It seems a little telling that the voices who complained about the timing of the Lancet report on the Iraqi deathcount have been fairly muted about the decision to announce the execution of Saddam Hussein so close to the US Mid-Term Elections. (The Times has a cartoon of the judge about to announce the verdict when Bush pops up, noose in hand, stating: "I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message").
The trial of Saddam Hussein was supposed to mark a fresh beginning for Iraq, a symbol ogf justice to help usher in a new era of democracy. Instead, it's seemed little better than the show trials held under the rule of the former dictator: the verdict decided on Day 1, followed by a pantomine of a trial for the cameras.
Iraqi blogger Riverbend is particularly scathing of the whole sorry mess:
When All Else Fails...
… Execute the dictator. It’s that simple. When American troops are being killed by the dozen, when the country you are occupying is threatening to break up into smaller countries, when you have militias and death squads roaming the streets and you’ve put a group of Mullahs in power- execute the dictator.
Everyone expected this verdict from the very first day of the trial. There was a brief interlude when, with the first judge, it was thought that it might actually be a coherent trial where Iraqis could hear explanations and see what happened. That was soon over with the prosecution’s first false witness. Events that followed were so ridiculous; it’s difficult to believe them even now.
The sound would suddenly disappear when the defense or one of the defendants got up to speak. We would hear the witnesses but no one could see them- hidden behind a curtain, their voices were changed. People who were supposed to have been dead in the Dujail incident were found to be very alive.
Judge after judge was brought in because the ones in court were seen as too fair. They didn’t instantly condemn the defendants (even if only for the sake of the media). The piece de resistance was the final judge they brought in. His reputation vies only that of Chalabi- a well-known thief and murderer who ran away to Iran to escape not political condemnation, but his father’s wrath after he stole from the restaurant his father ran.
So we all knew the outcome upfront (Maliki was on television 24 hours before the verdict telling people not to ‘rejoice too much’). I think what surprises me right now is the utter stupidity of the current Iraqi government. The timing is ridiculous- immediately before the congressional elections? How very convenient for Bush. Iraq, today, is at its very worst since the invasion and the beginning occupation. April 2003 is looking like a honeymoon month today. Is it really the time to execute Saddam?
A number of groups have rushed to condemn it as well.