Sunday, December 31, 2006

Ham-fisted, botched or just plain stupid?

As I was walking by the checkout counter of a local drug store yesterday, I happened to see a headline on our local newspaper which read, “Local Expert: “Saddam Execution will increase violence””. I paused briefly (holding up the line behind me) and proclaimed out loud, “Well Duh!” (It wasn’t what I wanted to say but it was the only publicly acceptable utterance available at the moment)

In all fairness, the article by a local 2-year College Professor was well researched and well-reasoned but I found it strange that the public needed to be educated to this level.

IÂ’ve already written some thoughts about the (then pending) execution but the more I read, the more astonished I become over the ham-fisted, or perhaps downright stupid manner in which the trial and subsequent, pre-ordained verdict and execution were carried out. The article today in Salon by Professor Juan Cole has a couple of paragraphs in it that tell us just how botched this process was/is. You can read the whole article here.
Here are a few snippets:

By the time of Saddam's trial, sectarian strife was widespread, and the trial simply made it worse. It was not just the inherent bias of a judicial system dominated by his political enemies. Even the crimes for which he was tried were a source of ethnic friction. Saddam Hussein had had many Sunni Arabs killed, and a trial on such a charge could have been politically savvy. Instead, he was accused of the execution of scores of Shiites in Dujail in 1982. This Shiite town had been a hotbed of activism by the Shiite fundamentalist Dawa (Islamic Call) Party, which was founded in the late 1950s and modeled on the Communist Party. In the wake of Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini's 1979 Islamic Revolution in neighboring Iran, Saddam conceived a profound fear of Dawa and similar parties, banning them and making membership a capital crime. Young Dawa leaders such as al-Maliki fled to Tehran, Iran, or Damascus, Syria.

When Saddam visited Dujail, Dawa agents attempted to assassinate him. In turn, he wrought a terrible revenge on the town's young men. Current Prime Minister al-Maliki is the leader of the Dawa Party and served for years in exile in its Damascus bureau. For a Dawa-led government to try Saddam, especially for this crackdown on a Dawa stronghold, makes it look to Sunni Arabs more like a sectarian reprisal than a dispassionate trial for crimes against humanity.

The tribunal also 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.

The horrible aspect of all of this is that trying to suggest that the manner in which Saddam was tried, convicted and executed was in any way flawed, you leave yourself open to criticism that you are "defending Saddam Hussein". I haven't seen anyone defend him on any account and doubt seriously if anything I have written approaches a "defense" of him. Defending Saddam, however, is the newest and cheapest straw man used to attack any criticism of the handling of this whole "Tawdry" affair. Such criticism deflects from asking the hard questions about Iraq and our presence there. It throws sand in the eyes of both parties and keeps from giving an honest and "hard-nosed" assessment of what is and is not possible in that troubled part of the world. The great thing about Prof. Cole's article is that it is constructive criticism in defining not only what made things worse, but what could have made things better.

The execution probably will escalate the violence and once again, just make things worse.

In a sense, we can call the execution of Saddam a symbol of the foreign policy of the Bush Administration: Clumsy, ham-fisted, frought with missed opportunities and often, just plain wrong.

read the whole article....

I hope to put up another post before midnight, because, as we all know....I have no life.....


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