“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Hanging Saddam. A Dutch view.

Saddam's death - a blow for Middle East democracy?
analysis by Jan Keulen* Radio Netherlands

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said the hasty execution of Saddam Hussein demonstrated that his government cares about human rights. He said the fact that the death sentence had been carried out served as a "lesson to all the world's dictators".
Political factors were the main reason why Mr Maliki wanted the execution to take place as soon as possible. With sectarian violence growing all the time, the prime minister's authority is dwindling. According to observers, the hanging of the country's former dictator on Eid al-Udha (Islam's feast of sacrifice and one of the religion's most important holy days) was mainly aimed at strengthening Mr Maliki's political position, within the Shi'ite community in particular.

However, it's now not likely that the images of Saddam Hussein's execution, with him first having been derided and belittled by his executioners, will do much good for the causes of democracy and human rights in either Iraq or the Middle East as a whole.

The amateur recordings of what happened - made with mobile telephones - have since gone around the world and have, in any event, caused much embarrassment to European leaders who, formally at least, were already opposed to the death sentence.

The Iraqi government has announced that it will hold an investigation into the recordings of the execution. The executioners and other people present at the hanging were explicitly banned from recording the event, yet it happened all the same. The resulting pictures first appeared on the Internet, but soon made their way to the major television news stations as well.
Icy silence
In official circles within Iraq's neighbours the reaction was one of icy silence. The only exceptions were Libya, which announced three days of mourning, and in Gaza and the West Bank where Palestinian governing party Hamas publicly condemned the execution. In Jordan, the opposition organised mourning and protest meetings, with Saddam Hussein's daughter Raghad Hussein notable by her presence.

The images of the hanging of Saddam Hussein unleashed a furious reaction among members of Iraq's Sunni population. The execution was regarded as an act of revenge on the part of the Shi'ites, not only by diehard Saddam supporters and members of the Ba'ath party, but throughout the entire Sunni community. The sectarian feelings of anger and mistrust were no doubt further enflamed by Sunday's closure of Iraq's pro-Sunni television station al-Sharqiiya.

The main aims

Given this atmosphere, it's clear that the trial of Saddam Hussein, his conviction for the murder of 148 men and boys from the Shi'ite village of Dujail following a failed attempt on his life in 1982, and now his death on the gallows have not contributed to achieving the main aims of the entire process: facing up to the past, national reconciliation and the strengthening of Iraq's judicial system.

On the contrary, the polarisation and divisions within Iraq appear only to have grown still further as a result of the trial and the execution, as reflected by the expressions of outright joy among Shi'ites and Kurds and a sense of humiliation and discrimination among their Sunni counterparts.

Dramatic consequences

The conflict between Iraq's religious and ethnic groups, particularly the Sunnis and the Shi'ites, is also being anxiously followed in the country's neighbours. In Lebanon, which has its own tragic history of religious conflicts, Sunnis and Shi'ites appear to be moving ever further apart in political terms. In other countries in the region, Saudi Arabia for example, there's a somewhat uncomfortable status quo in which Shi'ites feel themselves to be the victims of discrimination. An even greater explosion of sectarian violence in Iraq could have truly dramatic consequences for the entire region.

Another consequence of the execution of Saddam Hussein is, ironically enough, the strengthening of the position of other Arab leaders. Many people in the Middle East regard the trial and subsequent hanging as an example of the 'law of the victor'.

Chaos and violence

The United States is regarded as being responsible for the far from perfect way in which justice was seen to be done in this case. In this way, the concept of ' democratisation' becomes equated with chaos, an orgy of violence and, now, the humiliating hanging of an Arab leader, and thus becomes a highly unattractive prospect in other Arab countries.
"Democracy and human rights have become dangerous, emotive issues in the Middle East," was the recent comment from one Syrian intellectual: "Each day on TV we see the results of democratisation and the removal of the dictator in Iraq. Our politicians are making grateful use of this and are saying, 'That's what American democracy is - beware of it'." For these politicians, the pictures of Saddam Hussein being taunted and then hanged may well have come like a gift from heaven.


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  2. Saddam hanging nearly halted over jeers-prosecutor
    Tuesday January 2, 04:40 PM

    BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A senior Iraqi court official nearly halted Saddam Hussein's execution when supporters of a radical Shi'ite cleric and militia leader taunted the former president as he stood on the gallows.
    Prosecutor Munkith al-Faroon, who is heard appealing for order on explicit Internet video of Saturday's hanging that has inflamed sectarian passions, said on Tuesday he threatened to leave if the jeering did not stop and that would have halted the execution as a prosecution observer must be present by law.
    "I threatened to leave," Faroon told Reuters. "They knew that if I left, the execution could not go ahead."

    Many in Saddam's Sunni minority, and moderate Shi'ites and Kurds, have been angered and embarrassed by the video. In it, observers chant "Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada!" for Shi'ite militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr. Saddam by contrast looks dignified on the gallows and replies: "Is this what you call manhood?"

  3. Saddam is dead.
    Doubt that he bcomes an Arabic Icon.

    That his executioners were less than professional, well, that's Iraq.

    Iraq is not going to change, soon.

    The US has decided to turn Iraq over to Saddam's executioners. That's what we've done over the past 45 months. That has been our planned performance. To late now to decide we've erred in execution and as bob w hopes, take another year or two and MAYBE the Federals will get it right.

    There will be no support for the Program in 8 months, anywhere in the US.

  4. DR, it is frightening , and I am not being rhetorical to see the public and political support for this war and Bush draining so quickly.

    The story about Saddam is about his hanging and not what he was hanging for. That is remarkable.

  5. It is all about US, duece.
    We do not discuss other folk much, except as how it effects US.

    The Bush Team has, even with Mr Snow, become less communications savy with each passing day.

    It is truely sad.

  6. Check out BC, seems even in OZ the mssage has sunk in.

  7. Victor's justice?

    The disposition of Saddam Hussein, therefore, was given to the fledgling Iraqi government. His trial was not conducted according to American norms, nor to satisfy American tastes. Still, we had left it to the Iraqis to do what they deemed best with their deposed tyrant, and we wisely refrained from modifying that stance a posteriori. They who cry "victor's justice" over this affair are without a leg to stand on. Saddam's trial was the closest approach to a sound judicial proceeding the afflicted nation itself could contrive. America merely watched from the sidelines and did its best to keep order in the streets.

    It just gets me all infuriated and livid when the "Moqtada" criers at the execution had to give the Sunnis yet another reason to continue to lionise Hussein as "a great man", and in that process completely turn a blind eye to what he had perpetuated against the Shiites. Perhaps there was the slight possibility that Sunnis would regard the execution as sort of a closure of a demoralising chapter, and then grudgingly move towards understanding what their fellow Iraqis were suffering during the days of Saddam's reign.

    2164th, your scepticism is shared. Cynicism regarding the focus on the execution rather than the reason for it - that is truly disheartening, only serving to exacerbate the level of demagoguery.

  8. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a published report that he wishes he could leave office before his four-year term is up and would not run again.
    "I didn't want to take this position," al-Maliki told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published Tuesday. "I only agreed because I thought it would serve the national interest, and I will not accept it again."
    Al-Maliki said it was "impossible" that he would serve a second term.

    "I wish I could be done with it even before the end of this term," he said in the interview, which was conducted Dec. 24. "I would like to serve my people from outside the circle of senior officials, maybe through the parliament, or through working directly with the people."

    ... He said disharmony within the coalition has made his tenure difficult, adding that after decades of rule by Sunnis, they have not accepted the Shiite majority role.

    "They don't want to accept this fact," al-Maliki said. "Iraq isn't governed only by the Shiites, power is shared. This is the result of democracy. They are our brothers and partners and we value their partnership."

    An AP line linked at drudge.

  9. Saddam was dead while he was in jail. Is Noriega alive or dead? It is not important because he is irrelevant.

    Saddam was resurrected by the botched hanging. He went to his virgins on a martyrdom mission. He achieved a nobility in death that was denied him while being kept alive.

    The most important thing that has hurt the US effort in Iraq has been the lack of knowledge about the culture and the politics of the Muslim world. Their percepyion of reality does not have to be real.
    To them it is real. It is not going to do us any good to tell them they should thik and act like us.

    We stepped into their world. We have to deal not with reality as we see it, but as it exists to them. The democracy experiment was wishful thinking.
    That was our martyrdom mission.

  10. I'm wondering ...

    Who is the "interface" guy in Iraq? You know, the P. Bremer type?

    You would think that American interfacing with the Iraqi leadership would have made sure Saddam's hanging wouldn't be used for propaganda purposes. (by making sure everything went well)

    Our "Mission" in Iraq is all wrong. It should not be; "working to give control to the idiot Iraqis". It should be; "maintaining strict control over all aspects while smashing ANY opposition". Turning over control comes later.

    Is anyone there capable of realizing this? Or, am I totally wrong?

  11. We've already abdicated, err, I mean, transitioned control to the Iraqi's. We never did exercise control over the joint when we had it.

    Given this reality, I'm with Rufus' approach of declaring that we've done all we can/should do, it is the Iraqi's problem to be solved by Iraqi's and we'll pull our boys out of harms way. We'll train, counsel and keep a strategic force in barracks as a check on Iran and/or other foreign meddlers. Otherwise good luck and good night.

  12. Bob W implies an assumption of Iraqi good faith and desire to improve their condition. I shared that assumption too initially, but experience seems to indicate that they're totally depraved and corrupted...not much worth saving. Just got to keep an eye on them and their neighbors from a safe distance and keep the oil flowing and those weapons of mass splody distruction out of their hands and let G-d sort out the rest.

  13. oh and btw, who gives a SHIT about what the Dutch think about Saddam's fate. T'would be nice if it was done a bit tidier, but it wasn't, big efen deal.

  14. You're right, Phil G, I don't give a damn about the Dutch either, but this will be used by more people than the Dutch, as Deuce implied.

    If you and Rufus are correct then what the hell are we doing there!?!

    It's amazing that control of this thing has been so f-uped from the start.

  15. Then again, if we're to fight the Global W.O.T. we have to win in Iraq first.

    Again, it gets back to the regional implications. Georgie and the idiot Congress better grow a big brass pair of balls real fast!

  16. I just used the Dutch because they were the author of the thumb sucking whine, in reality, don't care who uses it.

    Agree regarding the need for our CINC and Congress to grow some brass ones.

  17. Holland sent troops to Iraq and assisted in training Iraqi security personnel. Holland currently has a few thousand troops in Afghanistan and has been a steady supporter of Nato for fifty years. Holland is a major investor in the United States.

  18. Sunni’s… Saddam Died for Your Sins

    “Many people in the Middle East regard the trial and subsequent hanging as an example of the 'law of the victor'.”

    This is European claptrap at its finest, what rubbish.

    “For these politicians, the pictures of Saddam Hussein being taunted and then hanged may well have come like a gift from heaven.”

    Poppy cock! The only gift from heaven was the B52 attack on the palaces, but Saddam’s Monte Carlo bet finally paid off in spades.

    These assholes have been defining victory as whatever suits them. Hezbollah smashed? Victory! Saddam executed? Victory! I kill you? Victory! You kill me? Victory!

    I will no longer indulge the peculiar capriciousness of these fools.

    Meanwhile the three branches of government cannot keep secrets from our enemies, looks like we’re all a bunch of Shi’ites.

  19. In the meantime, Giovanni Di Stefano, a UK-based Italian lawyer representing al-Tikriti, has said that he will file an application in US District Court on Thursday seeking a temporary restraining order preventing the US military from transferring custody of his client to Iraqi officials.

    We are not asking the court to stay an execution but for a TRO in injuncting [sic] the US military in handing Mr. Barzan Al Takriti to the actual custody of the Iraqi Government. ...

    Barzan Al Takriti was the Head of the Iraqi Intelligence Services in July 1982 during the Dujail matter subject to the indictment. However, he resigned office in March 1983 and until 1988 was virtually under house arrest in Baghdad.

    Saddam Co-defendants

  20. "Holland sent troops to Iraq and assisted in training Iraqi security personnel. Holland currently has a few thousand troops in Afghanistan and has been a steady supporter of Nato for fifty years. Holland is a major investor in the United States."

    By "steady supporter" that means they let us protect them while they spent the bare minimum on defense.

    Overall Cold War debts are owed to us.

    'Just some perspective.

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  22. I served on five US air bases located in England, Germany and Italy that had tactical nuclear weapons. Forward deployment of US forces meant they were in the back yard of European allies who would have been assured of a devastating Soviet response in the event of a hot war.

    Imagine convincing some American communities to accept a European nuclear armed military base in their neighborhood. That should be part of the perspective and a testimont to the people that accepted the bases and the politicians that fought for them.

    When someone has your back that is a mutually advantageous arrangement.