We won't wring our hands for Saddam Hussein

Thursday, January 4, 2007

It was an ignoble end for a man used to extravagant wealth and unlimited power.

Standing on the gallows at dawn, a noose around his neck, Saddam Hussein heard taunts and derision from those he formerly oppressed and who now oversaw his execution, Shiite officials.

The low-quality cellphone video was soon circulating around the world on the Internet, touching off outrage from Hussein's Sunni Arab loyalists.

But as prosecutor Munkith al-Faroun said, "Where were these critics when Saddam's people were executing whole prisons full of innocent people?"

The execution, undignified even by Middle Eastern standards, offended even the prosecutor. "You heard my voice on the cellphone recording," he said. "I was the one shouting, 'Please no. The man is about to be executed."

But let's keep things in perspective, before wringing our hands over the former Iraqi dictator's mistreatment.

We need to remember that Saddam went to the gallows over a relatively minor incident, the killing of 148 Shiite men and boys after someone from their village shot at his passing motorcade in 1982.

Before he was hanged, prosecution had begun for his "Anfal" campaign against the Iraqi Kurds, including the killing of 5,000 people, mostly civilians, with chemical weapons in 1988. He was not brought to justice for summarily executing thousands of Iranian prisoners of war during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the invasion of Kuwait, the destruction of more than 3,000 Kurdish villages, execution of thousands of Marsh Arabs and Shi'a Arabs in southern Iraq, and routine killing of political opponents within Iraq.

We did see brief television reviews of his many crimes following his execution, but we have to wonder, why were none of the charges raised by the national media during his long trial?

We would hate to be so cynical as to suggest that the reason was that the trial ran concurrently with the American political campaign, when such coverage might have supported the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

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