Sunday, December 31, 2006

Final Thoughts on Saddam's Execution

Among the early accounts of Saddam Hussein's final moments to emerge thus far are those provided by Marc Santora of the New York Times and Michael Hastings in Newsweek.

Santora reports that "Saddam Hussein never bowed his head, until his neck snapped. His last words were equally defiant." Conversely, Hastings quotes the Iraqi who filmed the execution for the Government of Iraq as saying "I saw fear, he was afraid."

Both stories are allegedly based upon the testimony of Iraqis who personally witnessed the hanging. (Santora doesn't identify his sources, but there are many sound explanations for why he wouldn't without having to invent elaborate conspiracy theories). And yet they convey two very different tones for the event. Hmmmmm . . . I thought things like that never happened! (Okay, I'll really let things go now, although personally, from the video I saw of the execution, Saddam clearly looked more fearful than defiant).

I think that Andy McCarthy, posting on NRO's The Corner, comes closest to summarizing the ambivalence I feel regarding Saddam's execution:
I had to turn off the TV-news.
This is a solemn, important moment. It's not a joyous one. An evil man deserved to die. His elimination was necessary — not close to sufficient, but necessary — for achieving, over time, a semblance civilized stability in Iraq. The celebration in the streets, though, the dancing and firing guns in the air, does not augur well for that achievement.
This wasn't victory. It didn't end suffering. It was, in the heat of a war that has actually gotten more vicious and more uncertain since Saddam's capture three years ago, the carrying out of an essential but unpleasant duty. It marginally enhances Iraq'prospectsts, and ours. But Saddam's death (as opposed to his deposing) has no impact whatsoever on the deep dysfunction and hatred that is rending what passes for Iraqi society. The unbridled display of dancing and shooting says more about that than the death of one man — monstrous though he was — who has been imprisoned for three years.
Saddam's death is a marker worth observing. It is not something to go up in a balloon over.

In other words, the SOB deserved to die, and was extremely lucky not to have had to endure 1/1000th of the suffering (i.e. being fed feet first into a wood chipper) inflicted upon so many of his victims. But at this point, I'm more concerned with the violence that plagues Iraq today, and how we can still salvage a strategic victory in this conflict.