Sunday, December 31, 2006

Victor's justice

Like most civilised people, I have serious misgivings about the execution of Saddam. Not that, morally, the mass-murdering bastard didn't deserve it; just that:
1/ keeping him in permanent captivity seemed a more appropriate and less martyr-like fate;
2/ it seems doubtful that his execution will diminish sectarian tensions in Iraq - and it may even increase them by further alienating the Sunni middle class;
3/ it denied the Kurds the opportunity to have Saddam tried for mass murder/genocide over the Anfal campaign;
4/ it allows people like Kamil Mahdi (Iraqi expatriate, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter university, quoted in the Guardian of December 30), to say things like this: "It will be taken as an American decision. The worst thing is that it's an issue which in an ideal situation, should have unified Iraq but the Americans have divided Iraq" (strangely, though, in the same Guardian article, one Toby Dodge, "expert on Iraq at Quenn Mary College London university ", opposes the execution on the grounds that "it completes the Islamicisation of the insurgency");
5/ I am, in principle opposed to capital punishment. Even for Saddam. Even for Hitler. But I'm not going to sign any petitions or go on any marches over the execution of mass murderers, war criminals or other friends of Mr George Galloway, should they be finally brought to justice;
4/ Finally, there's the old "victor's justice" argument. It's true that Saddam's trial and execution are "victor's justice". As were the Nuremburg trials...

But, perhaps "victor's justice" is better than no justice at all.

It's certainly better than this sort of disingenious apologia for Saddam, from his erstwhile supporters in Britain, who now no longer have the guts to come out openly and state where they stand. On balance, I have more sympathy with Sham, whose raw anger is at least honest.

The most thoughtful comment I've read on the execution came from Fouad Ajami (author of The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq), writing in today's (UK) Sunday Times. I strongly suspect (though I don't know for sure), that Ajami supported the war. That would not, in my view, invalidate the following assessment:

"It will be said on the "Arab street" and by the critics of the Iraq war worldwide, that this verdict, and the entire judicial process that issued the death sentence, were an affair of the American occupation, cut to America's political needs. Iraqis from Kurdistan to Basra will pay these qubbles no heed.

"If it took a foriegn war to bring about this justice, and to introduce into Arab politics the principle of politcal accountability, so be it.

"So much of the political and economic life of the Arabs today - the satellite television channels railing against the West in perfectly good western idiom, the oil industry that sustains practically all that plays out in the region - has its origins in western lands.

"Nuremburg, too, was victor's justice. The Iraqis who endured the tyranny while the world averted its gaze from their suffering are owed their moment of satisfaction".


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