Thursday, January 04, 2007



Death and Transfiguration – Saddam Hussein et al

Three men died in the last week; all important for different reasons, and certainly not associated in any way except by the close timing of their deaths. More significantly, they will speak from their graves and impact the living.

Saddam Hussein's life ended by hangman's rope – from all reports, he died like a man. He refused to wear a hood over his head and projected a stoic appearance; there were no mawkish pleas for mercy or forgiveness. While Saddam rejected a hood over his head, his executioners wore hooded masks, and Shiite witnesses danced over his corpse. In death, Saddam died as a brave man; his Shiite executioners acted uncivilized as they taunted and shouted el Sadr's name, but revenge is never pretty. Saddam committed many bloody crimes; but the one he was convicted on, had to do with taking reprisals, i.e.: killing 142 people as retaliation for an assassination attempt on his life in 1982. Saddam lived savagely, by the law of the club and fang and that is the way he died. He never extended pity and in the end did not expect it, contemptuously shouting to his executioners as the rope tightened.

My bone to pick is with GW Bush and to some extent with his daddy, President Herbert Walker Bush. Most of the crimes Saddam committed occurred when he was supported by the US against Iran. It became more complicated when Daddy Bush called for the Shiites to revolt against Saddam after Gulf War I and then stood aside as Saddam brutally suppressed the revolt. If GW Bush or Abe Lincoln had a revolt, brute force would be applied ruthlessly for the greater goal of preservation of the state – remember Sherman's March? They still do in Dixie.

GW Bush called it a fair trial despite the fact that US forces occupy the country and gathered all the evidence against Saddam. Requests for discovery by the defense were rejected by the Shiite judges. And who can justify the killing of some of Saddam's defense lawyers? Saddam was in US custody minutes before his execution. Only Bush can call it a fair trial – even the Shiites call it retribution. Other than Senator Joe Lieberman, who believes GW Bush? Pontius Pilate had more class than GW Bush... At least he publicly washed his hands before the death of Christ. Bush waited until after Saddam's execution.

Over the objections of Maliki, perhaps out of guilt for the messily botched execution, a US Blackhawk helicopter flew Saddam's body home to Tikrit for burial. That will not be the end of the US/Saddam saga. GW Bush called the execution a milestone. Mr. President, were the 113 US KIA in December, the highest of any month in 2006, also another milestone?

There is no question that Saddam was a war criminal. He lost a war to the US and faced deadly consequences, but for the US to be a direct party to his execution was a political blunder. Killing leadership of state after defeated started in modern times at Nuremberg, and the US still has to take moral showers over that, as Stalin occupied the heart of Europe; however, Romans killed enemy leaders too. The Huns, Tartars, and Mongols were sometimes smarter; they made the conquered leadership organize tribute. GW Bush had four choices: (1) Kill during capture, (2) Capture and send to Guantanamo, (3) Capture and send to International Hague Tribunal, (4) Capture and have him tried by Iraqis, then sentenced to death while US occupies Iraq. Bush chose number four and it will have long term consequences harmful to the US, as it will be perceived by many that Bush offered Saddam as a human sacrifice to appease the Shiites in Iraq. Like it or not, the execution of Saddam put the US right in the center of the sectarian violence in Iraq.

Saddam was effectively abandoned by his Sunni support when he was captured; a lice infested prisoner pulled out of a spider hole by US forces. Previously, his sons died hard in a shootout with US forces with no Sunni protection. There is very little evidence to support the notion that Saddam was a major factor motivating the Sunni insurgency against the US. So what was the rush to kill him, especially on an Islamic holy day which unnecessarily upset religious moslems? Bush foolishly made the man a Sunni Arab national martyr, and that delights the Jihadists. Even the Saudis told Bush it was a dumb move; the Libyans declared three days of mourning. Saddam will become more important dead than he was alive as a US captive. Protests in Jordan and the Sunni lands in Iraq are widespread as of this writing. After all the bloodshed in Iraq, GW Bush, with this clumsy crazy execution, unintentionally managed to make Saddam a sympathetic figure in Sunni Arab circles.

Bush should have transferred Saddam to Guantanamo – he always could have sent him to the Hague or even to Iraq, once the US ended the occupation. Or possibly, do the Lenin in a boxcar routine and send him back to Iraq to foment a revolution against an anti-American pro-Iranian regime Bush established. But dead is dead and the moving finger moves on – the page has turned.

Whether Saddam went to Hell or Valhalla is the gatekeeper's call. President Gerald Ford's natural death a few days before Saddam's violent death stood in sharp contrast. Ford, by earthly standards, should have gone to heaven with a band of angels. His legacy is that of a man who tried to do the right thing, and under severe criticism, he succeeded; domestically stabilizing the country with the Nixon pardon. His foreign policy astuteness with détente and the Helsinki Accords, with Hopeless Henry Kissinger's guidance, made him appear inept, but compared to Carter's subsequent bungling, history may take another look. His criticism of Bush's Iraq war posthumously is just another nail in Bush's credibility and will haunt him even more as the war turns into a full blown catastrophe.

As we have a pretty good idea where Saddam and President Ford went after death, there is uncertainty over the disposition of the brilliant song and dance man James Brown, Godfather of Soul, who died in the same time frame. By entertainment standards, he reached the highest level. Was told by a professional that his shows were the best choreographed of any of the rock stars; they had military precision that was masked by the flamboyant projection on stage. Brown had a troubled private life filled with turmoil that landed him in jail. At same time, he was a role model for disadvantaged blacks and provided them real inspiration to succeed. Believe Mr. Brown will end up in Purgatory, but with his dash and spunk he will most assuredly work his way into Heaven. He will be missed. A legend will follow...

You probably noted President Bush, VEEP Cheney, Condoleezza, General Pace, and SECDEF Bob Gates all huddled in Crawford, Texas to provide a New Way Forward In Iraq – all but Gates are a party to the disaster, so keep expectations low... Could not help but recall Woodys Allen's film characterization of torture as trapped in a phone booth with an insurance salesman. By my reckoning, locked in an armored car with that gang of five would even be more excruciating. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET

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Do you believe the US will be dumb enough to attack Iran?

VR,
LT

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