Death of a Dictator

Saddam Hussein was hanged this morning at “Camp Justice”. Reactions from Iraqis and the rest of the muslim world was mixed, ranging from jubilation to deadly car bombs.

Saddam was tried, convicted and executed for the massacre of 148 people in Dujail, where an attempt had been made to assassinate him. Saddam’s reprisal against the town was brutal and swift and yet was it any different than than the Clinton’s bombing of Iraqi intelligence headquarters (8 civilians killed) after “determining” that Iraqi intelligence had plotted to kill George Bush Sr., or Regan’s bombing on Muammar Qaddafi’s complex (scores of civilians).

Bush’s official response was :

Saddam Hussein’s execution comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops. ;Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq’s course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself and be an ally in the war on terror.

The official response of the US is full of encouraging words – democracy, ally, war on terror, but certainly nothing that smacks of complacency — “mission accomplished.” The British response was more muted, with Tony Blair, referring to the foreign press secretary. The bluster and confidence of the invaders has been tempered by reality. There were no weapons of mass destruction and democracy is far from being realized in Iraq. The enriching oil that would ease all woes has slowed to a trickle.

But, the cry that something positive has been done – a brutal dictator had been toppled and Iraqi could now develop. The needed “regime change” was accomplished. But at what cost ? The cost to american troops, to the trillions in spending or to the Iraqi civilian body count. A recent update to the Lancet study concluded that 625,000 more people died after the invasion of Iraqi than would have died with the Saddam Hussein regime. But who bears the responsibility for these death ? Where should justice be served for them ? Is this just a justifiable cost for empire building ?

If justice and regime change were such an important consideration for the American government what about all the other dictators it has supported or even brought into power. Marcos, Pinochet, Stalin. Toppling brutal dictators has not been the usual actions for US administrations, if the dictators are US friendly.

Saddam was not put on trial for the Kurdish massacre in the Anfal campaign. Pictures from this brutal chemical slaying were broadcast during those first few weeks before the invasion of Iraq. Presumably they were broadcast to generate support for the American campaign against this dictator. But, there are darker political undercurrents to this massacre. There is some evidence that some of the attacks against the Kurds were coordinated with the Turkish governments. At the same time, the United States blocked a UN resolution to investigate the massacre.

There is no question that Saddam Hessein was a brutal in his rule Iraq. It was in the end a good thing that he was removed from power. But, the manner in which it was done and the utter lies of the true motives for the “regime change” have left a country disintegrating into chaos and war. The trial of Saddam Hussein had some measure of justice, although the mechanics and fairness were questionable. The quick execution and silencing of the facts, was done for other reasons.

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