29 Dec 2006

Victor’s Justice

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Saddam Hussein was a pertinacious enemy of the United States, a notorious sponsor of international terrorism, and had the effrontery to attempt the assassination of a president of the United States. He brought his own downfall upon himself by persisting in violating the ceasefire agreement which ended the Gulf War.

If the US general in command of the unit which captured Saddam had promptly hailed him before a drumhead courtmartial, stood him up against a wall, and shot him at dawn, I don’t see how anyone could complain of the injustice of US actions.

Turning the vanquished dictator, however, to the petty political opponents he had always previously defeated to be hanged after a show trial is a policy unworthy of a great power. The 19th century was usually more civilized. Napoleon was exiled to St. Helena. Even Mexico’s Santa Anna was accorded refuge in New Jersey, where he repaid America’s clemency by introducing Americans to chewing gum.

The United States finds itself divided at home over the war in Iraq. Surely Saddam could be useful in clearing up Americans’ confusion about his role in terrorism and about those missing WMDs, and in elucidating his own plans for the current insurgency. Why not offer the condemned prisoner a deal?

In return for Saddam agreeing to testify fully and frankly about his regime’s relationship with Islamic terrorist groups, possible ties to the 9/11 conspiracy, about his WMD programs, and the evacuations to Syria, if he discloses pre-invasion plans for the current insurgency, and calls for Ba’athists generally to make peace with the new parliamentarty regime, we could offer him clemency and asylum in exile. The information he could provide would be a lot more valuable than the pathetic spectacle of his execution.

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Jay_son_of_Frank_and_Henriette

JDZ,
I must, this time, PROFOUNDLY disagree with you. Saddam Hussein was guilty of mass murder. No one doubts this because of his own admissions of his actions; his only defense has been to say that he had the right to order the deaths of those men and boys, even those only remotely linked to the assassination attempt in Dujail in 1982. Such an action, was by our standards, murderous in its excess; it was also murderous even by the different standards of the Middle East. He deserved justice for those deaths…and even still he got mercy: Saddam was executed by a measured long-drop hanging which killed him quickly, unlike the short-drop hangings of his victims who died slowly.
Please make no mistake: I am personally opposed to capital punishment with only one exception: major war criminals.
My opposition has nothing to do with justice; truthfully, the justice for conscious, premeditated, criminal killing of human beings can only be the comparable punishment of the perpetator with his own death. Maybe for a single death there could be a justice of repayment: Daneguild, if you will. But, with mass murder it becomes impossible for such reparation and death becomes a necessary part of justice for the murderer.
Rather, my opposition has to do with the uncertainty of human justice. We make mistakes and death is the punishment from which there can be no relief if the accused is mistakenly convicted. Therefore, I cannot support capital punishment in the cases of single murders. However, with war criminals, the odds of an accused leader being mistakenly convicted go down drastically because of the increased evidence associated with the increased number of bodies. Even if the trial was flawed, Saddam’s evidence trail was littered with those and the evidence of his guilt was beyond a reasonable doubt.
So to your second point about the utility of offering Saddam a plea bargain: What could he possibly offer his people or us? He had no power or knowledge: any war plans to which he was privy are now over three years old and outdated and those Baathists/Sunnis who fight us now would only stop their fight if they could be returned to power; this would merely ensure that instead of (now) working to pacify 20% of the country with 80% at peace, we would be fighting 80% withonly 20% at “peace” and with a vicious America-hating dictator defying all justice at the top.
If Saddam had been tried in an American court, would he have been able to drag out an appeal for 20 years because of 3 (out of 20) of his lawyers being assassinated or a judge’s display of anger at his insolence: Yes.
If Saddam had been tried in a European court could his lawyers have been able to obfuscate (as they tried to do in Iraq) and to succeed in delaying his conviction on procedural grounds until he died of old age: Yes, Slobodan Milosovic’s lawyers proved that this is easy.
If these things had happened, would justice have be delayed or denied to his victims: Yes.
Finally, was Saddam’s execution a perfectly dignified affair: No because he remained maniacally arrogant and unappologetic to the end. (Contrast this to some of the Nazi war criminals on Sgt. Woods gallows at Nuremberg.) He and his unrepentant pride insulted his executioners and they responded in kind. Honestly, could you or I have been perfect if we had been in their place.
But it was JUSTICE to his victims…and a source of fear to other maniacal leaders who think they’ll get away with anything just because they’re now Presidents-For-Life.
Saddam had nothing substantial left to offer in life…but his quick death could offer a little justice to the people oppressed for his delusions of glory.
I’m sorry he didn’t repent, but his words and actions in the courtroom and on the gallows showed that the death of a common criminal was exactly what he richly deserved.
May God have some mercy on his soul.



Dominique R. Poirier

I think JDZ’s suggestion is not devoid of good practical sense. It expresses an understandable concern and it is based upon some other interesting precedents he didn’t make mention about. Now, in the case of Iraq and Saddam Hussein circumstances are different. I believe that this idea would have been difficult to put into practice since the very reason that justified U.S. intervention in Iraq was Saddam Hussein tyrannical regime. Saddam Hussein was not an executant or a scientist who was compelled to carry out orders. He personally ordered each and all mischiefs committed under his regime.



Never Yet Melted » They Hanged Unsaintly Saddam

[…] A number of readers have disagreed with my previous post disapproving of the then-impending execution of Saddam, which provokes further reflection on the subject. […]



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