Thursday, January 4, 2007

Saddam's Death Squad Hanging

A Good Piece
By Robert Dreyfuss

"In Iraq today , there are the death squads that slink by night, barging into homes in the dark with lists in their hands and shooting whole families of (usually) Sunni leaders and innocents, and there are the brazen death squads who roam in broad daylight, who terrorize whole neighborhoods in an ethnic cleansing frenzy. Some of them wear police uniforms, some of them wear army fatigues, and some of them are black-clad Mahdi Army thugs. The killing goes on: by official Iraqi count, 2,000 in December and more than 16,000 for all of 2006, according to latest reports—though the actual total for last year is more likely 100,000 or more.

And then there is the official death squad that hanged Saddam Hussein. They hanged him unceremoniously, black-hooded killers chanting Shiite religious slogans even as they placed the noose around his neck, shouting “Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada!” It was a sordid, even sleazy affair, replete with boorish spectators shouting the names of supposed Shiite clergy-martyrs. It followed a haphazard, kangaroo-court trial, in which judges who couldn’t stomach the travesty were fired and Saddam’s defense lawyers murdered serially by death squads, in which witnesses were paraded to denounce the accused without any rebuttal or cross-examination, resembling the Red Queen’s “Off with her head!” trial of Alice, with the bulbous fictional monarch shouting: “Sentence first, and verdict later!” And then, at the final moment, in Baghdad , the dictator stood proud and erect, making his killers look small and evil-minded. At once, the dictator—who’d sent thousands to the gallows and to the firing squad—became victim and martyr, and the righteous sufferers were transformed into bloodthirsty revenge-seekers.

Adding insult to injury, the Iraqi authorities ordered the hurry-up execution at the start of a major Muslim holiday (at least, according to the Sunni religious calendar), on a holiday whose theme is forgiveness. In so doing, the Shiite-dominated regime made it clear that its own religious calendar, not the Sunni version, is all that matters in the New Iraq.....

....Meanwhile, the Bush administration and the U.S. occupation authorities are flailing around, just days before the announcement by President Bush of the latest, 2007 version of his “Strategy for Victory.” The sheer bungling of their efforts recalls the comment of Anthony Cordesman, the conservative military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was “like sending in a bull to liberate a china shop.”....

....Amid such bungling, it’s impossible to believe that any “surge” in U.S. forces—or any other stay-the-course stratagem—will make any difference in the end. With its sheer might and with Bush’s bull-headed determination, the United States can indeed kill many more Iraqis, perhaps even hundreds of thousands more on top of the 655,000 dead already. But in the end, either the United States will withdraw from Iraq without the victory Bush seeks—indeed, in defeat—or it will be expelled by Iraqis themselves. By now, no Iraqi government will have any credibility if it does not align itself with Iraqi public opinion, which overwhelmingly (Sunni and Shiite, alike) demands the withdrawal of U.S. troops."

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