Friday, January 05, 2007

Crying Over The Onion

This is a most unsuitable title for a post which is going to be about Saddam Hussein's execution, but then the whole farce has been unsavory and disgusting, and the way I think about it all is as if it was an onion, with layers and layers of tricky tasks, all of which went wrong. And so we should cry. Not over Saddam Hussein's death, but over the deaths of lots of other people who will die because of this botched execution and over the death of ideals and innocence and optimism and other yucky concepts.

So take this imaginary onion and look at it. The outer layer is the whole idea of executing someone as a punishment for evil deeds. That Saddam Hussein committed evil deeds is now well known and that he deserved death for them is probably true, too. But many who deserve death don't get it and others who don't deserve death do get it. And in many countries of this world a death sentence is viewed as barbaric. Among Iraqi Sunnis putting Saddam Hussein to death gave them the seeds of future martyr for the cause.

Then the next layer of the onion: about the timing of the execution. Did it have to be at the beginning of the Sunni calendar of Eid, the holiday that is all about how God didn't require the sacrifice of a son any longer, the holiday that is often combined with pardons to prisoners? Was it intentional to disrespect the Sunnis in this manner?

One more layer into the onion: Who decided that a neutral and calm and just execution would include taunts to Saddam Hussein? Once governments get into the business of murder-for-murder, it would seem extremely important to keep the proceedings as different from vengeance or unsanctioned murders as possible. Taunting is not statemanslike.

Even deeper into the onion: The videos of the hanging that cropped up all over the place. We appear to have landed straight back into the old customs of going out to see executions while knitting or having family picnics. Except now we can watch the snuff films at the privacy of our own homes. I find this truly disgusting. It strips the person executed of any dignity at the point of death, and I have been unable to find anywhere in Saddam Hussein's sentence the order to have his death filmed and handed out to all to ogle.

And then the parts where even the most hardened onion dissecter might cry: Children are imitating the hanging and killing themselves. There is a message here about the dangers of mixing information, entertainment and what should not be broadcast.