How It's Done Matters as Much as That It Was Done
An execution of a dictator is as much a symbol as it is retribution and justice for evil acts. Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, and deposing him was supposed to represent the opposing forces of justice, rule of law and freedom, anathema to his own reign, as was an open, public trial and the opportunity to confront his accusers.
Shouldn't his execution have been similarly done to further represent the forces of justice, rule of law and freedom?
I just tried to explain to someone that Hussein's execution was illegal and performed by murdering sectarian thugs chanting pro-al Sadr slogans [Glenn Greenwald], an execution sanctioned and pushed by Maliki in the name of the Iraqi Government. The reaction was, "So what, it wasn't the U.S.'s responsibility."
But the U.S. is very much implicated, not only because the U.S. handed over a prisoner in U.S. custody to a government it knew would not follow its own laws, but because that government is the creation of, has the endorsement of, and would not exist if not for the U.S. and its continued presence. As Greenwald wrote:
... Saddam was in U.S. custody until the very last minute, and both the fact and the terms of the execution required the approval of Bush officials, which they gave -- implicitly, if not explicitly, by handing over Saddam for his middle-of-the-night noose fitting. Comparisons to the relatively dignified and orderly Nuremburg executions only serve to highlight how far America has tumbled under this administration, on every level that matters.
So this is the grand and noble achievement which the President and his band of bloodthirsty followers are reduced to celebrating -- a lawless, thugish hanging, carried out in clear and deliberate violation of the law, by a bunch of homicidal street thugs and militia foot soldiers who themselves will be included among our next kill targets once our glorious "sustained surge" begins.
No matter what we touch in Iraq, no matter what we do, it only makes things worse -- never better -- because the root of what we are doing is itself so rotted and incoherent and corrupt. It's beyond doubt that we're going to be treated to much more "freedom" and "justice" like this over the next two years in Iraq, at least.
There's so much talk of how we have to win in Iraq, we have to clean up the mess we made. Increasingly it's looking like, despite our best and noble intentions, it's not something we can do.
[Update] We didn't have direct responsibility, but it was a reflection on us. From AJ in DC at AmericaBlog:
I assumed that somehow this, a historic and potentially inflammatory event, would be handled with even a minimal amount of decorum and professionalism by the Bush administration and the Iraqi government. Instead, the Bush administration turned over Saddam to the Iraqi government prematurely . . . to a band of thugs-as-executioners . . . who wore not uniforms but leather jackets and ski masks . . . who shouted Shia chants, including invocations of Moqtada al-Sadr . . . all of which was illicitly videotaped and then emailed around Iraq and throughout the world . . . on, no less, one of the holiest days of the Sunni religious calendar.
Virtually everything that could have been screwed up, was. And now, against virtually all odds, Saddam managed to look good by dying and the Iraqi and U.S. governments are scrambling to do damage control in the face of massive Sunni demonstrations, international condemnation, and the general disgust of pretty much everyone who knows anything about Iraq.
Worst. Administrations. Evar.