Lynching the scapegoat


I’m unmoved by Hussein’s hanging. It would mean something if it signalled a turn for the better in Iraq, but to me it simply indicates that the US has created such a catastrophe there that they still fear a vanquished and powerless enemy. Nevertheless, commentators around the world have been able to draw more valuable conclusions from this sad show trial and it’s denoument.

Tariq Ali, writes:

It was symbolic that 2006 ended with a colonial hanging – most of it (bar the last moments) shown on state television in occupied Iraq. It has been that sort of year in the Arab world. After a trial so blatantly rigged that even Human Rights Watch – the largest single unit of the US human rights industry – had to condemn it as a total travesty. Judges were changed on Washington’s orders; defence lawyers were killed and the whole procedure resembled a well-orchestrated lynch mob. … And while some Shia factions celebrated in Baghdad, the figures published by a fairly independent establishment outfit, the Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies, reveal that just under 90% of Iraqis feel the situation in the country was better before it was occupied.

The ICRSC research is based on detailed house-to-house interviewing carried out during the third week of November 2006. Only 5% of those questioned said Iraq is better today than in 2003; 89% of the people said the political situation had deteriorated; 79% saw a decline in the economic situation; 12% felt things had improved and 9% said there was no change.

That Saddam was a tyrant is beyond dispute, but what is conveniently forgotten is that most of his crimes were committed when he was a staunch ally of those who now occupy the country. It was, as he admitted in one of his trial outbursts, the approval of Washington (and the poison gas supplied by West Germany) that gave him the confidence to douse Halabja with chemicals in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war. He deserved a proper trial and punishment in an independent Iraq. Not this.

Glenn Greenwald makes the obvious comparison with justice in the US, while carefully omitting the word “fair” in reference to Hussein’s trial:

The President is certainly right that it is is a good thing that Saddam Hussein was given a trial, represented by lawyers, with an opportunity to contest his guilt, before being deemed to be guilty. That is how civilized countries function, by definition.

That is why it is so reprehensible and inexpressibly tragic that the Bush administration continues to claim — and aggressively exercise — the power to imprison and punish people without even a pretense or fraction of the due process that Saddam Hussein enjoyed. The Bush administration believes that it has the power to imprison whomever it wants, for as long as it wants, without even giving them access to the outside world, let alone “a fair trial.” The power which it claims — which it has seized — extends not only to foreign nationals but legal residents and even its own citizens.

George Bush ordered U.S. citizen Jose Padilla abducted and shoved into a black hole for almost four years, all the while torturing him and refusing him any contact with the outside world, let alone any due process. He did the same to U.S. citizen Yaser Hamdi and legal resident Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri. In all of those cases, he claimed — and still claims — the power to hold them in that manner forever, and claims they are not entitled to any process of any kind.

But I’ll leave the final word to Lindsay Beyerstein because it explains my despondency about the whole thing, especially when I see news specials going into detail about the tawdry incident, and self congratulatory chest thumping from politicians and conservatives:

Saddam wasn’t hanged for genocide against the Kurds, in fact, he wasn’t even tried for those crimes against humanity. Instead, Saddam was executed for his role in a government-led purge following an assassination attempt in 1982. No doubt, the Americans wanted to make sure Saddam was executed on lesser charges before he could be tried for his larger crimes against humanity in which the United States and its allies were complicit.

Re: the title.
Hussein was no innocent. He was entirely culpable for his actions in the war against Iran and his actions against the Kurds and Marsh Arabs. So I tried to find a better word than “scapegoat”. But scapegoat means someone who has our sins placed upon him, and is then executed so as to atone for *our* wrongdoings. And in this sense the word is perfect for Hussein’s show trial and execution.
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2 Responses to Lynching the scapegoat

  1. martin says:

    Comments haven’t been working on this site, but I didn’t realise. It appears to be a conflict between the Ajax comments plugin and either cocomment, mootools or both. So Ajax comments is turned off.

  2. That Saddam was a scapegoat is beyond doubt. That his trial was like standing before a lynch mob is unquestionable.

    His execution was a criminal act and George W Bush and Tony Blair are responsible and should be held accountable for it.

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