Saturday, December 30, 2006

Well, That Didn't Take Long

Bush hung Saddam today. Err... I mean, our puppet state hung our former puppet dictator... no, wait, the Free People Of Iraq have freely hung their former leader and America had nothing to do with any of it! Yeah, that's it! Sorry, I get confused about which version of reality I'm supposed to believe in... I mean, it was supposedly an Iraqi court which carried out an independently arrived-at decision... but he was hung in the Green Zone in an American prison. Huh. Whatever. He's dead and we won the war in Iraq! Right? We can go home now? Please?!

Saddam Hussein Executed
By Sudarsan Raghavan
The Washington Post
Friday 29 December 2006

Former Iraqi leader hanged for crimes against humanity.

Baghdad - Clutching a Quran and refusing a hood, Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein went to the gallows to be executed before sunrise Saturday morning in Baghdad, according to Iraqi state television.

Hussein, 69, who demanded a cultlike devotion from his people and built monuments to proclaim his own greatness, was hung around 6 a.m. local time (10 p.m. Friday EST) in the American-controlled Green Zone in central Baghdad. Hussein was executed before a small group of observers, including some who had been tortured by his regime.

The execution took place three days after Iraq's highest court upheld Hussein's death sentence, a decision that meant the execution should take place within 30 days. On Thursday, he met in his prison cell with his two maternal half brothers and handed them personal messages, according to his lawyers.

The Sunni Arab son of a landless peasant who died before he was born, Hussein was raised by an uncle in the farmlands that surround the northern town of Tikrit. As a young man, he joined the Iraqi Baath Party, which advocated secular pan-Arab nationalism, eventually playing a key role in the 1968 coup that brought the party to power. In July 1979, Hussein become Iraq's president and quickly plunged the nation into a vicious, debilitating eight-year war against Iran. Three years after that war ended, a U.S.-led coalition attacked Iraq in 1991 over Hussein's invasion of Kuwait the year before.

Almost nine months after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Hussein was captured near a small village on the outskirts of Tikrit. The following June, Iraq's interim government took legal custody of the former president and prosecuted him for crimes against humanity.

Many human rights groups criticized the trial as unfair, delivering nothing more than victor's justice, a charge Iraqi officials denied.

Also hanged on Saturday morning were Hussein's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court.

As the noose was placed around his neck, Saddam shouted: "God is great. The nation will be victorious, and Palestine is Arab."

Iraqi TV did not broadcast the moment of Saddam's execution but officials said his death was recorded on video. The television footage included a shaky image of the aftermath: a shot of what appeared to be Saddam's corpse, laid out on a hospital gurney, his head wrenched grotesquely to the right. His neck appeared to be bruised.

Hussein leaves behind a fractured Iraq. Cycles of sectarian violence have deepened the divide between Sunnis and Shiites and paralyzed the government. Sunni insurgents are killing U.S. troops almost every day, with this month's death toll already the second-highest this year. Shiite militias are storming neighborhoods and using power drills and other forms of torture before killing victims. Sunni Arab loyalists have already vowed to take revenge for Hussein's execution.
Well, it was certainly smart of them to simultaneously kill Barzan... that kills the last paternal male blood relation of Saddam. Along with the killings of Saddam's sons Uday and Qusay and his 14-year-old nephew Mustafa, the new Caliphate of Iraq will be safe from challenge by the previous ruler's bloodline! Huzzah! A return to 13th Century politics! Show trials and show executions! This is why we invaded Iraq... to give them American-style freedom!

Take a good look at that official photo of Saddam on the gallows... look at his hangmen. Does that have the look of an official ceremony carried out by a responsible Government? Because to me, it just looks like four fat thugs in ski masks and mis-matching pleather coats hanging an old man... the imagery isn't much different than what we see when the "insurgents" cut the heads off of kidnapped American truck drivers. What, the Iraqi government couldn't whip up four matching police uniforms and some wicked cool hoods?

No doubt George W. Bush will tell us in a few hours that it is a "great day" for Iraqis and will hope that the Muslim world will forget that Saddam's death sentence was signed on the very eve of the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, the last day of the annual Hadj, and the very moment of greatest forgiveness in the Arab world.


This entire trial was designed for one thing: to send the signal to the American taxpayer that George Bush Is Winning The War! The trial just -happened- to end with a death sentence on the eve of the American elections. Now Saddam's execution just -happens- to occur just before the end of the year. Coincidence? Not likely, especially with Bush needing to have a big "Win" in his column before giving his annual State of the Union speech in 3 weeks.

Hussein was a scumbag who needed to be held to account... but even scumbags deserve fair trials, honest judgments and justly-applied punishments. The former dictator got none of these.

The test of a government's commitment to human rights is measured by the way it treats its worst offenders... and this new Iraqi government has essentially proven itself no different in method or means than the previous head of government whom they just executed. State-sponsored execution is the tool of the Chinese and Iranians (and Governor George W. Bush). The vast majority of the world's nations have eliminated the "death penalty" because it's an irreversible punishment which deters no one, is commonly misapplied, and reduces the government to the moral status of murderer. But Iraq isn't Vermont and George Bush has never met a criminal (or brain-damaged retard) that he didn't want to execute, so why should we expect anything better from his hand-picked puppet government?

But don't take MY word for it... last month Human Rights Watch, issued a niney-seven-page report detailing the severe problems with the trial. Human Rights Watch, incidentally, has been baying for Saddam's head on a pike for 20+ years... but in keeping with their group's stated principles that EVERYONE deserves a fair trial, they wanted the former dictator prosecuted properly. Instead, their report, based on close monitoring of the prosecution of the former president, found that:

•"(The) Iraqi High Tribunal was undermined from the outset by Iraqi government actions that threatened the independence and perceived impartiality of the court."

• The Iraqi administrators, judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers lacked sufficient training and expertise "to fairly and effectively try crimes of this magnitude."

• The government did not protect defense lawyers--three of whom were killed during the trial--or key witnesses.

• "(There were) serious flaws in the trial, including failures to disclose key evidence to the defense, violations of the defendants' right to question prosecution witnesses, and the presiding judge's demonstrations of bias."

• "Hussein's defense lawyers had 30 days to file an appeal from the November 5 verdict. However, the trial judgment was only made available to them on November 22, leaving just two weeks to respond."<

The report did not study the appeals process, but the speed with which the tribunal's verdict and sentence were confirmed suggests that the Iraqi Appeals Chamber failed to seriously consider the legal arguments advanced by Hussein's legal team. It defies imagination that any independent Appeals Chamber could have thoroughly reviewed the 300-page judgment and the defense's written arguments in less than two weeks time.

Most importantly, the terms of Saddam's "Fair Trial" were dictated to the Iraqi Government by George W. Bush. Ill-mannered questions like "WHO encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in 1980?" (surely the greatest of Saddam's war crimes because it led to the deaths of a million and a half people) or "WHO sold Saddam the components for the chemical weapons with which he drenched Iran and the Kurds?" were strictly forbidden to be raised by prosecutors because the answers would also expose America's culpability in Saddam's war crimes.

There will, of course, be those Right Wingers who counter criticism of this unfair trial's processes by pointing out that Saddam Hussein himself did not give his victims fair trials or just sentences. That is certainly true, but such statements don't defend... instead they stand as a stinging indictment of the new Iraqi government and its judiciary. With all the support of the United States government, with massive resources and access to the best legal advice in the world, with all the lessons of the past, Iraq has a legal system that delivers no better justice than that of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Congratulations. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

This is the ugly legacy of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq: An awful mess of a country that cannot even get the trial and punishment of a deposed dictator right, a justice system that schedules the taking of life for political and propaganda purposes, a thuggishly brutal state that executes according to whim rather than legal standard and due process. The crude lawlessness of Saddam Hussein has been officially replaced... by the calculated lawlessness of the new regime.

Finally, as the head of Iraq's deposed Baath party lies on a gurney with his neck broken (awaiting, no doubt, some type of humiliating cremation and ignominious disposal rather than a proper Muslim burial--something else for the Sunni rebels to revenge themselves upon), we should look at the political state that Saddam built with truly open eyes free of our leaders' recent propaganda.

While it's fun to sit around after the fact and despise Saddam's Baath Party and everyone who belonged to it, let's remember for a second the founding principles of the Iraqi Baath Party: it advocated secular pan-Arab nationalism, unlike the exclusionary, explicitly-religious, sectarian Shiite-only Dawa Party which America helped the Baathists depose in 1968. Yes, the same Dawa Party which was until recently officially listed as a terrorist group, the same Dawa Party which set off car bombs all across Iraq during Saddam's reign killing thousands of innocent Iraqis, the exact same terrorist Dawa Party which dumbfuck George W. Bush has now put back in charge of Iraq.

Moreover, until America's invasion, the Baath Party was open to ALL Iraqis and had kept the lid on religious fundamentalism and Iraq's tribal and religious tensions by uniting the various parties as Iraqis, not Kurds or Shiites or Sunnis. Saddam's secularized Iraq was also the BEST Middle Eastern country in which to be a woman... there was no formal dress requirement and women were allowed to work in any job and even to drive (shock! horror!). Not so in today's increasingly fundamentalist Iraq.

When Saddam was captured in December of 2003, the insurgency against American troops increased in ferocity. Now, after his state-sponsored murder, it will redouble in intensity again. Worse, freed from the remotest possibility of Saddam's return by his execution, the West's enemies in Iraq have no reason to fear the return of Saddam's Baathist secular regime. Osama bin Laden will certainly rejoice, along with Bush and Blair... and there's a thought to chill the blood.

Four years into a messy occupation which has cost 3,000 American soldiers their lives, and one year into an increasingly violent religious civil war, and with no end or exit in sight, America may soon find ourselves wishing for another secular Iraqi strongman fierce enough to make the country's warring parties subvert their fanatical religious hatreds to secular politics. Too bad we're probably going to get a pro-Iranian religious zealot like Moqtada Al Sadr instead.

Addendum: as I predicted, Bush has already weighed in with his Official Response, and it's almost exactly as I predicted it would be, including the already-hoary "Fair Trial which he denied others" excuse:
Today, Saddam Hussein was executed after receiving a fair trial -- the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime.

Fair trials were unimaginable under Saddam Hussein's tyrannical rule. It is a testament to the Iraqi people's resolve to move forward after decades of oppression that, despite his terrible crimes against his own people, Saddam Hussein received a fair trial. This would not have been possible without the Iraqi people's determination to create a society governed by the rule of law.

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.

We are reminded today of how far the Iraqi people have come since the end of Saddam Hussein's rule - and that the progress they have made would not have been possible without the continued service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

Many difficult choices and further sacrifices lie ahead. Yet the safety and security of the American people require that we not relent in ensuring that Iraq's young democracy continues to progress.
Ehhrr... great! Saddam got a Fair Trial! We managed to America's complicity in his gassing of the Kurds and Iranians out of his Fair Trial! Saddam's Death is an important milestone towards Democracy! The Iraqis have come far! Support Our Troops! Don't Relent... Stay The Course! We're Winning The War In Iraq!

What a bunch of bullshit.

Additional Reading:
How George Bush Created a Theocracy in Iraq by Professor Juan Cole
U.S. tolerated, then Villified Saddam

Some Ye Olde Saddam Captured Propaganda Unraveled:
Republican Lawmaker Predicts Saddam Capture "Within Days"
How We Got Saddam
Democratic Lawmaker Claims Saddam Capture Story Phony
Kurds Say They Captured Saddam, Not Americans
Was Saddam actually captured on December 13?
Former Marine Admits Saddam Capture Fabricated
Pentagon Denies Marine's Version of Saddam's Capture
Indications Imply Saddam Not Captured, But Rescued From Captors By US

And finally, the REAL Story that Saddam's "Capture" was designed to obscure:
Bush Grabs New Power for FBI while Nation Distracted
President Signs Key Section of "Withdrawn" Patriot Act II

And the real stories that Saddam's execution is most likely timed to obscure today:
Pentagon to Request $100 Billion More in War Money
Bush's Guantánamo "Review Boards" Fail To Deliver Due Process

We live in a Propaganda State. Government by Propaganda. Culture™ by Propaganda. Finance by Propaganda. And now, History by Propaganda. Enjoy!