Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Hangman's Noose

While a small pocket of folks in the Middle East marched in protest of the death of Saddam and the world government found an opportunity to lodge their disapproval of the death penalty, there was a large subsection of Iraq that was relieved that justice had been served and the Butcher of Baghdad" could never rise again. Amongst the many pieces of read on the death of this tyrant, I have to say that Amity Shlaes has penned a great column over at Bloomberg.com that pretty much sums up why folks are relieved on seeing the end of Saddam and how this meting of justice provides us an important message. Here's a sample:

Nobody was willing to stand up for the Kurds. By the mid- 1970s, C.L. Sulzberger of the New York Times invoked Voltaire's phrase about hanging. Sulzberger titled a column ``To Be Obscurely Hanged'' about the unnoticed fate of the Kurds.

The message from the rest of the world -- Nixon, Kissinger, Ford, Jimmy Carter and other leaders -- was the same: No one will stand up for the Kurds. In the 1980s, Saddam killed Kurds by the tens of thousands at another moment of U.S. preoccupation. For decades, Saddam remained sure he could get away with it.

My own view is that this story doesn't reflect on Ford, a thoroughly decent man who lacked -- along with all other American presidents -- the ability to police every injustice in every country on the globe. But it does remind us of the cynical killings that happen when the rest of us are looking away.

Realpolitik, the policy of getting along with other nations, rather than righting injustices within them, is newly fashionable. That's all right, but we should remember its negative consequences.

Most importantly, all this history reminds us of why Saddam had to go on trial in the first place. When you hang a hangman in a most public way, you give future murderers pause -- at least some of them. And you step a bit more confidently into the light of the new year.

I know that future or aspiring tyrants are not much into reading Bloomberg.com columns or Fire of Liberty but if they are smart they should think twice about what a fate awaits them if the become another Saddam. For me, the fate of Saddam is more in accord with justice than the fate that awaited the likes of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Franco or awaits Castro.

*For some further commentary on Saddam see here, here, and here.

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