By far and away the best thing I’ve read on the hanging of Saddam Hussein is by Christopher Hitchins. His piece in Slate is one that precisely expresses my sentiments about the whole thing. (Beware: the link contains the graphic and infamous cell phone video of the execution)

The disgusting video of Saddam Hussein’s last moments on the planet is more than a reminder of the inescapable barbarity of capital punishment and of the intelligible and conventional reasons why it should always be opposed. The zoolike scenes in that dank, filthy shed (it seems that those attending were not even asked to turn off their cell phones or forbidden to use them to record souvenir film) were more like a lynching than an execution. At one point, one of the attending magistrates can be heard appealing for decency and calm, but otherwise the fact must be faced: In spite of his mad invective against “the Persians” and other traitors, the only character with a rag of dignity in the whole scene is the father of all hangmen, Saddam Hussein himself.


The shabby, tawdry scene of Muqtada Sadr’s riffraff taunting their defenseless former tyrant evokes exactly this quality of hysterical falsity and bravado. While Saddam Hussein was alive, they cringed. Now, they find their lost courage, and meanwhile take the drill and the razor blade and the blowtorch to their fellow Iraqis. To watch this abysmal spectacle as a neutral would be bad enough. To know that the U. S. government had even a silent, shamefaced part in it is to feel something well beyond embarrassment.


  1. Well it was said that Hitler was nice to dogs.
    Live like a dirty SOB and die like a dirty SOB.
    Oh yeah, lest I forget, I live the low carb lifestyle.
    Seriously, your Power Protein book has been my personal bible since 1995 in spite of the fact that I abhor your liberal leanings.
    Ah, Ron.
    You “abhor [my] liberal leanings.”  If only you knew.  Too bad I can’t hook you up with James, who has the following comment.  He could enlighten you.
    I have issues with capital punishment that don’t have anything to do with conservative/liberal leanings.  Some liberals are for capital punishment, i.e. Bill Clinton, some conservatives are against it.
    My problem isn’t with the fact that Saddam got executed, it’s how it happened.  The way it was done is going to fan the flames of the Sunni/Shiite religious war that is looming in Iraq right now.  Had the US ensured that the execution were carried out in a more un-secctarian way, Saddam would be just as dead and the Sunnis wouldn’t have their collective panties in a wad.
    That was my point.  Not that Saddam didn’t deserve execution.  If anyone ever deserved it, it was he.
    Glad you at least liked Protein Power.

  2. Mike
    I don’t give a crap about the circumstances surrounding Saddam Hussein’s last moment on earth. A-dee-effing-ose mofo.
    I’ve usually like Christopher Hitchins’ articles, but not this time. I don’t agree with his views on dignity (re. Hussein), courage (re. the cringing masses), or revenge (re. victims of wrongdoing).
    I’m not convinced there is something wrong with my moral compass. (At least not in this area.) Let me put it this way. You once told me that everyone has a finite amount of whatever-it-is that our immune system uses to fight off infectious invaders, and that we should, at the very least, brush our teeth every night so that we don’t spend all those immune system soldiers fighting bacteria on our teeth and gums overnight. You said save those valuable guys for later. Like the immune system, I only have a finite amount of whatever-it-is that argues for compassion for remorseless first-degree murderers who aren’t treated kindly when final justice comes calling. I’m going to save my outrage so I’m sure to have some left for the repentant bad guy who understands the difference between his bad behavior and martyrdom.
    Hi James–
    And all this time I thought you were a sociology major.

  3. While I’m sad to see anyone put to death, Saddam derserved it more than anybody else in my lifetime and I can’t say I’m sad to see him dead.
    I totally agree.


  4. Ah Mike you had to know that would cause a stir! I agree completely of course, Hitchens has a fine knack for cutting to the chase – (have you read any Robert Fisk?) I’d also be interested in your assessment of his piece on Gerald Ford  – whilst a certain degree of respect is rightly given to the family of the recently departed, we can’t learn from history if the tame, shameless revisionism is accepted without question.
    It’s interesting that the tag “liberal” (usually preceded with ‘bleeding heart’) remains one of the most telling insults in your country, while in mine the ruling ‘Liberal’ party is anything but (and the last ‘wet’ was driven out of the party about 20 years back) Whilst thankfully professing Christian conviction is not (yet) obligatory here for those seeking public office, I am always amazed how quickly the Sunday sermon is forgotten on Monday by those that do.
    Hi Malcolm–
    I had indeed read the obit of Gerald Ford, which I agreed with in toto.  Although I voted for him over the insipid Carter, I never did like him.  In fact, I disliked him so much that it didn’t particularly bother me that Carter won–of course a few years later with interest rates at 15% I had second thoughts.  I briefly considered posting Hitch’s obit, but thought better of it.  I try to keep my political leanings to a minimum, but it seems that no matter what I post–if it has any political content whatsoever–I’m accused of being either a liberal or a flaming right-winger.
    I’ve never read Robert Fisk–so little time, so many essayists–but I looked him up and may make a run at some of his stuff if I get the time.

  5. I couldn’t agree with you more! I think that capital punishment is an abomination and I have never been able to understand why one of the “so-called” most civilized countries in the world, legally sanctions it. I am so glad I live in a country who does not. I have no sympathy for Saddam but I am against government sanctioned killing in any form whether it be war or capital punishment, it simply degrades the country perpetuating it.
    Hi Glenice–
    Thanks for your from-the-heart comment.  Capital punishment is an idea that I wrestle with mightily.

  6. James, James, James. It’s not about dignity for him alone, it’s about OUR dignity. When we stoop to tribal behaviour, then we are no better than those, like the cultures of the Middle East, who never lived by the precepts of the Enlightenment of which the ideas in our Constitution are born.
    The trial of Saddam was a sham and a circus, as was his execution. There are so many more crimes, such as the gassing of the Kurds, for which he will now never be tried and the world will never really know what happened. This should have taken place in the Hague under disinterested third parties. By holding this in Saddam’s home territory, we allowed officers of the court to be assasinated by factions in the Sunni/Shiite struggle. This did the quest for justice no good at all, and broadcast our impotence as occupiers to the world. By allowing the spectators of the hanging to behave as they did, we showed how little we think of ourselves.
    Please don’t say something childish like you don’t care what the world thinks. One of the moral responsibilities of a world power like ours is to consider what the world thinks.
    There you go James.  Take that.

  7. I am not sorry to see Saddam go, but it was counter productive for us to execute him in such a way as to put ourselves on his level. Our hands are not clean, not in the Middle East or anywhere around else around the globe where our interests are affected. A strict formal decency would have focussed attention on the man, not the form of the execution.
    Hi Marilyn–
    I agree 100%.  I didn’t have anything against executing Saddam, I just thought that–in the interests of regional peace–it was poorly carried out.  God knows, if anyone ever deserved execution it was he.
    My mistake was posting the first and last paragraphs of Chris Hitchens’ essay–it was the middle part that really expressed how I felt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *