The right and noble thing
"To Hell with you!", he screamed. I, personally, would have gone with something more along the lines of "To hell with this!", as I scarpered out the front door of the court. Yes, he was shackled, and yes, he was wearing a 90 pound beard (seriously - that beard is a masterwork, and will probably go down in history as one of the Greatest Beards of All Time). But that shouldn't have stopped him from making a break for it. It would have been a more dignified death than being hanged.
I speak, of course, about Saddam Hussein, horrible tyrant, brutal dictator and any one of the hundreds of two-word epithets he's been assigned by the world's media. He's the world's biggest bad guy, the troll under the bridge of Freedom and Democracy, the bogeyman America uses to make sure the rest of the world eats its veggies and goes to bed by 10pm. And he's been condemned to death.
Many believe that this is perhaps the most prosaic ending for the man responsible for the untimely demise of millions of people. He was killing his own people, along with the countless thousands of men, women and children who died as a direct result of his paranoid ravings and rash decisions. Make no mistake - the man is a cunt.
However, the judgement handed down by Abdel Rahman this week has prompted a range of different responses from around the world, and - as horrified as I am to say this - I actually agree with Europe's two surrender monkey nations in their wet outlook on the penalty. Both France and Italy have come out simpering, calling for the execution of Saddam not to go ahead. It can easily be argued that they are merely taking the moral high ground (as I like to do whenever I can...) - after all, they have little to lose by calling for a reprieve from the noose for Saddam. Were they spokespeople for the United States, such a statement would be tantamount to strapping an explosive vest to their political careers and wandering into an opposition convention.
I am extremely concerned by the reaction of Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard. You can see the delight at the verdict writ large across the sizeable chunk of vacant real estate around his forehead region. But... and here's the rub... he speaks of this verdict out both sides of his mouth. On the one hand, he's vehemently opposed to the death sentence. Look at his hand-wringing and crocodile tears at the impending fate of the Bali Nine – a group of Australian twenty-somethings that have found themselves on the wrong end of the death penalty for smuggling heroin out off Indonesia. But on the other hand, when it suits Mr Howard, he's all for it. Whether it be Saddam Hussein or Amrozi (one of the Bali bombing masterminds, for those of you playing at home), if it suits his political ends, John Howard doesn't mind if people are put to the drop, or in front of a firing squad. At least Tony Blair had the nuts to stand up and say he was against the death penalty… he won’t do anything about it, but he’s against it. So… erm… go Tony. I guess…
Further afield, the reactions are predictable at best. The United States has wriggled into an orgy of high-fiving, as the judgement became common knowledge amongst a populace due in the polling booth just a couple of days later. The timing of the decision - a major talking point - will forever be criticised by many as a transparent attempt to boost votes for an ailing administration. But dead dictators win votes, and GWB has had this little apple land right in his lap. Down in the polls and steadfastly refusing to withdraw from an increasingly unpopular war, Bush has claimed the verdict as vindication of his decision to invade Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. Or get rid of Saddam Hussein. Or free the Iraqi people. Or whatever reason it is this week - I've honestly lost track.
But the main place that the verdict will have an effect is in Iraq. And it doesn't take a geopolitical genius to see that Iraq's in desperate trouble at the moment, and that things will only get worse if Saddam does meet his maker at the gallows. The already fractured Islamic world in Iraq will have yet another massive wedge driven between the sparring factions. The Sunni loyalists are even still lining up behind their defeated leader. Fighting between them and the Shia, who now have control of the legislative process in Iraq, continues to escalate. And stuck in the middle are western troops.
I fear for the people of Iraq. Yes, they're getting themselves a "Democracy™", but it's just another government born of violence and baptised in the blood of its former leader. The sectarian violence doesn't need another excuse to continue - but the bloodthirsty shouts of the elected leaders of the western world won't go unnoticed.
George Bush was smiling when he announced that Saddam Hussein will be executed. He was glad that a man is going to die. The message that sends is painfully clear... You are a bad man, Saddam. You killed people, and killing people is Very Wrong. Ergo, we will show you the error of your ways by killing you. And we'll be thrilled at the prospect of seeing you die.
No matter which way this debacle falls, the people of Iraq are in some deep, deep shit. Their world will be one of violence for many, many years to come and there's not a damn thing 99 percent of them can do about it. If Saddam cops a reprieve, the outcry will be heard for all eternity. And if he swings... it'll touch off a fire in Iraq so huge that it will turn the desert sands to glass, stained red with the blood of the many that have died at the hands of the powerful few.
But that red glass will offer the world one thing - the perfect material to fashion the rose-coloured glasses the western world will need to wear when we look back on these events in 20 years, and try to convince ourselves that we did the Right and Noble Thing.
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