Making a Killing: Reflections on Saddam’s Exeuction

What do I know about international relations? I’m no man of the world. I’m not cunning like Richard Perle. I don’t pretend to know anything about the required ingredients for Democratic reform, like so many involved in that budging cottage industry. I have my own, mundane problems to solve.

Still, there’s Saddam Hussein’s execution, weighing on my mind. I suppose it should be since so many of my tax dollars have gone to see it through; since so many of my fellow Americans have died to enact this justice. For what it has cost us all directly or indirectly Saddam’s execution calls us all to reflection.

The dictator’s eerie resemblance to my own father aside, I have misgivings about our heavy hand in this sad chapter of world history. We selected and invaded a country. With one hand we put its ruler on trial, and with another we attempted to rebuild what was broken. Such an idea is beyond the fiction any wild-eyed writer could ever hope to dream. Yet this is our reality, and it should be considered carefully.

There’s no arguing that Saddam was not a tyrant. But there are a lot of tyrant dictators holding sway over countries; some, obviously, much more dangerous than Hussein. Why did we chose him and not another leader?

Asking hard questions is one thing, but the answers are far more disconcerting. Saddam was selected because he was a deemed a threat to our country because of his stockpile of WMDs and his ties with terrorism. Thus, the man had to be destroyed and things like liberation and democratic reform would naturally follow.

Unfortunately, it didn’t. And our initial reasons for toppling Saddam proved to be entirely inaccurate: he had no weapons of mass destruction, the ones we had sold him he had already used. He was no threat to America. He also had no loyalty to terrorists. He may have been an evil man, hardly exceptional, but he was also quite innocuous. It is not that he did not deserve justice, it is just the manner in which we extracted it and the delusion that we have accomplished something positive.

There can be little satisfaction in breaking into a man’s home and lynching him in the street, even after our wild-ideas have proven false, while the rest of the neighborhood watches horrified. In that story which agent commits the greater evil? In World War Two we fought two empires at the same time. Today we destroy crippled countries, preemptively, and put their insane leaders on trial. And for what? Was Saddam, the puppet, not the product of a dangerous world which we augment with our own recklessness? And was this the embodiment of civilized justice or a blistering repayment?

As the rope was put around his neck Saddam was mocked by his executioners. I see vengeance, not justice. Did Saddam’s thoughts turn to his neighbor, Iran, busy acquiring a nuclear weapon, un-encumbered? Did his thoughts turn to North Korea? Did he lament that he had not forged a so-called civilized state where notions of international democratic reform foster in the minds of lazy intellectuals to be borne on the backs of the common man?

What started as a spectacle in shock and awe ends in the spectacle of execution. When the execution video hit YouTube it was an explosion in sadistic voyeurism. And why not? This whole endeavor, of course, has been to satisfy our blood-lust. The public wanted a crucifixion and it got one. Now that we have extracted repayment for 9/11 will we leave Iraq?

Perhaps Bush will emerge from his war meetings with a plan to bring the troops home. We will see where the priorities lie now, but with Saddam dead I feel our idealism for Iraq much deflated. This thing, for all intents and purposes, is over. Saddam’s blood is on my hands, but the mess is left for someone else to clean up.

BOLA TANGKAS