Of the 6 billion people on this earth, not one killed more people
than Saddam Hussein. And not just killed, but tortured and mutilated
-- often with his own hands and for pleasure. It is quite a
distinction to be the pre-eminent monster on the planet. If the death
penalty was ever deserved, no one was more richly deserving than
If the death penalty was ever deserved, no
one was more richly deserving than Saddam|
For the Iraqi government to have botched both his trial and execution,
therefore, and turned monster into victim, is not just a tragedy, but
a crime -- against the new Iraq that Americans are dying for, and
against justice itself.
In late 2005, I wrote about the incompetence of the Saddam trial.
Instead of exposing, elucidating and irrefutably making the case for
the crimes of the accused -- as was done at Nuremberg and the Eichmann
trial -- the Iraqi government lost control and inadvertently turned it
into a stage for Saddam.
The trial managed to repair the image of the man the world had last
seen as a bedraggled nobody pulled cowering from a filthy hole. Now
coifed and cleaned, he acted the imperious president of Iraq, drowning
out the testimony of his victims.
Of the 6 billion people on this earth, not one
killed more people than Saddam. And not just killed, but tortured and
mutilated -- often with his own hands and for pleasure.|
Unholy sectarian mess
That was bad enough. Then comes the execution, a rushed, botched,
unholy mess that exposed the hopelessly sectarian nature of the Maliki
government. Consider the timing. It was carried out on a religious
holiday. We would not ordinarily care about this, except for the fact
that it is in contravention of Iraqi law. It was done on the first day
of Eid al-Adha as celebrated by Sunnis. The Shiite Eid began the next
day, which tells you in whose name the execution was performed.
It was also carried out extra-constitutionally. The constitution
requires a death sentence to have the signature of the president and
two vice presidents, each representing the three major ethnic groups
in the country (Sunni, Shiite and Kurd). That provision is meant to
prevent sectarian killings. The president did not sign. Maliki
contrived some work-around.
True, Saddam's hanging was just and, in principle, nonsectarian. But
the next hanging might not be. Breaking precedent completely
undermines the death penalty provision, opening the way to future
revenge and otherwise lawless hangings.
True, Saddam's hanging was just and, in principle,
Moreover, Maliki's rush to execute short-circuited the judicial
process that was at the time considering Saddam's crimes against the
Kurds. He was hanged for the killing of 148 men and boys in the Shiite
village of Dujail. This was a perfectly good starting point -- a
specific incident as a prelude to an inquiry into the larger canvas of
his crimes. The trial for his genocidal campaign against the Kurds was
That larger canvas will never be painted. The starting point became
the endpoint. The only charge for which Saddam was executed was that
1982 killing of Shiites -- interestingly, his response to a failed
assassination attempt by Maliki's own Dawa Party.
Maliki ultimately got his revenge, completing Dawa's mission a
quarter-century later. However, Saddam will now never be tried for the
Kurdish genocide, the decimation of the Marsh Arabs, the multiple war
crimes and all the rest.
Vengeance, not justice
Finally, there was the motley crew -- handpicked by the government --
that constituted the hanging party. They turned what was an act of
national justice into a scene of sectarian vengeance. The world has
now seen the smuggled video of the shouting and taunting that turned
Saddam into the most dignified figure in the room -- another
remarkable achievement in burnishing the image of the most evil man of
Worse was the content of the taunts: "Moqtada, Moqtada," the name of
the radical and murderous Shiite extremist whose goons were obviously
in the chamber. The world saw Saddam executed not in the name of a new
and democratic Iraq, but in the name of Sadr, whose death squads have
learned much from Saddam.
The whole sorry affair illustrates not just incompetence but the
ingrained intolerance and sectarianism of the Maliki government.
We should not be surging American troops in defense of such a
government. This governing coalition seems intent on crushing the
Sunnis at all costs. Maliki should be made to know that if he insists
on having this sectarian war, he can well have it without us.