An American in the French Assembly before the Revolution became the Reign of Terror, spoke out against the execution of the royal monarch of France. Those who knew him were not surprised at his courage, conviction and strength of character. It was not a popular stance and he was no friend to the monarchy. He was in fact its greatest foe yet his principled position landed him in the Bastille and very nearly cost his life.
His name was Tom Paine, without whom it is unlikely that the great experiment we call democracy would ever have been launched on the American continent.
Saddam Hussein was hanged until the spark of life drained from his flailing limbs.
It is not politically astute to defend the fallen dictator any more than it was for Paine to plea for the life of the French monarch, yet there are occasions when principle must speak.
I am no more sympathetic to tyranny, despotism, oppression, brutality or crimes against humanity than Paine was to the monarchy, yet I felt only shame in observing the morbid dance of death surrounding the execution of Saddam.
Granted, the head of state is ultimately responsible for the crimes of the nation.
Saddam Hussein was executed for causing the death of 150 men and boys in the city of Dujail after an attempted assassination.
Only history can decide if he is accountable for genocide and other horrific crimes against humankind. The record is sufficiently clear that the great dictator was by no means an innocent man. The best that can be said, in light of what has transpired since the fall of his government, is that the divided, artificial and dysfunctional nation of Iraq required the brutal hand of a dictator if only to survive.
(I do not believe this is true. I cannot believe that tyranny and oppression are ever justified but the evidence is mounting with every corpse deposited on the streets of Baghdad or plucked out of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates.)
Consider the actions of our government.
There is compelling evidence of a conspiracy to deceive the American people and extort Congress into a cause of war.
There is compelling evidence of that an aggressive act of war, in direct violation of the cardinal principle of international law, was committed against a non-threatening nation with premeditation and little regard for the bloody consequences of our actions.
There is compelling evidence that the tactics used in this war -- from Shock and Awe to Fallujah, where every man and boy of fighting age was prevented from leaving before the siege, from the use of cluster bombs and white phosphorous to spent uranium munitions -- were used with full knowledge of the massive civilian casualties that would result.
There is compelling evidence that over 200 Iraqis have died for every American soldier who has fallen during this war. Even without consideration for the events of Haditha, Abu Ghraib and countless other atrocities that have no names, the war itself is a crime of genocidal proportions.
So if the head of state is ultimately responsible for the crimes of the nation, why isnít our president facing trial?
This was not the heavy hand of justice. It was state sanctioned revenge. It was the justice of the conqueror, of emperors and kings.
For those who suggest that the dictator did not deserve a fair trial, I am compelled to remind you that justice is blind. That justice which is reserved for the good and virtuous is only a masquerade. It is the path to trial by drowning. Justice considers all who come before her with absolute equality. There can be no exceptions to the rule and process of law.
What we witnessed in the execution of Saddam was the killing of Iraqi justice by the poison of vengeance. It was a morbid dance of death.
The hanging of the dictator, however justified, however gratifying to those he victimized in a reign of terror that would not have been possible without the collaboration of western powers, was yet another crime against humanity for which our president must eventually be held accountable.
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