Saddam Hussein is getting a spoonful of his own medicine and is to be hanged, according to the Iraqi High Tribunal. He can and will take his case to an appeal court, but the verdict will stand if his appeal is refused. With my personal views on the death penalty aside, moments like these are undoubtedly rare in human history. Most former dictators would rather die before seeing themselves stand for trial and receiving convictions against them. And Milosevic, former Serbian leader, interpreted this rather literally. (He died just 50 testimony hours before the end of his trial.)
When people ask me what I think of the verdict against the Iraqi dictator, I usually answer with: “Meh” and a shrug. It is easy to conclude that this series of events means that Iraq is finally on its way to recovery as a sovereign nation that is fully capable of its own security.
If that is true, it means that there’s a connection between the current violence in Iraq and what goes on in the courtroom of the Saddam Hussein trial. So every time Hussein starts swearing at the Head Judge, a roadside bomb goes off in Baghdad. That must explain the recent spike in violence. Now, really.
The fact is that the two situations are only connected in abstract. The act of putting the former dictator on trial serves the more theatrical purposes of the dictator finally “coming to justice” and “subjecting him to the rule of law”. And while these ideas are not to be diminished in value, they do nothing to change the reality of the situation in Iraq as we know it today.
Likewise, in Iraq, some will cheer and some will boo. Those suppressed under the Hussein regime will probably welcome the news, while his supporters (yes, they’re still out there) will be less than pleased. But ultimately, any Iraqi still walking the streets after sunset with the fear of getting kidnapped or shot probably won’t give a hoot. The father unable to provide for his family probably won’t care either. When you’re unsure if you or those you love will live past tomorrow, what goes on in some remote courtroom is less of a concern to you.
So if you ask me again, I’m less than concerned with what happens to Saddam Hussein. In fact, I’m writing this whole article in dedication to how much I DON’T care.
All cynicism aside, however, it’s not that I believe Hussein shouldn’t be on trial or punished for crimes that were incredibly inhumane and brutal in nature. And I wouldn’t agree with a verdict of “not guilty”, with no punishment whatsoever.
What I do believe is that, whatever Hussein’s fate, it should not distract us from the reality of the situation in Iraq today. It is still very troubling and demands our attention, more so than the day-to-day melodrama Hussein creates in the courtroom.
So my conclusion on the Hussein verdict: I don’t care.