Saturday, January 06, 2007

A scathing critique

Received a link to Charles Krauthammer's WaPo column from yestarday in which he offers a scathing critique of Saddam's trial. Some excerpts:

For the Iraqi government to have botched both his trial and execution, therefore, and turned monster into victim, is not just a tragedy but a crime -- against the new Iraq that Americans are dying for and against justice itself.


The trial managed to repair the image of the man the world had last seen as a bedraggled nobody pulled cowering from a filthy hole. Now coiffed and cleaned, he acted the imperious president of Iraq, drowning out the testimony of his victims in coverage seen around the world.

That was bad enough. Then came the execution, a rushed, botched, unholy mess that exposed the hopelessly sectarian nature of the Maliki government.


True, Hussein's hanging was just and, in principle, nonsectarian. But the next hanging might not be. Breaking precedent completely undermines the death penalty provision, opening the way to future revenge and otherwise lawless hangings.


Finally, there was the motley crew -- handpicked by the government -- that constituted the hanging party. They turned what was an act of national justice into a scene of sectarian vengeance. The world has now seen the smuggled video of the shouting and taunting that turned Saddam Hussein into the most dignified figure in the room -- another remarkable achievement in burnishing the image of the most evil man of his time.

Worse was the content of the taunts: "Moqtada, Moqtada," the name of the radical and murderous Shiite extremist whose goons were obviously in the chamber. The world saw Hussein falling through the trapdoor, executed not in the name of a new and democratic Iraq but in the name of Moqtada al-Sadr, whose death squads have learned much from Hussein.

The whole sorry affair illustrates not just incompetence but also the ingrained intolerance and sectarianism of the Maliki government. It stands for Shiite unity and Shiite dominance above all else.

We should not be surging American troops in defense of such a government. This governing coalition -- Maliki's Dawa, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim's Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and Sadr's Mahdi Army -- seems intent on crushing the Sunnis at all costs. Maliki should be made to know that if he insists on having this sectarian war, he can well have it without us.

Krauthammer certainly makes a strong case for resisting a surge of troops in Iraq, and he offers a fine outline of the problems with the the way the trial and execution were, well, executed. I knew that thing didn't go as they should, but it wasn't until reading his column that I truly grasped just how botched the entire affair was. What a shame. Here, the Iraqis were presented with a truly historically unique situation--to try and execute one of the world's most truly heinous dictators--and they, under our leadership, were unable to properly procede. True, The Butcher of Baghdad has been disposed of, but truer still is the fact that the problems surrounding the entire affair will overshadow the significance of the hanging itself.


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