Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam's Death

Last night Darren and I walked over to the diner to meet Oliver and Eli, who had been drinking. Oliver called me up and told me that we should be loud and make a scene as we walked in. You know, just be in an argument over something. And given the news that we'd just received, and the images playing incessantly on the TV in the diner, it was easy to decide that that scene would be about.

Our "scene" didn't last long, and nobody really paid us any attention. It was already loud in the diner in the first place, and everybody was either drunk or weary of drunks. Not the best atmosphere in which to be noticed. But the argument that Darren and I were staging is one that, in retrospect, would be worth having for real. I was arguing the anti-death-penalty side, Darren was arguing that Saddam should have been tortured for a few months before being executed. The extreme positions, obviously, for maximum effect.

But really, in the grand scheme of things, what good does Saddam's death do? Does it prove the strength of the Iraqi government? Not at all. The U.S. had to hold onto Saddam until the end of the whole thing, giving him up to the Iraqis only on the eve of his execution. Does it prove that the Iraqi government is civilized and now has a justice system based on the rule of law and not on revenge? Consider this:

The first picture, obviously, is of Saddam being fitted with his noose (you can watch video at consumptionjunction already, which I'd figured). The second is of the unfortunate American contractor Nick Berg awaiting his beheading. It's certainly not just me who noted the similarity between the "executioners" in these two cases. Add to that the fact that one of the executioners reportedly exclaimed, "Long live Muqtada al-Sadr!" (incidentally prompting Saddam's last words, a derisive, mocking "Muqtada al-Sadr") and this whole thing is nothing but one more death in the steady stream of carnage that's been issuing from Iraq for years now. This one's more high profile and more televised, but the fact that it bears such similarity to the criminal militia groups' executions, the fact that it was carried out under Saddam's execution rules, the fact that sectarian epithets were hurled about on the gallows, and the fact that the execution was evidently held on a date that maximized Sunni/Shiite strife, all of these things make it a sham at best, and a travesty at worst.