How are the mighty fallen!
(King David; 2 Samuel 1:19.)
Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti has been executed for his crimes against the Iraqi people, for his crimes against humanity.
I remembered when Arafat died: many customers who came through the place I worked in at that time expressed joy at his death. They saw him as a terrorist, one who was a threat to the Israeli and Jewish people despite his apparent change of spots.
It may seem easy to believe that this event, the execution of a man who unflinchingly send uncountable people to their deaths, would be an occasion for joy and rejoicing. After all, if people rejoiced when Arafat died of (supposedly) natural causes, how much more ought we to rejoice when the sword of justice in mortal hands avenges the blood of the many, many slain.
But I believe differently. This is a moment for us to remember the many killed by Saddam. This is a moment for us to reflect on how such obvious tyrants and homocidal despots seem to be able to rule without any opposition by the supposedly enlightened and humane international community.
And let us contrast the ways of the West with those of the Rest. After the liberation of Iraq, coalition forces expended much effort to track down and find Saddam. There were attempts to take him out, but ultimately he was found by American troops when a person in the know basicallly revealed where Saddam was hiding. Saddam was not harmed, hurt, tortured, or otherwise violated. He was arrested and put on trial. He had a big-name lawyer. His side was able to make its case and points. The judge had to examine the evidence and arguments. It was a genuine trial.
Now, what happens in the Rest? People and their families are simply “disappeared”: no one knows anything about them, until one day their remains are found in a mass grave. No trial, no attorney, no defense, no justice. Whole villages are simply wiped out. Families live in fear that at any moment the despot’s forces, legal or not, with or without proper documentation, will sweep in and either take them away or slaughter them all at once.
For all of our talk about justice, human rights, liberties, and responsibility, we do let many despots get away. And there is something ironic when tyrannous and blood-stained despots are brought to justice through an actual just process. The very right Saddam denied to so many in the end undid him.
There will be those who will lament that Saddam’s trial was not fair. Let them lament. Their lament can now do nothing. Those who lament might very well be the same people who would have opposed liberating Iraq from Saddam’s talons to begin with. Let them whine and moan and lament. Let their got air rise to the skies. Their words are impotent.
Notice that I have not said that his execution has justified or completed the liberation of Iraq. It’s tempting to say so, but to say so would be to misunderstand why we went in to liberate Iraq. Our campaign–and by “our” I refer to the coalition led by The United States–was against Saddam Hussein and his regime. Were it against Saddam, we could have perpetuated Iraq’s “stability” (unjust as it was) by installing another Sunni general (or, as the British did when they created Iraq, a king). Our goal was to establish an entirely new regime, which we did. (I use the word “regime” in its academic sense, meaning a system of government.) Whether Saddam survived or how he would die are irrelevant for our purposes.
And this is not our victory or our gain. This is a victory for the Iraqi people; this is a victory for justice; this is a victory for history. So let us not think this occured for us Americans or by us Americans. We helped, yes, and without it this would not have been possible, but Saddam was tried by the Iraqis in an Iraqi court for crimes against the Iraqi people: the victory is theirs.
Yet we can share the relief of the Iraqi people and their accomplishment by virtue of the fact that this was a victory for humanity. It is very rare indeed for one such as Saddam–in Jewish parlance, a Haman (genocidal conniver)–to face justice. More often, such people succumb to nature or to internal politics. It is not a sad time when someone like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Jinggez Khan, or Arafat dies, but their death at the hands of nature rather than the sword of justice leaves something to be desired. Furthermore, we can take comfort in the fact that this victory by the Iraqi people, a true victory in that this was through a just process, could not have happened without our intervention. Whereas we may not have executed justice ourselves, we established the foundation, framework, conditions, and environment within which justice could be served. As such, the world (and justice and history) are indebted to the Armed Forces of The United States and of their allies and to the presidency and administration of President George W. Bush. While many clamored for diplomatic solutions and giving a blood-stained regime more time, these proactive forces set events into motion which would result, among many notable events, in Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti facing justice for his abominable crimes against humanity.
For once, goodness and justice have prevailed against evil and injustice. This can only give us hope.