Point/Counterpoint: The Execution of Saddam

Editor’s Note: Evening Sun writers love to argue. The sides in this debate were chosen arbitrarily and do not necessarily reflect the author’s true viewpoint. This week, Tyler Murphy and Jeff Genung discuss the execution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Like previous efforts to bring a prior regime to justice, Saddam’s trial will be remembered as much for what it showed about those sitting in judgment as for what it proved about the accused. Saddam ruthlessly murdered, tortured and persecuted the people under his domestic sovereignty. His merciless actions were massive, premeditated atrocities. Those familiar enough to witness the blood-covered hand of Saddam at work may have found chilling similarities in the current government’s execution of the dictator. Saddam was villainous because his crimes set him apart from us morally; to act in parallel with his vile methods makes us accomplices to such immoral acts – and equally monstrous. – TDM

First of all, I’d take issue with your use of “us” in your argument. The United States did not execute Saddam Hussein – a government led by the very people he once terrorized did. Our whole mission in that country was to help establish a government that could make its own decisions. The fact that the execution of the death sentence happened swiftly hopefully shows just how anxious the people of Iraq are to move on in forging a new government and putting the atrocities of the past behind them. Those who did witness Saddam’s brutality first-hand weren’t dismayed by the similarities or ironies of his execution; in fact, they most likely felt that the way he died – a relatively simple breaking of the neck – was entirely too merciful. – JMG

I do believe people who suffer at the hands of injustice despise it in all its forms and even if they do not, revenge is not a moral motivation for condoning the execution. The word ‘us’ applies to the United States because we are the ones who invaded Iraq under false information then toppled Saddam. The U.S. handpicked the Iraqi government. Then after finding him in a hole, instead of handing him over to an international agency (U.N.) like most war criminals or holding our own trial we gave him to a government that still can’t even tie its shoes without killing an innocent person. The U.N. and U.S. have a long history of a fair judicial system, so why then not use them? Was a kangaroo court really the way to go? The Iraqi trial was a shameful mark on the history books of our nation. They changed judges in mid-trial because the first judge was too soft. Saddam had three of his defense attorneys murdered throughout the trial. On many occasions his defense team refused to come to court fearing for their lives, yet court went on without them. Ex-Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who worked with Saddam’s defense team, said the trial “was a tragic assault on truth and justice.” – TDM

I don’t know ... call me a radical, but I’m not sure a sadist like Saddam Hussein deserved a fair trial. And I’d hardly hold up our own judicial system as a paragon of virtue in that regard. Had Saddam been tried by our own courts, his phalanx of celebrity lawyers probably would have gotten him off on a technicality – and clips of the proceedings would run on “Access Hollywood” right after the latest snippet about Britney and her lack of undergarments. I don’t think there’s any court in the universe where crimes like those committed by Saddam Hussein – even by his own admission – would have resulted in anything less than a death sentence. The trial that he did get, fair or not, was more than what he himself gave to the hundreds – even thousands – of people he executed summarily. I’d say he got better than he deserved. – JMG

Thank you for agreeing with my point. Saddam’s trial was not fair, so at last we‘ve discovered the one person to be excluded from humanitarian rights. But let’s put the ideology aside for a moment and talk pragmatically. Iraqi leaders chose to be blinded by sectarian loyalties and a primal desire to eliminate their former tormentors; instead of moving forward they repeated history. They have not learned from Iraq’s tragic past where executions following brief and unjust trials feeds a spirit of vendetta and new violence. Rebuilding Iraq will require inclusiveness, forgiveness and experience all things the current government lacks and to a great degree the White House as well. Saddam’s legacy was in shambles and we have resurrected him into a symbol of defiance and American blunder. The old leader is laughing in his grave; truly his execution could not have been done in a worse way to further divide the country. At the end of World War II several countries came together and put many high-ranking Nazis on trial. The Nuremberg trials were seen as an incredible effort of both justice and fairness. Many were found innocent, more were not. Sixty years ago after millions of deaths and far more bitterness, we gave the Nazis a fair shake but today, not Saddam. Better we had our troops drag him out of that hole and put a bullet in his head like they do in China and in Nazi Germany. That is what you were saying isn’t it? Guilty before trial, kill him regardless. You can not paint a future with blood. – TDM

The bloody divide in Iraq existed long before Saddam’s hanging this weekend, and most of that was of his own devise. There’s no scenario imaginable in which justice meted out against their former dictator would have “healed” the Iraqi people. Saddam’s trial and execution was carried out swiftly for good reason – to get it over with and, hopefully, move on. While far less brutal of course, our own recent reminder of Gerald Ford’s swift and summary pardon of his reviled predecessor Richard Nixon had much the same effect on a troubled time in this nation’s history. No good could have come from a Death Row Saddam, or one embroiled in world courts for years to come. While there are certainly fresh wounds opened from the circumstances of his death, at least there’s hope now that the Iraqi people can close this violent and tumultuous chapter in their history and move out from under the shadow of their former dictator. – JMG

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