Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Hussein is dead

To be clear, the only death penalty I do not oppose is the one imposed by the universe, the one to which we all are subject.

But neither do I mourn Hussein's death, though frankly neither did I mourn Gerald Ford's.

In fact I mourned James Brown and Peter Boyle's deaths rather more.

Mainly my feelings at the moment are curiosity, tinged with trepidation. What will be the effect of Hussein's death on Iraq?

The answer could well be: not much. From the CS Monitor:

Still, the demise of the man who led bloody wars against Iran and the United States, and whose police state was famously called the "republic of fear" by one dissident, may now be oddly irrelevant to Iraq's future, as the country's broad sectarian violence has moved far beyond camps of Hussein supporters and opponents.

And kids, that's the best news we can hope for, that the violence won't be the worse for his death.

It will be worse, certainly, as the tit for tat sectarian violence continues and the Shia militias seek to achieve, what George Will might term, the tranquility of genocide.

It just won't be worse BECAUSE of Hussein's death.

I suppose this is what passes for good news these days: our actions haven't actively made the situation worse.

UPDATE: Actually, it seems, the timing of Hussein's execution may have been purposely designed to further insight Iraq's civil war. From Salon via Steve Benen:

The tribunal...had a unique sense of timing when choosing the day for Saddam's hanging. It was a slap in the face to Sunni Arabs. This weekend marks Eid al-Adha, the Holy Day of Sacrifice, on which Muslims commemorate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son for God. Shiites celebrate it Sunday. Sunnis celebrate it Saturday -- and Iraqi law forbids executing the condemned on a major holiday. Hanging Saddam on Saturday was perceived by Sunni Arabs as the act of a Shiite government that had accepted the Shiite ritual calendar.

The timing also allowed Saddam, in his farewell address to Iraq, to pose as a "sacrifice" for his nation, an explicit reference to Eid al-Adha. The tribunal had given the old secular nationalist the chance to use religious language to play on the sympathies of the whole Iraqi public.


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