Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam is executed

It is with much pain as I write this, but Saddam Hussein was hanged on Saturday 0300 GMT, 11 am Singapore time.

I remember the time when the Iran-Iraq War hogged the international news on TV. I was in secondary school then. In spite of constant Iranian claims of Iraqis using chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers, there was no outrage I could recall, at least not reported by our local TV news. Way back then, as it is now, the Iranians were perceived as the religious nuts bent on destroying the world, and Saddam was contributing to "World Peace", shielding the "Free World" from religious fanaticism. Saddam was the "Good Guy", and "Good Guys" can do no wrong. Although I saw on TV the chemical burns the Iranian soldiers suffered, I felt little pity.

And there was peace, or so we thought, because, thanks to Saddam, the nuts in Iran were taught a lesson and the world was safe again, but not for long.

It is apparent now, the reason why Saddam made peace with Iran then, even returning conquered land, was because he had a fatter peace of meat in his gunsight: Kuwait. It was probably Saddam's biggest mistake in his life. I sincerely believe that he misread how Uncle Sam would react to his invasion. The world was cheering him on for spreading peace by slaughtering Iranians, the world would probably cheer him on for spreading peace to Kuwait as well. In fact, the invasion of Kuwait was relatively bloodless compared to the slaughterfest of Iranians.

Overnight, Saddam turned from the "Good Guy" to the "Evil Babylon". It was then that we had a 24 hour news channel appearing out of nowhere for free over the air; not CNA, but CNN. (Or was it 7am to midnight?) Suddenly, Saddam was not "cool" anymore. CNN went on and on about Saddam's aspirations to invade Saudi Arabia, thereby monopolising more than 50% of the world's oil supply, painting a doom and gloom scenario for the "free world". The "free world" generally agreed Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and the threat to Saudi Arabia was a "bad thing", and the American President the, Bush Senior, promptly assembled a million strong coalition first to defend Saudi Arabia, and then, after months of careful planning, kicked Saddam's ass. Hard. It was supposed to be the "Mother of All Battles", but the Iraqis just caved in. It was then that Saddam did the most atrocious act of environmental terrorism.

Before retreating from Kuwait, Iraqi soldiers opened up as many Kuwaiti oil wells as they could and set them ablaze, enveloping the region in dark noxious fumes. Crude oil spilled into the Persian Gulf, and it was heart wrenching then to see the multitudes of sea birds covered in crude oil, unable to fly, slowly dying in the beaches. If I had my way then, I would have chopped Saddam into a million pieces. And it was with great shock, that the Americans, on scoring a beautiful victory against the Iraqis, suddenly stopped their advance on Baghdad, and retreated back to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. It didnt make any sense at all, and I was bitterly disappointed. Saddam deserved to die. Saddam must die. He must pay for his evil sins. Bush Senior let the world down by not finishing Saddam off. Or so I thought.

Fast forward to today, and it is ironic that I am sad that Saddam is dead. Executed. Hanged. Perhaps I am wiser now, more aware of the shades of grey in the world, and therefore, more sympathetic towards Saddam. Or perhaps I am just as easily manipulated by the media today as I was in my teenage years. Or perhaps that my dislike of Bush Junior made Saddam a sort of an anti-hero. For a man with such bloodied hands, he sure died with much grace, talking about using his death as a sacrifice and praying for peace and forgiveness.

I am not an opponent of the death penalty. And I believe that the death penalty ought to be brutal and barbaric as it possibly can be, to maximise the effect it has as a deterrent against crimes. But the hanging of Saddam causes me much pain, much much more than the hanging of, say, Nguyen Van Tuong, even though Saddam was neither young, nor handsome, nor was his crimes as "trivial" as drug trafficking.

I lament because the "worst" charges they could pin on him dates all the way back to 1982. And his "genocide" of the 148 Shias was not a whim - some of those people tried to kill him but failed. Perhaps the reprisal was excessive by international norms but he was certainly entitled to some form of retribution to deter further attempts on his life. The current US invasion and occupation of Iraq has caused the deaths of easily over 200,000 Iraqis and at least a hundred more die every month due to the anarchy caused by the occupation, all because maybe, maybe Iraqis could be working on something that maybe, maybe someday can hurt a few Americans. How many death sentences should Bush Junior get, for his crimes of incompetence to the Iraqis? And for a consummate villain like Saddam, how is it that the only real crimes anybody could prove against him was in 1982?

In 1983, one year after Saddam committed the crimes that condemned him to death, AND while he was reported to be using chemical weapons against the Kurds, then American President Ronald Reagen sent his special envoy, Donald Rumsfeld to meet Saddam Hussein, as you can see in the youtube video below, to express, among other things, American approval of Iraq's role in the Iran-Iraq war, and the American desire to establish full diplomatic ties with Baghdad. Right at the time when Saddam was committing his worst evils. Perhaps, US intelligence was already faulty then, and the Americans didnt knew what was going on in Iraq. But the use of chemical weapons against Iranians was publicly seen on TV. But all that was no issue with the Americans until 2002.

From what I now know, Saddam is quite fearful of the United States. Since Saddam found himself to be the "Bad Guy" in the eyes of Uncle Sam, he had stopped using chemical weapons. Iraqi research into nuclear power and nuclear weapons was frozen at the end of the first Gulf War. Iraq was harbouring Abu Nidal, probably the most ruthless terrorist leader in modern times for many years, but apparently, Saddam ordered him killed in 2002 in the buildup to Gulf War 2.

I don't want to predict what may happen with Saddam's death. From what I see, Saddam is little more than a symbolic figurehead now. Only gullible neo-conservatives believe that executing Saddam can help with the Iraq situation. And symbolic figureheads are more powerful dead, than alive.

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