Sunday, November 05, 2006

Saddam Hussein is sentenced to death: You're the devil in disguise

So says the NYTimes, and all cable news just minutes ago:
Saddam Hussein and his half brother Barzan Ibrahim were sentenced Sunday to death by hanging for war crimes in the 1982 killings of 148 people in the town of Dujail.
So this is the culmination of the Iraq War: death to the dreaded Saddam.

Many will find this just, and while I firmly oppose the death penalty, for Saddam or anyone else, it's hard not to feel some justification for this verdict.

Except for this: ever heard of Dujail? It's not near the gassed Kurdish town of Halabjah, or any major city in Iraq. It's not in Kuwait, where Saddam invaded August 2nd, 1992.

So what's the outrage about Dujail? Here's what the deal is:

Dujail was the site of an unsuccessful assassination attempt against then Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, on July 8, 1982. The town was a stronghold of the Shiite Daawa party, a group strongly opposed to Saddam Hussein and his war with Iran. Saddam Hussein was visiting the town to make a speech praising those who had served Iraq in the fight against Iran. While driving through the village centre, his motorcade was attacked by one or more members of the Daawa party. The president was unharmed in the three hour firefight which ensued.

Saddam Hussein allegedly ordered his special security and military forces to carry out a reprisal attack against the town. His orders were obeyed. A total 150 of the town's men were killed in the attack or executed later, a number of which were boys 13 years of age. 1,500 people were also incarcerated and tortured, while other residents, many of them women and children, were sent to desert camps. Saddam's regime destroyed the town and then rebuilt it shortly after. In addition to these punishments, 1,000 square kilometres (250,000 acres) of farmland was destroyed; replanting was only permitted 10 years later.

A resident of Dujail recalled the incident at Hussein's trial in December 2005, stating that he had witnessed Baathist torture and murder in the government reprisal, including the murders of 7 of his 10 brothers.

Sounds pretty bad, right? Surely there was international outrage about this incident:

The U.S. and its allies preferred to turn a blind eye and use Saddam's "services" against Iran, which became a bitter rival in 1979, under Khomeini's regime. The Americans even claimed that the Shiite Daawa people were agents of the Iranian intelligence, and accused them of bombing the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait a year after the Dujail massacre.

Right. And consider this history:

In 1976, Saddam rose to the position of general in the Iraqi armed forces. He rapidly became the strongman of the government. At the time Saddam was considered an enemy of communism and radical Islamism. Saddam was integral to U.S. policy in the region, a policy which sought to weaken the influence of Iran and the Soviet Union. As Iraq's weak and elderly President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr became increasingly unable to execute his duties, Saddam took on an increasingly prominent role as the face of the government both internally and externally. He soon became the architect of Iraq's foreign policy and represented the nation in all diplomatic situations. He was the de facto ruler of Iraq some years before he formally came to power in 1979. He slowly began to consolidate his power over Iraq's government and the Ba'ath party. Relationships with fellow party members were carefully cultivated, and Saddam soon gained a powerful circle of support within the party.

And this bit of history:

Iraq invaded Iran by attacking Mehrabad Airport of Tehran and entering the oil-rich Iranian land of Khuzestan, which also has a sizeable Arab minority, on September 22, 1980 and declared it a new province of Iraq. The United Nations and the United States supported him with artillery and medical supplies during this time due to the enmity and distrust caused by the Iran hostage crisis.

Don't get me wrong, the Dujail massacre was horrible thing. But is this the event which led to this rhetoric:

In the past few years, I have written often about whether the figure of Saddam Hussein is—or was—a model taken from Hitler, from Stalin, or from some combination of the two. It has occurred to me recently that it can all be put more simply. He is—or was—a reincarnation of Jeffrey Dahmer. Look in his kitchen drawer, and you will find instruments of torture. Look in his bathroom cabinet, and you will find poisons. Look under his floorboards, and you will find bones and skulls. Look in his flowerbed, and you will stumble over body parts. Look in the rest of the garden, and you will find a substantial piece of a nuclear centrifuge, employed to make weapons of mass destruction.

Or this:

Former CIA Director James Woolsey warns that Saddam Hussein "poses the same kind of threat to the United States that Hitler posed in Germany in the mid 1930s when the British and the French kept postponing dealing with him in the way that some people are advocating dealing with Saddam how."

Interviewed on the CBS News Early Show, Woolsey added that Saddam is "working hard" to obtain nuclear weapons to go along with Iraq's chemical stockpiles.

Wow. Such evil. And yet the best we can come up with to charge him (let's face it, the trial was a wholly owned subsidiary of the U.S. puppet Iraqi government) is killing 150 people back in 1982.

For this crime, we sent the country into chaos, civil war, and caused the deaths of 3000+ American soldiers? I want a refund.