30 December 2006

Shameful justice

So, the Iraqi government has executed Saddam Hussein.

They tried and found him guilty, but to carry out the sentence of hanging by the neck until he was dead, custody had to be transferred from Saddam's U.S. jailers to the Iraqis, because we held him in our Baghdad prison.

The sentence was rendered, ostensibly, by the newly elected Iraqi government, but no one was fooled. It was the U.S. that wanted to see him swing.

In the dark, sad, angry eyes of many of his Sunni brethren, Saddam's death at the hands of his enemies -- Shi'ite and American -- makes him a martyr. This may come back to haunt us.

It’s probably fair to say that most people aren’t sad that Saddam is dead and gone. He won't be missed. He was a murdering thug of a dictator who wrote, near the end of his life, gooey romance novels.

As a secular dictator, he kept the Pandora’s Box of violent religious fanaticism in Iraq shut tight through sheer ruthless violence. He was also an ally to the U.S. for many years. We provided him with much of the dark, poisonous might he used in Iraq’s war with Iran, which he would certainly have lost without them. And he used those convenient chemical weapons we provided him with against his own people, as well.

Still, he didn’t cause the U.S. government to lose any sleep until his head got too big and he invaded Kuwait, threatening a strategic source of oil for the U.S.

That was our first oil war. The threat was large enough that a massive coalition of forces from all over the world gathered to send him packing back to Baghdad. From my safe and secure Army public affairs job in Germany, I watched as friends in the Army prepared to go to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, not sure what they might find when they got there and the “Mother of All Wars,” as Saddam called it, dropped on them. I watched and wrote about combat helicopters being shrink-wrapped and loaded on ships the size of a two city blocks and as tall as 12-storey buildings for their journey to the desert, where our forces would soon discover that blowing sand quickly eats into delicate machinery, rendering it useless.

As I prepared to fly back to the U.S. on home leave for a month, I watched the Gulf War start on CNN. It was the first real-time, live war I or anyone else had ever seen on television. It seemed strange to watch it, complete with slick, catchy graphics, logos and slogans. It was as if the war itself were an actual television news program, shown live with sage commentary, multiple reruns and slo-mos with diagrams to keep us watching.

When Saddam fired Scud missiles at Tel Aviv, and there on the TV I could see the nighttime city and hear the air-raid sirens wailing and wailing, it made me cry. Missiles and bombs, whoever they’re fired by, aren’t weapons that kill and maim only soldiers, which is bad enough. They also kill and maim old men and women, young men and women, teenagers, small children, dogs and cats, birds. Non-combatants. I cried when our “smart” bombs fell on Baghdad, too, and for the same reason.

The Gulf War ended quickly with Saddam and his troops in a disorganized, running retreat. In the weeks, months and years that followed, U.N. inspectors hunted down and destroyed any weapons of mass destruction he had left. We encouraged the Kurds to rise up against him; he slapped them down brutally. We watched and did nothing. The U.N. imposed sanctions. Iraq’s military might was dead, her people suffering for their leader’s ego. But there was no doubt that Saddam had been defanged.

When George W. Bush took America to war again against Iraq, Saddam didn’t have any teeth left to bite with. He was all bluster. Contrary to what Bush claims, Saddam didn’t kick the weapons inspectors out of Iraq, thereby bringing the might of the U.S. and its mercenary “Coalition of the Willing” down on his head. Instead, Bush decided to wage “pre-emtive war” and told them to get the hell out while they still could. He was about to drop Shock and Awe on Iraq.

He made up lies about Saddam’s WMD and his notorious “plans” against us, and oh, let us not forget Sept. 11, which Bush and his administration implied that Saddam had a hand in.

That was just another lie. Another excuse for Bush to stroke his ego and steal all the Iraqi oil and U.S. treasure he could get his hands on -- $354 billion dollars worth, so far.

Hussein was bad. A monster. No argument there. But America has killed thousands upon thousands more Iraqis than Saddam ever dreamed of killing, and to this day the Bush administration cannot give his people or the world a true reason why. Instead, he makes up feeble, blustering excuses as he goes along.

And America’s war in Iraq won’t end, if Bush can help it, until he leaves office in 751 days. Whoever takes his place will have the bad job of ending American involvement in the abattoir. It’s the only way that Bush won’t “lose” in Iraq. Americans and Iraqis are dying now and will continue to die only to protect this monster’s “legacy.”

What a horror.

Saddam is dead. Pandora's Box is open, the demons trapped inside loosed on the world by George W. Bush. Iraq is now hell on Earth. Its people are engaged in a sectarian civil war, one they might not have had if America hadn’t blithely invaded and then fucked up the aftermath so incredibly badly.

Saddam is dead. Is there any reason at all that anyone else – Iraqi, American, British, Romanian, Estonian -- has to die for George W. Bush’s twisted, vainglorious, power-mongering greed?

And who will bring our own murderous thug of a dictator to justice?

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