The lynching of Saddam Hussein – for that is what we are talking about – will turn out to be one of the determining moments in the whole shameful crusade upon which the West embarked in March of 2003. Only the president-governor George Bush and Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara could have devised a militia administration in Iraq so murderous and so immoral that the most ruthless mass murderer in the Middle East could end his days on the gallows as a figure of nobility, scalding his hooded killers for their lack of manhood and – in his last seconds – reminding the thug who told him to “go to hell” that the hell was now Iraq.
“Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it,” Malcolm reported of the execution of the treacherous Thane of Cawdor in Macbeth. Or, as a good friend of mine in Ballymena said to me on the phone a few hours later, “The whole bloody thing was obscene.” Quite so. On this occasion, I’ll go along with the voice of Protestant Ulster.
Of course, Saddam gave his victims no trial; his enemies had no opportunity to hear the evidence against them; they were mown down into mass graves, not handed a black scarf to prevent the hangman’s noose from burning their neck as it broke their spine. Justice was “done”, even if a trifle cruelly. But this is not the point. Regime change was done in our name and Saddam’s execution was a direct result of our crusade for a “new”
Note how the best “our” Iraqi government’s officials could do by way of reply was to order an “enquiry” to find out how mobile phones were taken into the execution room – not to identify the creatures who bawled abuse at Saddam Hussein in his last moments. How very Blairite of the al-Maliki government to search for the snitches rather than the criminals who abused their power. And somehow, they got away with it; acres of agency copy from the Green Zone reporters were expended on the Iraqi government’s consternation, as if al- Maliki did not know what had transpired in the execution chamber. His own officials were present – and did nothing.
That’s why the “official” videotape of the hanging was silent – and discreetly faded out – before Saddam was abused. It was cut at this point, not for reasons of good taste but because that democratically elected Iraqi government – whose election was such “great news for the people of
Worst of all, perhaps, is that the hanging of Saddam mimicked, in ghostly, miniature form, the manner of his own regime’s bestial executions. Saddam’s own hangman at Abu Ghraib, a certain Abu Widad, would also taunt his victims before pulling the trap door lever, a last cruelty before extinction. Is this where Saddam’s hangmen learned their job? And just who exactly were those leather-jacketed hangmen last week, by the way? No one, it seemed, bothered to ask this salient question. Who chose them? Al-Maliki’s militia chums? Or the Americans who managed the whole roadshow from the start, who so organised Saddam’s trial that he was never allowed to reveal details of his friendly relations with three US administrations – and thus took the secrets of the murderous, decade-long Baghdad-Washington military alliance to his grave?
I would not ask this question were it not for the sense of profound shock I experienced when touring the Abu Ghraib prison after “
But this is not just about
Maybe only older men, sensing their failing powers, enjoy the prerogatives of execution. More than 10 years ago, the now-dead President Hrawi of
I suggested at the time, much to Hrawi’s disgust, that this should become a permanent feature of Beirut’s nightlife, that regular public hangings on the Mediterranean Corniche would bring in tens of thousands more tourists, especially from
No, it’s not about the wickedness of the hanged man. Unlike the Thane of Cawdor, Saddam did not “set forth a deep repentance” on the scaffold. We merely shamed ourselves in an utterly predictable way. Either you support the death penalty – whatever the nastiness or innocence of the condemned. Or you don’t. C’est tout.
© 2006 The Independent