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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Hussein's Execution

Saddam Hussein's execution was merciful beyond compare, a grace note of a civilization struggling to emerge from the effects of his bestial life. He lived like an animal and was granted a death kinder than that he offered to his victims.

If only - if only the suffering of his victims ended now, with his death. But it doesn't. The children of Halabja will bear their suffering their entire lives.

If only it were just Halabja, but it wasn't. If only Saddam hadn't started military training for kids as young as 10, but he did, and the most successful graduates of that program became Fedayeen Saddam, already versed in the arts of torture and terror in their teens.

If only Saddam Hussein's corruption of the life of the Iraqi people, the Iranian people, and the Kuwaiti people were limited to the toxins produced by burning oil wells and chemical weapons - but it isn't. Saddam Hussein's control of the country and its elite was so pervasive that the doctors of Iraq wanted an exile to head the new department of health post-war. It's understandable. One of the crimes punishable by amputation of a hand or a foot, in Saddam's Iraq, was performing plastic surgery on an amputated limb. HIV patients, who officially did not exist, were locked away to die. A question asked by a House committee member in hearings:
Mr. JANKLOW. Given the fact you are all so highly educated and worldly, what is the difference between being a junior Baathist, if I can call it that, a young Baathist or a member of the Hitler Youth? I mean, what was—is there any difference at all?

Dr. ALATTAR. I don't think so.

Mr. JANKLOW. What was expected of you if you joined the Baath Party? Could you tell me? Once you said yes, what happened?

Dr. ALATTAR. Sure. The major reason why they wanted everybody to join is you are expected to submit reports on your families and friends of their activities. This was a way to break down the networks of the family to create suspicion, to collect reports and activities so they can hold different individuals in prisons. The Communists used that method very effectively to break the nutshell of society.

Mr. JANKLOW. Given the fact—and I ask these questions out of ignorance. You people are helpful. Given the fact that there is such a contemporary professed deep-seated religious base within the country, recognizing that may or may not be accurate, but at least there is a contemporary claim, how does one rationalize any kind of public acceptance for the systematic rape, the systematic torture, and the methodology that was utilized to torture and kill people? I mean, how does that comport with anything that is civilized or accepted in anybody's religion anyway?

Ms. SIRKIN. If I may respectfully respond to that, this really was a society that was completely reined in by fear and anyone who resisted was killed. And we have ourselves interviewed surgeons, for example, who were forced to amputate the ears of those who refused to serve in the Army or those who deserted, and many of the surgeons we interviewed knew that obviously this was a complete and utter violation of medical ethics and a terrible thing for a surgeon to do and yet many of them had to perform these procedures under fear of death or torture themselves. And I don't think it is at all legitimate to say that people accepted what was done. It is impossible to understand the level of constraint that people live under when a regime that is this totalitarian is in place.
Eason Jordan's tales of what happened to powerful people within the regime should give everyone pause, because it wasn't just the innocent and the young who were brutalized:
Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard — awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff.

For example, in the mid-1990's one of our Iraqi cameramen was abducted. For weeks he was beaten and subjected to electroshock torture in the basement of a secret police headquarters because he refused to confirm the government's ludicrous suspicion that I was the Central Intelligence Agency's Iraq station chief. CNN had been in Baghdad long enough to know that telling the world about the torture of one of its employees would almost certainly have gotten him killed and put his family and co-workers at grave risk.
One Foreign Ministry officer told me of a colleague who, finding out his brother had been executed by the regime, was forced, as a test of loyalty, to write a letter of congratulations on the act to Saddam Hussein. An aide to Uday once told me why he had no front teeth: henchmen had ripped them out with pliers and told him never to wear dentures, so he would always remember the price to be paid for upsetting his boss. Again, we could not broadcast anything these men said to us.
A 31-year-old Kuwaiti woman, Asrar Qabandi, was captured by Iraqi secret police occupying her country in 1990 for "crimes," one of which included speaking with CNN on the phone. They beat her daily for two months, forcing her father to watch. In January 1991, on the eve of the American-led offensive, they smashed her skull and tore her body apart limb by limb. A plastic bag containing her body parts was left on the doorstep of her family's home.
Saddam Hussein presided over a regime so depraved that even protests by foreign human rights organizations could lead to mass murder:
In 1999, a complaint about prison overcrowding led to an instruction from the Iraqi leader for a "prison cleansing" drive. This resulted, according to human rights groups, in hundreds, and possibly thousands, of executions.

Using a satanic arithmetic, prison governors worked out how many prisoners would have to be hanged to bring the numbers down to stipulated levels, even taking into account the time remaining in the inmates' sentences. As 20 and 30 prisoners at a time were executed at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, warders trailed through cities like Baghdad, "selling" exemption from execution to shocked families, according to people in Iraq who said they had spoken to relatives of those involved. Bribes of money, furniture, cars and even property titles brought only temporary stays.
If only one-tenth of the energy spent in condemning Saddam Hussein's execution could be directed toward the healing of his victims - but it won't be. Saddam Hussein is dead, but his brutalized people are still alive and still struggling to emerge from their suffering, and his victims have shown more mercy in victory than Saddam Hussein ever did.

Update: Via The Anchoress, Dearborn, MI, celebrates:
"Peace," he said, smiling and laughing. "Now there will be peace for my family."

Alwatan, 32, an Iraqi-American, said Saddam's forces tortured and killed family members that were left behind when he left Iraq in 1991.

Others expressed a similar sense of relief.

"I feel like I lost something all my life and today it is found," said Moshtaq al-Bazaz, of Windsor, Ontario, who used to live in Dearborn and still prays at the mosque.
Yeah. What was missing all his life was sanity, because only in an insane and perverse world can a man like Saddam Hussein not be stopped in his criminal course.

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