Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Heading for the drop

Well, the bookies stopped taking bets many months ago, but today it was confirmed that Saddam will swing in the next 3 months or so. Even Tony Blair has mixed views on whether this is such a bright idea, but on the whole, I am rather a fan of capital punishment for proven genocidal maniacs.

Of course, we have had to put up with the usual raft of ridiculous assertions, such as "Bush and Cheney should be on the gallows with him, then we will have calm in Iraq / world peace / a cure for AIDS / food for all Africa", and of course plenty of whining about whether it was a "fair trial".

Now, I too have my doubts that the trial was perfect.

Firstly it was a foregone conclusion - we know beyond doubt that lots of bad stuff happened in Iraq during three decades or so of Saddam rule, and that there was no way in an authoritarian state that he could have had no knowledge or involvement. That inherently made the whole thing a show trial, to prove that a modicum of due process had been performed before killing the old bastard off.

Secondly, the trial was disrupted by threats, violence and murder perpetrated against key witnesses, lawyers and courtroom officials by various sectarian groups.

Thirdly, there were political motives from American anti-war activists to turn this into as much of a farce as possible. Why was Ramsay Clark there? Did he really believe in Saddam's innocence? Does his record as American attorney-general indicate that he genuinely wanted justice for Saddam, with no malicious intent to make the Bush administration look incompetent or impotent?

All in all, I think the Americans, much like they have everything else, showed an appalling lack of foresight and planning. I had no problem with the concept of going into Iraq, whether for WMD, democratisation or even to stabilise oil supply and taking out a genocidal maniac en route, but the aftermath has been shambolic. The same applies here - having decided not to just shoot the guy whilst resisting arrest, they needed to get the trial going quickly and efficiently, with some transparency and security for those involved.

Anyway, here we are, and we have to now respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi courts. If they decide he is guilty and should be executed, that is their choice, and the consequences should be on them. Claims that the outcome was chosen by the coalition forces are obvious bunk, purely because they will be forced to stay all the longer if the repercussions are bad.

Still, the timing for the eve of the US mid-terms is quite excellent, but I suspect it will not be enough to save the GOP from a big defeat. Frankly, they deserve one, for their mishandling of the post-war period, not to mention their domestic overspending, corruption scandals and the other ethically repulsive behaviour of senior party members. It remains to be seen if the Democrats are any better...

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