Monday, January 01, 2007

This was our execution

I wasn't going to post on this but as time goes on I just get more and more angry. I have posted on the death penalty before (and one of my ancestors was executed himself of course) but I should make clear before I begin that I'm not opposed to the death penalty on principle. However, it is not the killing of this disarmed dictator that has made me so angry, but the manner of his death.

QuiteBut before I come onto that let's look at George Bush's analysis of the event. He described the execution as "an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy" going on to describe the hanging as "the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime."

I find it difficult to express my revulsion at the idea that the execution Saddam has just received is somehow more legitimate than the countless executions he himself ordered. The proceedings were strictly dictated by the US to ensure he was only tried for crimes that showed no complicity of the Western powers. There was no fair trial and then they killed him the way they always intended. He received the same process he gave many others, although he didn't televise his executions.

It's probably stating the obvious to say that Bush has no idea what the word democracy means. It's just a catch all phrase he uses to mean "our side". It's like the way the Americans kicked up such a stink over Iraqi pictures of US servicemen whilst happily publishing pictures of the Iraqi captured and dead. Oh, but of course they're the baddies and we're the goodies, so by definition we can do as we please no matter how evil. Silly me, I forgot.

In absence of any evidence that Bush advocates actual democracy I think we need to decode the phrase to mean "an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a [stable US military airstrip]"

Now let's look at the ex-dictator's last 24 hours to see exactly how a democratic civilised nation carries out a death sentence.

Dressed in casual jackets and fetching terrorist style balaclavas the executioners go for this year's 'thug look'First timing. "Having seen the former dictator hanged at dawn on Saturday, Mr al-Maliki was presiding as father of the groom at dusk. In a country where sectarian and tribal hatred runs high, the coincidence added to anger that Saddam was killed during preparations for Eid, a time when pleas for clemency are heard by even the grimmest Muslim dictators... it is a tradition to pardon prisoners or postpone executions until after the feast of sacrifice festival." Of course, when they timed the announcement of his execution to coincide with elections in the US why wouldn't they time the actual event for maximum effect too?

Then there's his treatment the night before his execution. One of guards, who goes by the charming nick name of Ali the Butcher, "intended to make a hell of Saddam's last night on earth" taunting him with the rope. "The guards were dancing in front of him. When Saddam tried to sleep, they were going in, every 30 minutes. They said, 'We didn't let him sleep. We destroyed his personality'." Because killing someone isn't enough it seems.

Saddam was led into the execution chamber with by-standers taunting him, these by-standers were invited by the Iraqi government of whom they said "We don't quite know who was shouting at Saddam or with whom he was exchanging the insults but I do not think it was any members of the government who were doing this" So we're to believe they were just passing and security was so lax they managed to slip in to spontaneously rib the condemned man?

These images were edited out of the official footage but filmed on a camera phone by another attendee. It brings a whole new level to happy slapping really doesn't it? Are we really to believe that there were people present who were not especially invited and the authorities were not able to prevent unauthorised filming? The barbarism is not lessened by the fact that Saddam was equally evil, but it does more and more remind me of the scene in Animal Farm when the Pigs and Farmers sat round the table and the farm animals were unable to tell the difference between them.

Sam Leith in the Telegraph points out the execution "more closely resembled a gang of provos at work in an Armagh back-room than the sober unrolling of a sovereign state's judicial process... The rhetoric of a war launched in the name of civilisation has degenerated into the cackling of a tricoteuse at the foot of the guillotine. We should be bloody ashamed."

We should be in no doubt that this was the West's execution, not Iraq's. The Iraqi President , "Jalal Talabani, a veteran Kurdish opponent of the dictatorship, had refused on principle to sign the death order. Other ministers were opposed on pragmatic grounds that Iraq needs to draw insurgents into the political process if it is going to avert a civil war." Bush was right - the execution will not end the sectarian violence - in fact it can only meaningfully be seen as part of it.

Tariq Ali in the Guardian says "Saddam's lynching might send a shiver through the collective, if artificial, spine of the Arab ruling elites. If Saddam can be hanged, so can Mubarak, the Hashemite joker in Amman and the Saudi royals - as long as those who topple them are happy to play ball with Washington."

Let this be a lesson to all those monsters out there in the pay of the West. Don't step out of line or the noose awaits.


Caractacus said...

At the end of the day though, it’s certainly a great advert for the ‘freedom and democracy’ that Bush and Blair (don’t forget our dear Prime Minister) promised to bring to Iraq isn’t it?

That’s the government that we invaded Iraq in order to install? That mob of guys in black balaclavas waving a noose?

That’s what ‘bringing freedom and democracy’ to a country looks like these days?

That’s what Bush and Blair lied so much and killed so many thousands of people to achieve?

Grainy footage of a chanting mob of hooded fanatics stringing up an (embarassingly brave) old man, in what appears to be an abandoned garage?

God help us.

Renegade Eye said...

Saddam died too early and too late. Too early because he didn't face Kurdish accusers.

Jim Jay said...

C: quite, couldn't agree more.

RE: Well the President is Kurdish and didn't want the execution to go ahead in preference for attempting to bring insurgents into the political process.

I don't think revenge is a sensible emotion to try to improve the situation in Iraq, we need less sectarianism there, not more.

badmatthew said...

Sorry. Much as I agree with the general sentiment of disgust at this legal murder which a) made Saddam look rather dignified, and b)carries the certain consequence of making sectarian violence inside Iraq worse, and c) helping spread that violence elsewhere into the Middle East, I don't think anger and a sense of what is now called 'truthiness' is enogh or useful. Give me analysis, and what I really want is to know more about the evidence base for saying it was 'our execution'. I can agree with that as a generalised statement about the consequences of an imperial war against a tyranny that sets up a weak, divided, failing and dependent state, but I think Jim and many others want to carry a specific argument that it was a direct policy imposed on a puppet state. Possible, but a) this clearly over-simplifies and caricatures the relationship between the US and Britain and various (and clearly divided/hostile) state agencies in Iraq. I understand why comrades want to do this, but it is analytically inadequate.
B) what is the evidence base?
Jim says:
"The proceedings were strictly dictated by the US to ensure he was only tried for crimes that showed no complicity of the Western powers. There was no fair trial and then they killed him the way they always intended. He received the same process he gave many others, although he didn't televise his executions."
I know Jim isn't remotely pro-Saddam, so can forgive a formulation which in saying 'equally evil' actually takes out the generalised extremes of torture that Saddam's agencies inflicted on many of his victims, far worse than the tortures committed by the Americans at Abu Graib; but I want Jim to show his evidence for this 'strict' dictating of the processing and that it was a cover-up for the undeniable complicity of the US in much of Saddam's vile deeds. Jim quotes the Kurdish President's refusal to sign (but in his comment above elides this with the suggestion that other ministers objected out of a sensible desire to draw insurgents into dialogue), but isn't Talabani reflecting the general Kurdish view that the execution is premature as it stops the trial over the Kurdish massacres? Incidentally, as the Kurds are usually and generally coreectly presented as being in the Americans pockets, doesn't this show up some of the complexitities of the political relationship?

So what's the evidence Jim?
And I don't think you mentioned that one of the mocking cries Saddam received was a reference to Sadr. Seeing as Sadr and his suporters aren't exactly in the pay of the US, how to explain this?

Jim Jay said...

BM: I think the sentance you quote does demonstrate I'm not pro-Saddam so there's no need to reinforce that I think. I'm not really interested in a competition between who was more evil, US backed regime or Saddam - they were both torturing, assassinating bastards as far as I'm concerned - I shall not be awarding points or ranking them.

Quibble: You've *had* analysis, it just hasn't satisfied you and you find it inadequate, but you *have* had it. You want evidence to back it up.

I don't think certain processes are out in the open so "evidence" on some things is going to be difficult to produce.

However, the fact that Saddam was tried over something that was clearly not his worst crime but conveniently avoided either a) demonstrating he was an enemy of Iran or b) involving the chemical weapons which would allow him an opportunity to say they were sold to me by... (although he did say in the trial many times that the West backed him apparently) or c) involved any other complicity on the West's part...

I'd argue it is "reasonable" to argue that the legal process was strictly along the lines the US demanded and when deviated from that this was righted quickly (eg sack the judge) Why is this unreasonable? I think all that is out in the open and you must have read press reports et al that back this up.

I do indeed want to argue that this was a policy *carried out* by a puppet state (I personally wouldn't use the word imposed for a general assertion in this instance as puppet governments know what's good for them without having to be told every five minutes) and as you say the word impose (which I don't think I've used) would over simplify the relationship.

Puppet regimes are not simply straight forward colonial administrations and can do things in a way that the puppeteer does not regard as helpful... it is not the Bush administration abroad - but a tool of the Bush administration.

However, the execution WAS imposed by the US against the will of the President. The fact they're in league with people who in other circumstances blow them up is hardly news I'd have thought.

The Sentinel said...

I agree; this 'execution' was no more then the end result of a tried and tested US formula of putting on a show trial for the vanquished in an attempt to justify the actions that the US carried out to get their agenda completed.

The trial itself was a farce that did not even give a nod or wink to normal judicial procedure.

This trial was for the reprisals Saddam carried out against people suspected of involvement in the assassination attempt against him in 1982. The famous picture of Rumsfeldt (the chief protagonist for war against Iraq) shaking hands with Saddam, was taken in 1983. It obviously did not bother him or the US just a year after it had taken place.

The main reason, I suspect, that they used this trial to execute him rather then let him face the 1988 gassing accusation is that the Americans themselves are fully aware that it was most likely an Iranian attack, not an Iraqi one. The town affected was close the to the Iraq / Iran border and it the attack occurred during the Iran / Iraq war. The fact that Iran was most likely responsible was reported at the time, and shortly after the fall of Iraq in 2003. It has not made much of a surface since but the evidence all points to an Iranian gas attack on Iraqi troops that accidentally drifted into that town.

You will notice from the reaction of the British and Iraqi Governments that the footage of Saddam being taunted on the gallows in scenes reminiscent of a medieval execution bothered them only inasmuch as that they were made public.

Of course it will further dent Iraqi stability but when you realise that that Iraqi instability was pretty much the whole point of the war you will see that it is calculated and cynical move rather then an ill-thought out gesture or a clumsy mistake.

badmatthew said...

Question to Sentinel: what precisely is this evidence that it was a 'fact' that it most likely Iranian gas responsible for Halaja?

Response to Jim: talking in terms of a competition about which is or was most evil is to trivialise the issue and to evade the way you do equate them and thus, in your terms, enter into that competition!

Beyond that you just don't provide any convincing evidence. Sorry I missed the piece about the US getting the judge sacked, can you point me to it please. And the emphasis on President Talabani just isn't convincing, a) constitutionally he has little executive power anyway, b) why wasn't it Maliki imposing the policy on Talabani for his own domestic political reasons. Of course this is worked out in a context that is dependent on the US, but are you arguing for something much more specific and determniant than that.

Can I recommend Riverbend's take on this:
(sorry I don't know how to make that a link, but we all ought to be checking this web-ite out): outrage and disgust, but aimed at Maliki.

The Sentinel said...

There is a mass of evidence that points to Iran, but considering that it has never been proven that the Iraqis were guilty and there will never be a trial over the issue now I could ask you to present the evidence proving Iraqi guilt in this matter.

However, since you have asked, the Kurds that were presented as victims of that attack in Halabja in 1988 (and nowhere 5000 were ever proven to have been affected) had been killed with a cyanide based gas. Iraq used mustard gas against the Iranians in that war and did not posses cyanide gas, but the Iranians did (and still do.)

"The great majority of the victims seen by reporters and other observers who attended the scene were blue in their extremities. That means that they were killed by a blood agent, probably either cyanogen chloride or hydrogen cyanide. Iraq never used and lacked any capacity to produce these chemicals. But the Iranians did deploy them. Therefore the Iranians killed the Kurds."

US Marine Corps document FMFRP 3

"Blood agents were allegedly responsible for the most infamous use of chemicals in the war—the killing of Kurds at Halabjah. Since the Iraqis have no history of using these two agents—and the Iranians do—we conclude that the Iranians perpetrated this attack."

The DIA's report concluded Iran had gassed the Kurds & Iranians of Halabjah
Immediately after the battle the United States Defense Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified report, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a need-to-know basis. That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas.

The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the battle around Halabja. The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies, however, indicated they had been killed with a blood agent - that is, a cyanide-based gas -which Iran was known to use. The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time.

The CIA's report mentions "hundreds" killed, not "5000" and against the Iranians primarily w Kurds caught in the cross-fire. This report is still on the US government CIA website.

Halabaja, the town where it took place, was at the time occupied by invading Iranian forces, and, according to MSNBC Internet Home News, hundreds of Iranians and civilians were killed, not thousands.

There is more about it in this article too:

This information did not suit the warmongers and a lot of has been flushed down the memory hole.

Jim Jay said...

BM: I'm not trivialising anything, and I'm worried that you've accidently skirted very near to name calling here - I've described both regimes in the harshest terms - terms they completely warrant.

I suggest you reread what I said about evidence and why it's not possible to provide it. If I'm wrong please provide evidence that the Iraq regime is an independent democracy, or whatever it is you think it is (you've not said).

However, it *is* public knowledge that the US held Saddam, and despite the fact that the very man that legally *had* to sign the death order (and his general level of executive power is irrelevant to the discussion I think) had refused to do so they handed Saddam over to men whom they knew would kill him, for that sole purpose, and then took the body back once the deed was done.

The Riverbend piece you refer to (link) is well written and quite interesting, but at no point when I was reading it did I feel Rb was not of one mind with myself.

I'm very happy with my previous definiton of the way puppet regimes do not need to be told every five minutes what to do - if you want to disagree with it fine, but you really need to provide an alternative analysis rather than just demanding more from me, despite a slightly different emphasis in his piece.

Perhaps you could expand on what you think the situation is and how that position differs from mine rather just jabbing at what I've written.

AN said...

The thing is Jim, you make the case that it is incontrovertible that this execution was US inspired - you say "we should be in no doubt".

Bt there is very littel evidence to support your view - here I agree with matthew.

I think the current Iraqi government is much more of an independent player than you give it credit for - seeking to both operate within and use the context of the occupation to work towards a shia dominate Iraq, and had its own interests in executing Saddam.

Jim Jay said...

1. Saddam sits in US cell
2. Iraqi President refuses to sign death order
3. US hands Saddam over to some Iraqis for them to kill him anyway
4. They kill him, US issues press release saying "there were no americans in the room"
5. The US takes the body back

Hmmm, the Iraqi government was such an independent player in this, oh yes, I see it all know.

The irony is I'm the *only* person providing evidence here. AN and BM have provided *none* for their views, whatever they are.

AN said...

Well generally the issue of the independecne or otherwise of the Iraqi govt is a big topic.

But specifically on the issue of the execution all your narative establishes is a codependency, not a relatiponship where the US calls the shots.

You may or may not be correct, but it certainly is not (as you claim) beyong reasonable doubt that the Iraqi govt may have acted largely independently over this.