One more Iraqi fatality

Today I'm pondering the death of Saddam Hussein at the hands of a government made up of his enemies, supported by a foreign occupying power that is in turn supported in very small part by my tax dollars.

To start out, I don't support capital punishment. It almost never has its intended effect of reducing violence. All it really does for sure is to kill a human being. I freely admit that that position biases me against the execution of Saddam.

In the case of reaction to Saddam's death, who knows what the future holds? I suspect that throughout the Sunni Muslim world, Saddam will be viewed as a martyr, killed by agents of the US. This will do two things: it will deepen resentment against America, and it will also strengthen the branding of the current Iraqi government as an American puppet. Neither of these things will have a positive effect.

And even within the world of Islam, there already has been complaining about the interruption of the trials. Saddam was executed well before all of the facts regarding his rule could be made public. Iraqi Kurds and Shiites bemoan this because they wanted the extent of the harm done them to become public. However, there is a more serious (in my view) reason why the too-hasty execution of Saddam was carried out: the US and various European powers were deeply involved with Saddam. For example, they supported him against Iran, during the period when the most serious atrocities were carried out. By ending the projected sequence of trials when they did, in mid-trial, it is now very unlikely that any embarrassing details (or lack of embarrassing details) about the oil-consuming powers will be made public.

To summarize so far: the execution of Saddam was barbarous (as is all killing of humans) and premature.

But of course, on top of this was the farce of his trial. I have written here, here, and elsewhere about the marsupial character of Saddam's trial(s). Clearly, among his prosecutors there were two camps: those who wanted to create the illusion of a fair trial by honoring at least some of the forms of procedure, versus those who could have cared less about that and simply wanted to throw a sop to the Americans by holding a trial, but moving through it PDQ and on to vengeance. The fact that none of the prosecutors apparently wanted a fair trial, or made any effort to neutrality, was never an issue, it simply went without saying.

And this is another reason why it was important for the Iraqi government and their American supporters to kill Saddam as soon as possible: since he is dead, it is now very unlikely that the gross (and in the US reversible if not criminal) malfeasance on the part of the prosecution will ever be challenged and made public.

To me, an unjust trial is no better than a lynching except that it takes days rather than hours. And that is what we have here: a public, officialized lynching. How can this farcical kangaroo court augur well for a new, improved future Iraq? It's exactly like something that might have happened during or before Saddam's rule. It works exactly against Bushco's apparent desire that people believe he intends to produce a new, improved, lower calorie version of Iraq.

So in summary, what we have is the cruel, premature, injust, and politically boneheaded killing of one more Iraqi as the result of our invasion.

But you, gentle reader, might be wondering: Well, what should we have done with Saddam, given that we had invaded, occupied, deposed, captured, and imprisoned him?

In this random philosophizer's opinion, the most critical thing would have been a thorough, neutral, internationally-monitored investigation of all the facts. This could not be done quickly or efficently in a country wracked with violence, so it would undoubtedly be ongoing. For example, we would still be studying international records, taking depositions from Saddam and other members of his government, from various witnesses; examining of Iraq government records, and so on. This would probably best have been done in a neutral location outside of Iraq. At a certain point, it would be possible to conduct the kind of thorough, neutral, public trial that the situation deserves. The trial would also be outside of Iraq, and would not be carried out under the auspices of the new Iraqi government. There are many reasons for this, including questions of jurisdiction and conflict of interest.

There would be no question of the death penalty, but life imprisonment, payment of fines, exile, and that kind of thing certainly would be on the table. At the end of the process, the world would really understand what happened in Iraq over the decades, who profited, who did good, who did bad, and whether certain things that have been alleged actually happened as claimed. Saddam would probably be convicted of some things, not convicted of others, and he would receive some kind of punishment. If a foreign government would accept him, perhaps this could be simple exile, or perhaps he would have been imprisoned for life.

Instead of modeling cruel, arbitrary, lynch-mob behavior, it could have been a model for what happens when the world unites for justice and transparency. But, it didn't happen.

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