Monday, January 08, 2007

Hanging the dictator

It is so humid and rainy today that my hair is literally corkscrewing until it looks like something more appropriate for a painting by Van Dyck.

So I was reading on that all the remaining charges against Saddam Hussein have been dropped. 'Cause he's dead. I will refain from making an inappropriate pun on the word "dropped" but it did cross my mind. Saddam's collaborators, however, are still on trial. I still don't know how I feel about this whole trial thingy. I suggested to a friend that perhaps we should have put him on an island, the same way the English did with Napoleon, and this friend said that this would just put him above the law--and under democracy, no one is above the law. Fair enough. I can see his point. But I also wonder if perhaps the US (or UN) shouldn't have just held onto him in prison. Instead of turning him into a martyr, keeping him as a symbol: We took your leader, but we are merciful enough not to kill him.

Of course, then there's the other side of this, which is that any defence of Saddam's execution sounds like a defence of the man himself. And while I wholly support him being punished, I can't help wondering who's going to put W on trial for "crimes against humanity." It's such an ambigous term. Aren't we all humanity? Wouldn't a person who murdered one human be guilty of "crimes against humanity?" I read an article in the Guardian yesterday that compared Saddam's trial with the Nuremberg trials. The main differences, as far as I could tell, was that in the '40s, the perpetrators were not handed over to the country they had wronged, instead they were tried by an international court. As the first time this had ever been done, the prosecutors there were anxious to make it fair. From my hugely underinformed view, they were fairly fair. Any ten year old can tell you life's not fair. But the attempt should be made at impartiality. If we insist on imposing our western morals and ideals on the rest of the world, then we should be trying harder than ANYONE to get things fair. Saddam's trial should have had the same anxiety about it, but I imagine it was hard to get impartiality when the judge was from a village that Saddam bombed and had lost relatives. I've read about how great it is that this judge gets to preside over his opressor's trial, but...if it would preclude you from jury duty, surely there must be someone who's less directly affected. There is such a fervour about this man and his actions that I feel like it would have been impossible for him to get a fair trial anywhere in the Middle East. I also feel like the US was too busy making it look like Iraq was capable of having a judiciary system to worry overmuch about fairness. And what about those other 146 charges that were dropped? Perhaps the real punishment should have been sitting through those trials, coming face to face with your victims.

Well, he's dead anyway. And we've all got the pictures to prove it. Our generation's dead dictator photo, like Mussolini, perhaps. During the American Civil War, Union troops dug up George Washington's body and brought him further north so that Confederates couldn't hold it for ransom. I wonder how long Saddam's body and image will remain a potent symbol for his followers. My guess is a lot longer than most people think.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I have to agree with you Nicki. We should have been far more concerned with making sure that justice had been served than making it look like Iraq is a functioning democray. Cause to be honest its not and if we want it to become one we need to set the example of how it should be done.