death penalty is right or wrong is separate from the question of whether or not Saddam Hussein was brought to justice. The usual conflation is, He was so horrible that he deserved to die. This lead into a tail-chasing argument about the legitimacy of the death penalty because [fill in blank] was so evil he deserved to die.

I cannot see the proper use of the law, nor the clear establishment of guilt in the trial of Saddam Hussein. I see a great deal of political manouvering and posturing. I see a kangaroo court where the people who tried and convicted him were his enemies, and the sentence a forgone conclusion. I'll have to add that to Abu Graib and the many other horrors that make me ashamed of my country, right now.

My opinion on the death penalty has nothing to do with how I feel about the trial and execution. I'm happy to discuss the death penalty, and even its applicability to individuals (Hitler, Gacy, bin Laden). Conviction and sentencing are two different actions of the law. If you don't get the first one right, you cannot get the second one right.

#61 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 09:17 PM:

Nick Whyte, who knows what he's talking about, explains here why Saddam Hussein was never going to be tried by an international court in the Hague. Short version: None of the existing international courts actually have a mandate for this sort of thing.

None of which is meant to justify what blogger Ogged of Unfogged called the "dead-men-tell-no-tales mafia justice" quality of these proceedings.

#62 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 10:10 PM:

Fragano Ledgister at #45:

It strikes me as really stupid to do the one thing guaranteed to turn a tin-pot tyrant into a hero-martyr figure. But perhaps the Shrub Administration has a vision that reality-based people such as myself can't understand.

I quite agree that it is a really stupid thing. But at this point, I take it as given that anything Shrub & Co. are doing is really stupid.

This just gives Faux news something to shout when people say things are all wrong. It's a child's tantrum after loosing a game: "no, no, I won, I won, I won! Look at what I did! Aren't I great! I won, I tell you! I won!"

All sorts of smart and sane people agree that the war, and this execution, were stupid, pointless failures. But having Saddam dead is a "success" that Shrub can't loose, and where, while people may say it is wrong and did no good, they can't say he didn't actually succede at getting SH captured and killed.

#63 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 10:14 PM:

Ursula L @ 62:

And this 'success' apparently is supposed to somehow make up for not getting Osama Bin Forgotten, who actually was responsible for terrorist acts, or claimed he was - at this point, I'm beginning to wonder if that was genuine or just a publicity stunt for someone who might or might not be Osama or a terrorist.

#64 ::: Gary Townsend ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 10:51 PM:

You know, when I learned of this when I arrived at work this morning (we always have CNN and the Weather Channel on several large screen televisions), all I could think was...

And what exactly did this accomplish/prove?

#65 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 11:02 PM:

Ursula L #62: So, in the end, it's all about gratifying W's ego. There are no words for that.

#66 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2006, 11:12 PM:

Sigh. How many people have died on the alter to Shrub's ego?

Ignoring warnings of terrorism because he couldn't admit his predecessor could know anything, assigning the protection of the country from natural disasters to sycophants chosen for their adulation and support of him rather than their competence, deaths in Afghanistan, because he couldn't focus on it and get it done right, deaths in Iraq, because their dictator insulted his daddy...

Has his ego reached the half-million death toll yet?

And that's just the death toll in lives, there is also the attempted murder of the election process and our civil liberties.

#67 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2006, 02:45 AM:

Ursula 62: I quite agree that it is a really stupid thing. But at this point, I take it as given that anything Shrub & Co. are doing is really stupid.

I've said it before and I'll say it until I have a reason to stop: what they're doing isn't stupid. The circumstances around this execution are very deliberately constructed to add even more fuel to the fire. They're keeping the war going, any way they can.

#68 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2006, 07:49 AM:

Ethan, #67:

A clever act in furtherance of a stupid goal is still stupid.

Attacking another nation is stupid. Starting a war is stupid. Thinking you'll be welcomed as a liberator by people you've dropped bombs on is stupid. Wanting to keep a war going a moment longer than absolutely necessary is stupid. Believing that the feeding of your ego is more important than a human life is stupid.

#69 ::: Boronx ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2006, 08:29 AM:

Trying and executing Saddam is one of the few good ideas to arise in this war. This farce of a trial, however, did not serve the purpose, and the short circuiting of the process by turning his execution into a PR stunt is truly low.

IMHO, he should have been brought to the US for trial the instant it became clear that the Iraqis couldn't pull it off, when Saddam's lawyers got slaughtered, for instance.

Probably would have posed too many political problems for Bush.

#70 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2006, 08:57 AM:

Now that I'm through with bear-baiting, I'll say I think Mark Kleiman has it about right.

Of course, point six was going to happen anyway.

#71 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2006, 09:03 AM:

#70: I would say he had it exactly right. I think his point six meant in ADDITION to what would have happened anyway, and I think he's right about that.

#72 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2006, 09:38 AM:

Ursula L: I think the argument is that it's dumb if you are working in the interests of the US, or the greater good of mankind, but perhaps not if you are working in some other interests. Though I'll admit I can't see how Bush's interests can be furthered by making things worse in Iraq.

If the hundredth part what I've read of Saddam's crimes is true, then he deserved to die. But I suppose he actually died, not from some grand concern about justice, but because he fell into the power of his enemies after having lost the war with the US. We probably tried to play it for some kind of publicity in Iraq or the Arab world, but I don't have much faith in our abilities there, based on past performance. We're so good at blowing stuff up and killing people that it's easy to forget how lousy we are at winning friends and influencing people without the use of bribes or threats.

#73 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2006, 10:00 AM:

What did the execution accomplish?

It allowed Saddam to die well.

It allowed him to die angry and defiant.

It allowed him to declare himself, one last time, to be a patriot and Iraq's savior.

It allowed his last words to his enemies, before the noose was put around his neck, to be "God damn you."

It gave Saddam Hussein his Patrick Henry moment.

(My God! Saddam Hussein and Patrick Henry in the same sentence! My God!)

Short of carving a bar of soap into a gun and staging a prison breakout, it was the best possible outcome Saddam could have hoped for.

He should have died a feeble old man, years from now, alone in a cell, forgotten by everyone.

#74 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2006, 10:29 AM:

D'oh!

For "Patrick Henry" in #73, substitute "Nathan Hale".

(NATHAN HALE! NATHAN HALE! Jeez, what a brainfart.)

[glyph of embarassment]

#75 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2006, 10:33 AM:

Ursula L #66: I'd say it's well past the half-million mark by now, if the Lancet article is correct.

#76 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2006, 11:28 AM:

Bruce, #73: Modulo your immediate correction, Right On.

#77 ::: PJ Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2006, 11:34 AM:

Bruce @ 73/74

"Nothing became his life like the leaving of it"?

(That was my first thought, but then I don't think I have a really smart brain angel (splices thread)).

#78 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2006, 12:08 PM:

Ursula 68: I guess we're just using different senses of the word stupid. For your sense of it I think "obscene" is more appropriate but yeah, in that sense they are very stupid. No arguments from me there.

Albatross 72: Though I'll admit I can't see how Bush's interests can be furthered by making things worse in Iraq.

He and all of his friends are making ridiculous amounts of money off of it. Stupid amounts of money, even.

#79 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2006, 01:17 PM:

Rachel Pollack has an interesting essay on the meaning of the card The Hanged Man in the traditional Tarot deck. Her book, Seeker: The Tarot Unveiled, is part of Amazon's Search Inside this Book program. The chapter begins on page 64.

I have made a Saddam Hussein version of the tarot card.

#80 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2006, 10:03 PM:

I think this passage, from Pericles 'Funeral Oration' may be apposite:

Our political arrangement cannot be measured in contest with any other city's since we set the pattern for, rather than imitate, them. By title we are a democracy, since the many, not just the few, participate in governing, and citizens are equal in their legal dealings with each other - though the merit of the individual , not just one turn by lot, is taken into account when skill for public service is required, lest poverty or obscure background bar the person who has anything to contribute to the city. Political life we all join in freely, while private life is not narrowly scrutinized for conformity of individual taste, nor are censorious glances indulged that cause social friction though they lack legal force. Yet this tolerant approach to private life does not lead to laxity in the observance of public duty - whoever is charged with public office is obeyed, along with the laws themselves , especially those that protect the wronged or express agreed-on social values (which need no specific legislation).

#81 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2006, 10:26 PM:

ethan #78 He (Bush) and all of his friends are making ridiculous amounts of money off of it(the war). Stupid amounts of money, even.

I am perfectly prepared to believe this, but it's still an extraordinary assertion. I wonder if you, or anyone else, could provide a reference? That is, to the accusation that Bush, personally, and his friends - defined by personal bonds with him, and not merely fellow-membership of some given class - are making inordinate gains from the war in Iraq.

#82 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2006, 11:28 PM:

Dave Luckett at #81 - very publicly, and so brazenly that it passes without comment in this country:

Halliburton sends annual checks to VP Cheney that are in excess of his annual federal salary.

I'm sure if we investigated deeper, we would find other, less public financial links.

The Bush Junta is so corrupt that it's almost literally beyond comprehension.

#83 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 02:24 AM:

Ethan @ #78: Stupid is about the strongest insult I ever use, towards anyone. And having spent over ten years working at group homes for the developmentally disabled, I know stupid. Most of the residents I cared for I wouldn't call stupid. Slow, certainly, but capable of making good decisions when given good information on a level they could understand. (e.g., Smart people take their medicine because they know it keeps them healthy.)

Residents who couldn't dress themselves, or feed themselves, or speak more than a handful of words, had better good sense than Shrub. Residents who spent 40+ years living in old-fashioned abusive institutions had a better sense of compassion. Residents who had trouble with the concept that you get cold if you go out in the snow without your coat had a better sense of the natural consequences of actions.

W is just terribly, frighteningly stupid. It's a matter of a lack of good judgment, good background knowledge, and the compassion to draw conclusions in a humane way.

#84 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 02:42 AM:

Bruce, his last words before he began to pray were, according the Guardian story, "The hell that is Iraq?" or, according to riverbend, "Is this your manhood?" If the former, he was more clever than I would be under the same circumstances; if the latter, he was more bold. In either case, your point holds: during the last few minutes of his life, the only ones who look good are Saddam Hussein and the poor bastard who called out, "Please don't, the man is facing execution. Please don't. I beg you, no!"

#85 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 03:05 AM:

He did well on the scaffold. So did Charles I and Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and Ned Kelly and Harry (the Breaker) Morant (except they shot him) and Mary Queen of Scots and James Duke of Monmouth and large numbers of others. One of the great drawbacks of capital punishment, this, that it turns idiots, despots, thugs and criminals into martyrs. It can lend nobility to the wicked and the sordid. Saddam as the noble martyr. What a laugh!

Only it isn't one, is it?

#86 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 03:54 AM:

Will #84 --

CNN has been running the camera-phone video of Saddam's execution, with subtitles. This is the dialog:

Saddam: Prayers be upon the Prophet Mohammed and on his family and glorify the mighty and curse his enemy.

Guards, executioners, and bystanders: Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada!

Saddam: Muqtada? Is this how you show your bravery as men?

Guards, executioners, and bystanders: Straight to hell!

Saddam: Is this the bravery of Arabs?

Guards, executioners, and bystanders: Long live Mohammed Baqir Sadr! Straight to hell!

Official: Please, I am begging you not to. The man is being executed.

Saddam: I bear witness that there is no God but God and that Mohammed is the messenger of God. And I bear witness that ...

#87 ::: hoyt ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 09:02 AM:

I am a newbie to this site and was shocked at the United states bashing here within regarding the execution of Saddam Hussien. I personally don't see what the problem is. His execution, albeit less humane than the gas chamber, is nothing new to any of the countries of the world. Why then, is it all of a sudden unthinkable for a man, who killed thousands without a single tear, to be hung until dead.

For the blogger who harped on a fair trial, he got his day in court, the countless firing of his council, the lack of respect for his peers, the abominations he committed to the people of Iraq, and the only thing you can think about is a fair trial. Pishaww.

It wasn't long ago when a judge had to ride for miles to hear a single case. He listened to both sides and rendered a decision. The only difference, people had more of a sense of duty and honor back then, bound by some inviisible beam of light called responsibility.

To label Saddam's execution as anything but a favor to the world is astonishing and a slap in the face to the Iraqi people not to mention every one of our service persons who keep up the good fight, hoping the next one will be Osama.

#88 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 09:31 AM:

will@84... actually, by Riverbend's account and several others, Saddam's last words were a truncated version of the Muslim profession of faith ("there is no god but Allah and Mohammed..." --- he drops). Before that, there was some byplay with Sadrist hecklers --- which CNN both mistranslated (apparently) and incorrectly reported as Saddam's last words.

#89 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 09:33 AM:

hoyt, if you'd really read this thread, you'd understand why we're objecting, and why we think it was a poor idea from a strategic point of view. And your mention of "a slap in the face to...our service persons" is absurd; part of the reason we object to the execution is that it puts our people in the way of additional harm.

Oh, why am I bothering. You're probably a driveby anyway.

#90 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 09:40 AM:

Perhaps, hoyt, you have gone and will not return, but for the record, most western countries, and many non-western nations, regard the death penalty with revulsion, no matter how heinous the crime. It is now, for most civilised nations, a horrid reminder of the barbaric past, and wherever it has been banished, it would be difficult to find more than a lunatic fringe who'd want its return.

This attitude has nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Americanism, as anyone who had taken the trouble to read the thread would know. On the contrary, this community includes many proud American patriots. I am not among their number, since it is not my fortune to be American; but I speak for the vast bulk of my own countrymen when I say that I wish only the best for the USA, a nation for which I have only gratitude and admiration, and I hope that in living up to the ideals that made her great, she may be a model of justice to the whole world.

But to act like a barbarian is to be a barbarian.

#91 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 10:00 AM:

Thanks, Dave. It IS my fortune to be American, and I am a patriot. Everyone in America knows the first half of a quote that goes "My country, right or wrong"—but not the second part, which goes "When she is right, support her; when she is wrong, correct her."

I've been depressed these past few years to realize that I don't live in a civilized country. No civilized country has the death penalty.

#92 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 10:08 AM:

Xopher, as I was told the story, the line started as a toast at a shipboard dinner where officers of several different navies were present. It is customary to toast each of the nations in turn, of course. The senior American officer gave the toast to the United States in these terms: "To the United States of America: in her dealings with other nations may she always be in the right; but nevertheless, my country, right or wrong." The thrust of which is that it is possible for her to be wrong, and this should be acknowledged and corrected, and yet even so, she is still worth honouring.

#93 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 10:10 AM:

Indeed, that's what I mean by saying that I'm a patriot: I have an obligation both to honor my country whatever it does, and work to correct it when what it does is wrong.

#94 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 10:13 AM:

hoyt,

I think I can clear up your confusion.

First off, when you say:

I am a newbie to this site and was shocked at the United states bashing here within

That's got a simple solution: Learn to read. Shoot for comprehension, rather than just making the mouth noises that go along with the hand scribbles. Go ahead--I'll wait.

Ready and newly literate? Okay, step two is a style tip--when you say:

The only difference, people had more of a sense of duty and honor back then, bound by some inviisible beam of light called responsibility.

you suggest to me that you're one of those pathetic dipshits who prattle on endlessly about "honor" in order to disguise the fact that they don't have any.

Finally, a note on geography. When you say:

every one of our service persons who keep up the good fight, hoping the next one will be Osama

unless you have inside info that the Crusader-in-Chief has gotten a clue and is moving all US forces in Iraq to the Afghani-Pakistani border, you need to consult a good map.

Hope this helps.

#95 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 11:16 AM:

adamsj: you are the wind beneath my wings.

#96 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 12:16 PM:

Remember how the invasion of Iraq was supposed to win us Muslim hearts and minds elsewhere? Juan Cole relays reports of protests against the manner of Saddam's execution --- in India and Pakistan. It seems we've managed to make a martyr of this tawdry, murderous thug. Morality aside, that's dumb. Really dumb.

On a more general note, the problem here is not that Saddam was wronged --- no one here is losing any sleep over his death, any more than over, say, Pinochet's. (hoyt might want to review the thread on that topic for general views here on the death of tyrants --- and before hoyt objects that we're complaining because Pinochet was "on our side", he/she/it should remember that for most of his career, so was Saddam). But the kangaroo-court nature of the proceedings against him (one judge fired mid-trial because he allowed Saddam's lawyers to challenge witnesses), and the staging of his execution less as a dignified state function than, effectively, a show of force by Shiite militias, did us a disservice.

#97 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 12:17 PM:

adamsj #94: You said it.

Dave Luckett #85: Thou hast said it. I would add just two words: 'in public'. Knowing that their deaths would be witnessed, and the story told and retold, these men (and woman) drew up their courage and, by dying well, struck a last blow at their enemies.

Making Saddam into a hero-martyr is, as I think I've said, W's second biggest mistake.

#98 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 12:50 PM:

P.J. Evans @ #62 And this 'success' apparently is supposed to somehow make up for not getting Osama Bin Forgotten, who actually was responsible for terrorist acts, or claimed he was - at this point, I'm beginning to wonder if that was genuine or just a publicity stunt for someone who might or might not be Osama or a terrorist.

Oh, Ossama hasn't been forgotten. Having Ossama alive at at large is absolutely essential to the administration getting what they want.

An evil, all-powerful boogyman is far more useful for manipulating people than a nuanced understanding of how foreign policy affects the way foreigners think of us, and what they want to do with us. As long as Ossama is alive, he can be made into anything, used to justify anything. If he's killed or captured, he becomes just another human, with human weaknesses.

Left on the loose, he can be used to justify anything. "He may be in Iraq! Can you prove he isn't? We must attack Iraq to stop the terrorists! He may be doing something via telephone! Can you prove he isn't? We must listen to phone conversations whenever we want, without warrants, to stop the terrorists! He may want to criticize the administration! Can you prove he ? Anyone who criticizes the administration for how they are handling this mess is a supporter of terrorists, and must be stopped!

#99 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 01:13 PM:

hoyt @87

For the blogger who harped on a fair trial, he got his day in court, the countless firing of his council, the lack of respect for his peers, the abominations he committed to the people of Iraq, and the only thing you can think about is a fair trial. Pishaww.

I think that's to my address. My best attempt to parse this sentence is one must choose between thinking (a) that he was a bad man and no one liked him, and (b) that fair trials matter.

Unfortunately for your argument, hoyt, I can hold more than one idea in my head at once. He was a bad man, but human rights (including fair trials) are for everyone.

His sudden execution then made it impossible for him to testify about any help and support he might have received during his regime. He was bad, but he was not alone in that. Considering how reluctant we can be to let people with less interesting intelligence go, losing him as an information source was...careless.

To label Saddam's execution as anything but a favor to the world is astonishing and a slap in the face to the Iraqi people

My Iraqi sources (e.g. Riverbend, my next door neighbour) consider his death a slap in the face. Rather than hearing the rest of the details of his regime, hearing the truth, they get an execution used as a sectarian weapon. The events surrounding his trial could have helped to heal the country, but instead they were used to deepen the divisions.

#100 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 01:22 PM:

Most of the US citizens who post here are "My country right or wrong" patriots: If right to keep it right, if wrong to make it right.

#101 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 03:16 PM:

Now that we have VAB again (Praise be to Steve!): yep, hoyt's a driveby all right. At least by that name/email address.

#102 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 03:44 PM:

I prefer to think I'm a patriot by Thomas Paine's definiton: "My country is the world." But I try to be a patriot in the "make it right" sense, too.

Seems a good time to quote Chesterton: "'My country, right or wrong' is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying 'My mother, drunk or sober.'"

#103 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 03:45 PM:

Or, in the words of a patriotic song with which even Hoyt might be familiar:

America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw;
Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law!

#104 ::: Onager ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 04:11 PM:

oh hoyt,
1. Curtains are hung, people are hanged.
2. If the placing of the knot of the hangman's noose is any indication the physical nature of Saddam's death was substantially more humane than that endured in the gas chamber.
I'm shocked that someone with what appears to be as torrid a passion for old school frontier law 'n order as you have wouldn't already know that. Or could it be that you haven't the slightest damn notion of what you're babbling about and are drawing your fantasies about the good ol' days from drugstore westerns?

#105 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 04:20 PM:

Onager, I did't agree with hoyt, either, but I don't see where he or she expressed any "torrid passion for old school frontier law 'n order." You may be speculating a bit beyond the data there.

#106 ::: Onager ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 06:17 PM:

My apologies, I may indeed have extended my speculation too far. The comment regarding the virtures of circuit-riding judges dispensing justice seemed too point to a Judge Roy Bean mentality but my assumptions appear to have made an ass of me.

I'll shut up and go away now.

#107 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 11:26 PM:

Mmmmmm...tasty crow.

According to this NY Times article US officials did question the timing of the execution. So there was at least that much US resistance.

Hoyt, there are multiple issues here: the validity of the death penalty in this case and the strategic wisdom of the fact and date of the execution. The date, at least, was a huge insult to Sunni Muslims, and makes it clear that Prime Minister Maliki intends to oppress the Sunni minority within Iraq, further deepening the civil war, and turning Iraqis to the support of radical Islam.

#108 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 11:55 PM:

Mind you, there's literally no way to know whether that New York Times article is truthful or deliberate disinformation. I can see the exact same article being written under either circumstance.

I can believe in earnestly well-meaning US officials desperate to reign in the Sadr-ite revanchists. I've known plenty of earnestly well-meaning US officials, in the military and in the diplomatic corps. And the Shiite gangs that make up the (you should pardon the expression) "government" of Iraq are entirely capable of behaving this badly.

I can also believe that this article reflects the desire of US officials to quickly put some distance between themselves and this botched circus, and the reliably compliant New York Times's willingness to carry their water. Nothing about the behavior of US officialdom or the New York Times in the last few years makes this remotely implausible. In fact, it's exactly as plausible as the other scenario.

This kind of world--in which we all need to think like intelligence agents, just to make sense of the newspapers--is what Ken MacLeod's next novel is about. Out next summer: The Execution Channel.

#109 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 11:59 PM:

And here I am wanting to read that stuff in book form before it hits the newspapers. Grump.

#110 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 12:18 AM:

Patrick @108, a world where I had to learn to think like an intelligence agent, just to make sense of the newspapers is exactly the world I grew up in.

In that place, "American" is synonomous for "efficient fool" - Americans are renowned for expecting simplicity or clarity. It is considered a childish desire.

#111 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 01:06 AM:

Patrick @ #108:

I could easily see both scenarios at once. Some, probably lower-ranking, US officials questioning the wisdom of the timing of the execution. An official policy coming from above, allowing the Iraqi "government" to do as it pleases, for the most part. An Iraqi "government" more interested in scoring points in the internal struggle than in making sensible choices that could help build peace. And a US administration realizing after the fact that the timing was idiotic, (after the fact because it ignores its own experts) and trying to distance itself from it.

Given the sheer number of people in the US government involved, to any extent, in Iraq, for just about any bad decision made by the Iraqi "government", you'll be able to find some sensible person who could see the train wreck coming. You simply can't get that many people and have them all be clueless. But because of idiocy at the top, the clue-full people are ignored, except as a way for covering up the fact that the government is letting the clueless run the show.

#112 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 08:21 AM:

I'm not sure I have anything new to add, but here's my thoughts:

1. I'm glad he's dead; but

2. I'm not keen on his having been executed, but if this was the right thing to do (with right meaning, among other things, legal, fairly decided, and necessary for Iraq and it's people to move on) then so be it; but

3. The circumstances of the trial and timing of the execution were hideously wrong.


Also: A fair trial isn't just for the benefit of the defendent; it's just as much for the benefit of society at large.

#113 ::: badducky ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 12:24 PM:

i am not at all glad saddam is dead. he was an evil, odious man who deserved all the contempt thrust upon him.

however, the greatest problem our troops face on a daily basis is not the specter of baathists or al-quada or terrorists. the greatest problem and danger our brave troops face in this region is the honor culture of revenge.

thus, when a man's brother is killed by one group, he is honor-bound to kill a man in that opposing group which becomes immediately followed by another revenge killing. this group could be American soldiers, or family members of another ethnic group.

that's a culture of honor for you, hoyt.

as a southern man, myself, with an unwanted sense of honor, and a library card, I cringe when I hear my peers say "Honor". Honor was never really a good thing. 'Twas no different in the slave-owning south where two men would shoot each other over very minor things (for more info on "Honor" check out "Honor and Slavery" by Kenneth S Greenberg).

legal systems are supposed to mute the vengeance of an honor code into a system of justice. saddam had little chance of a fair trial in his own nation. his execution was just another retaliatory murder on the precarious edge of lawlessness.

thus, i am very sad to see saddam executed. the culture of vengeance that creates all this destabilizing, and continuous violence in Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, etc. just got stronger.

longer post than initially intended, with my apologies.

#114 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 12:34 PM:

badducky, long and good is good; long and bad is bad. Yours is long and good.

I think, however, that we'll do more good by redefining the meaning of 'honor' than by devaluing or discarding the concept. The people who blew the whistle on Abu Ghraib acted with honor. Let's not undermine that motivation.

#115 ::: badducky ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 01:08 PM:

The people in Abu Ghraib that covered up the truth were acting with good, old-fashioned honor. Honor is all about controlling your public self, not in revealing the true self.

The people who blew the whistle were acting with justice, not with honor.

Honor and justice are not synonyms. Hopefully they work together for the good of mankind. Hopefully.

I haven't thrown away the term at all. I like to acknowledge the center of the term. I prefer to ignore the public image of it.

#116 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 01:24 PM:

No one has honor who does not seek justice.

Equally, justice is impossible without honorable people to administer it.

Yes, they're different—but bound together inextricably.

#117 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 01:52 PM:

Saddam's "trial" was wrong on so many levels, but politically speaking it was a no-brainer. Consider this:
1 - Milosevic exploited his trial to great effect a few years ago. Any politician is now scared of giving the same chance to another smart guy (and you don't become a ruthless dictator without being smart in your own way);
2 - Saddam was the living proof of the abhorrent policy for the middle-east followed by any Republican administration from Nixon times. Leaving him free to (one day) talk about all his past dealings was not really an option for Cheney (originally selected by Jerry Ford, btw), Bush I, Rumsfeld and all their friends;
3 - a significative majority of the US population (and, unfortunately, a hard-core minority of the EU public opinion) still favours the death penalty, and is ready to boost politicians supporting the pro-death stance.

"The Decider" had only one choice to make, and he made it well before last week: he made it when ordering the unlawful invasion of a legitimate foreign country. From there on, all the other "decisions" were very logical, almost banal. What does this say about our "western" political systems? About our "values"? About how we allowed our "governments" to go about "defending our interests" all over the world, unchecked, for decades?

#118 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 04:27 PM:

"Mind you, there's literally no way to know whether that New York Times article is truthful or deliberate disinformation. I can see the exact same article being written under either circumstance."

The timing of the article, at least, is most likely a response to criticism. I am puzzled as to who it is supposed to persuade. It is after all well-known that the US Administration wanted Saddam executed and it seems clear that Maliki's party wanted to slap the Iraqi Sunnis in the face with it, apparently believing that they will win the on-going civil war. Perhaps, even, they hope to provoke more violence to get more US support; perhaps even the US administration desires this.

The more I think about it, the more I think that the 110th Congress would be wise to impeach Bush and remove Cheney, regardless of any other actions; unless this is done, they will have two more years to wreak havoc.

#119 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 09:04 PM:

badducky@115: The people in Abu Ghraib that covered up the truth were acting with good, old-fashioned honor. Honor is all about controlling your public self, not in revealing the true self.

I won't argue whether that's how you saw "honor" used; I grew up on the edge of the South, so I wasn't exposed to whatever pathology remains. (Going to private schools meant I wasn't sentenced to take local history as an academic subject.) However, some people have a different conception of the term:

Honor is what you think of yourself. Reputation is what other people think of you.

Nothing is more destructive to your soul than to stand amid the ruins of your honor while people are cheering your reputation.

Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it may. And outlive the bastards.

all from A Civil Campaign (from memory -- the second in particular is the sense but almost certainly not word-for-word).

The abuse of the word "honor" by this administration deserves its own Orwell (an award which probably doesn't exist, but should).

Randolph@118: impeaching Bush does no good unless he is subsequently convicted by a 2/3 vote of the Senate. Two guesses how the egomaniacal turncoat Lieberman will vote on that one, and the first one doesn't count; then remember what happened after the Republicans couldn't even manage a simple majority to convict Clinton.

#120 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 10:41 PM:

test 1, please ignore

#121 ::: "Steve Taylor" ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 10:41 PM:

test 2, please ignore

#122 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 10:45 PM:

test 3, please ignore

#123 ::: "Steve Taylor" ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 11:06 PM:

test 4, please ignore

#124 ::: "Steve Taylor" ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 11:18 PM:

test 5, please ignore

#125 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 11:27 PM:

CHip: I remember something like "If your honor is fine and your reputation is in ruins, that's merely annoying. What's soul-destroying is when your reputation is soaring while your honor is in ruins."

That's not right either. Are you sure it's ACC? I thought it was earlier than that.

I'll just have to reread the entire Vorkosigan saga until I find it. Darn.

#126 ::: "Steve Taylor" ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 11:27 PM:

test 6, please ignore

#127 ::: "Steve Taylor" ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 11:30 PM:

last test, sorry for the visual pollution

#128 ::: odaiwai ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 11:38 PM:

It seems to me like the way 'honour' is used in badducky@113's comment is somewhat like the Chinese concept of 'Face'.

i.e. If someone acts against your brother/cousin/group-member, you will 'lose face' (decrease your social ranking) if you do not react in the group-expected way. You preserve your 'face' (maintain your social ranking) by retaliating in the accepted fashion. You may 'gain face' by an extravagant over-reaction.

#129 ::: Sajia Kabir ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 11:47 PM:

Xopher, I just finished reading A Civil Campaign yesterday. That quote is definitely in there, but I don't remember the exact wording (returned ACC to library today).

#130 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 02:00 AM:

CHip: might be that some Republicans would vote to convict, especially, if the House investigation turned up some particularly embarrassing conduct on the part of the administration. It would have to be studied, of course, but I can't help but think that anything--anything!--that hampers this administration's foreign policy would be good for the country. They may manage to embroil us with Iran, too, you know. Maybe even Syria. This isn't World War III yet, but it's not for lack of the administration's trying.

#131 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 09:01 AM:

That quote from A Civil Campaign has always bugged me. In the hands of someone honorable, it encourages honor in the face of political or social pressure. But in the hands of a psychopath, it merely eliminates social pressure to behave decently.

In the book, the quote works because it is spoken in the context of a family that has a tradition of struggling to do right in the face of political, social and military pressure, and who has suffered public loss of reputation when doing right, as well as public acclimation when doing wrong. And to a person who was facing public loss of reputation when, in fact, he had not done anything dishonorable in that context.

In the context of the US in Iraq, this would best apply to a soldier facing public ridicule and prosecution for refusing to obey unlawful orders. Particularly someone who refused to obey from the very beginning, when the president tried to start a "war" without Congress declaring war as required by the constitution. That's the point where the honorable thing, of following the constitution, was paired with the greatest pressure to just go along, and the lowest level of public support for those who opposed the war.

I'd like to see a bumper sticker "Support the troops - who refuse to obey unlawful orders."

#132 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 01:40 PM:

Honour, it seems to me, is less important than decency. Honour is an aristocratic virtue which still informs the military because of the aristocratic tradition of military leadership. We've seen it twisted in a host of ways over the past century, and, probably, it will be twisted in many more over the next hundred years.

Decency, on the other hand, is a plebeian virtue that does not get enough attention. It is the basis of compassion, shame, and, above all, dignity. Without it, however, true humanity is just not possible. The way Saddam was executed was indecent.

#133 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 02:42 PM:

Most of these virtues we're discussing are good or evil depending on the cause they're serving and the way they're used and the environment in which they're deployed. Killing the guys who raped your cousin is understandable but awful (and rightly criminal) in a society with courts and cops, but in a society without them, it's a genuine social good, since you're providing what deterrence there will be against such crimes. The same sense of honor which leads you to keep your word about taking care of your best friend's kids after he dies may lead you to keep your word about never, never ratting out your Mafia friends to the FBI.

This seems to be lost on all kinds of people. Remember how the 9/11 hijackers were "cowardly," and how Bill Maher was so bitterly criticized for pointing out the obvious fact that they were stunningly brave, determined, and resourceful men in the service of an evil cause?

#134 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 10:19 PM:

RF#130: why do you think an unsuccessful impeachment would hamper Bush's foreign policy? (Yes, some Republicans would vote "guilty" -- but not the 17 or more it would take to convict.) I don't know what \would/ work, but that would rally not just the nutjobs but the last several percent of people who've reluctantly concluded that Bush isn't 100% right.

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