Thursday, January 04, 2007

Death by Thugs

People are having conniptions over the handling of the execution of Saddam Hussein NOW. I remember when it was announced that he was to hang, many of my friends expressed revulsion at the method and I myself thought it unseemly that the US would preside over such a thing, even though Hussein was a monster who never afforded his "enemies" the dignity that he himself should have had on his way to hell.
If the US is already there, I thought, why not kill him in a "more civilized" way? By lethal injection, like they do here. Set an example for less barbaric barbarism.
The death penalty in cases of genocidal cruelty is meant to be a "too little, too late" way to redress massive injustice. It is barbaric, but if applied with a measure of control, it can be a symbolic gesture with some pertinent historical meaning. I'm thinking of the hanging of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann by Israel in the sixties. This was a unique occasion in a country that has no death penalty. It was done after a serious trial and with as much dignity as revenge can muster.
With people like Eichmann or Saddam, or other such monsters, there is no conceivable torture fit enough for their depravity. Still, they have to be punished, but obviously not exactly as they did to others because that would just debase the rest of us. Unfortunately, the very human feeling of revenge is not a hallmark of civilization, but of the opposite. We have all felt the indignation of revenge but all it begets is more bad faith, more bad blood. Which is exactly what happened at the gallows last week. Turning the other cheek, as Jesus counselled, is almost inhumanly hard, but it is more civilized.
Now look at Iraq. It is disgraceful, not only what happened at the gallows, but what happens on the streets: Muslim neighbors killing each other brutally every day, over infinite, exponentially compounding grudges. And the US is to blame for it.
It is the US which is regressing to savagery through its unfortunate involvement in Iraq. It is the US who, by shunning the Geneva convention, circumventing the Constitution and using torture and other despicable methods, cannot pretend to be today the beacon of democracy and civilization it once was. Because of President Bush and his ghastly administration, this country has fallen to its one of the basest moral levels ever (I can think only of segregation and slavery as worse).
This thought ocurred to me today: it is the leader who leads by example. An immaculate CEO, a decent father, an admirable teacher, inspire the same in those who follow them. We, on the other hand, have a morally debased leader. A man, who for all his religious protestations, seems utterly incapable of doing the moral thing, which is, at the very least, accepting responsibility for his very costly arrogant mistakes. Is it any surprise that during his tenure our Congress felt free to be as corrupt as it could? Is it any wonder we have lost the respect of the entire world? People feel no one is really minding the store and this gives them leeway for the most abject mischief (Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Halliburton, FEMA, Katrina, you name it).
After all, Bush stole the presidency to begin with. This illegitimacy taints everything he touches. Plus, everybody knows he is an idiot.
The shit rains down from the top.
So don't all rend your garments because of the undignified death of Saddam. It should not surprise you in the least.

ps: what to do? Leave the Iraqis to sort their mess out. At this point the American presence holds zero credibility and thus zero chances of impressing upon these people the most basic notions of democracy. Let them figure it out for themselves.

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