Another death in Iraq

2006-12-30

in Bombs and rockets, Daily updates, Politics

The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Charlie Chapman – “The Great Dictator

Saddam Hussein’s sentence, discussed here previously, has been carried out. I maintain that it was immoral to kill him, just as it is immoral to take anyone’s life in the pursuit of justice. It is not through the living or dying of individuals that just societies arise, but through the creation and maintenance of fair and impartial institutions. This is why Chapman’s statement, while stirring, is also profoundly naïve. Sadly, very little in the way of a just society seems to be emerging in Saddam’s former kingdom.

I am not sure whether it is legitimate to hope that this will bring some satisfaction to the families of those tortured and murdered by his regime. On the one hand, they deserve whatever kind of compensation can be provided. On the other, encouraging people to delight in the death of a fellow human being seems morally reprehensible. At the very least, let us hope that this action does not spur greater violence in Iraq, and does not cut short the investigation and documentation of the whole sordid history of Saddam’s regime.

[Update: 3:00pm] My friends Lee and Tim have also commented on this matter.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex December 30, 2006 at 8:44 am

I agree. According to George Bush Saddam’s execution “is an important milestone on Iraq’s course to becoming a democracy”. Nothing is further from the truth. I fail to see how the deliberate killing of an individual can ever contribute to the stability and culture of democracy.

Tristan Laing December 30, 2006 at 9:14 am

I think it’s too simplistic to simply say the state oughtent kill, that killing is barbaric. Of course killing is barbaric, this is why we have the state, to ward off killing (at least killing within the state). But when the state makes something unlawful it always reserves the right to continue to practice the now unlawful thing. This is nothing new or unexpected, it is just the neccesary tension between constitutive and legislative power. Don’t think I mean that there is some book somewhere where it says that the state can break it’s own rules, this is simply part of the structure of any state at all. The state is inside and outside the law as the establisher and enforcer of it.

Now, what we have in the case of Saddam’s execution is a bit different, what is really happeneing is the US acting as a state by supporting another state outside of itself. The apparent contradictions in US foreign policy that seem to rob the US of any credibility in executing a dictator they formerly supported is beside the point. The executing is a botch job, rather, because while it is meant to be a formative act by the Iraqy government (in the same way as the executing of the Tsar was a formative act of the Soviet state – I did not say originary). However, since everyone knows the political influence of the US and the fact the Iraqy state isn’t actually self standing, it fails to come off as the actor in it’s own formative pantomime. The aesthetic and prestige value of the act is lost.

It was entirely pointless to kill Saddam Hussein.

(And yes, it will spark more uprisings, and more people will die. etc, etc…)

Milan December 30, 2006 at 2:25 pm
Milan December 30, 2006 at 2:36 pm

The Americans are obviously not the ones carrying the moral torch in Iraq (or much of anywhere, these days). Indeed, the fact that the occupying Coalition Provisional Authority established the court that tried Saddam does a lot to undermine its legitimacy and strengthen claims that this was victors justice.

There are two positions from which we can very clearly criticize the execution of Saddam Hussein on moral grounds:

1. In the abstract moral consideration of the circumstance, based on principles rather than considerations of who we are as judgers.

2. As part of an international community with emerging ideas about morality and legitimacy.

R.K. December 30, 2006 at 2:30 pm

Would it not be somewhat odd for the Americans to say: “We killed tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent people, so as to ‘liberate’ you, but it would be wrong for you to kill the most guilty person in the country?”

Sylvia December 30, 2006 at 8:40 pm

Yes, nothing says “democracy” quite like state-sanctioned cold-blooded murder.

R.K. December 31, 2006 at 12:26 am

The video really does bring the point home. What a pathetic spectacle. It looks just like the sort of terrorist videos that Al Jazeera has been so criticized for showing.

Anonymous January 1, 2007 at 7:04 pm

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