Thursday, January 18, 2007

A hanging and a funeral

On January 3rd, Thomas Friedman reflected on Saddam Hussein's hanging in his column in NY Times. In light of what many analysts and even world leaders--including President Bush- called "botched" executions of Saddam, his half brother Barzan Ibrahim and former Revolutionary Court chief Awad al-Bandar, Friedman's column is definitely worth taking another read. The mishandled executions have now raised questions, even among those who support president Bush's new strategy on Iraq, as to whether Mr bush's new plan stands any chance of success under an Iraqi government that seems to be driven more by tribal instincts than the rule of law:

...No wonder the BBC’s world affairs editor, John Simpson, reported from Baghdad: “Altogether, the execution as we now see it is shown to be an ugly, degrading business, which is more reminiscent of a public hanging in the 18th century than a considered act of 21st-century official justice. Under Saddam Hussein, prisoners were regularly taunted and mistreated in their last hours. The most disturbing thing about the new video of Saddam’s execution for crimes precisely like this is that it is all much too reminiscent of what used to happen here.”

...The raw tribal theatrics of Saddam’s hanging highlight just how few of these values Iraq has imported. We are to blame for not creating the security needed for those values to take hold. But not enough of our Iraqi allies have risen to the occasion, either. It was our closest Iraqi partners who oversaw Saddam’s tribal hanging. We have to look that in the eye.

Saddam deserved to die 100 deaths. But imagine if Iraq’s Shiite leaders had surprised everyone, declared that there had been enough killing in Iraq and commuted Saddam’s sentence to life in prison — sparing his life in hopes of uniting the country rather than executing him and dividing it further. I don’t know if it would have helped, but I do know Iraqis have rarely surprised us with gestures of reconciliation — only with new ways to kill each other...