Hang the bastard? They have. Saddam Hussein was hanged in Baghdad on 30 December. He should have been hanged a long time ago!
It is a great pity it was not the Iraqi workers, but the invaders and the Shia-dominated government of Iraq, that, 40 years too late, put the hangman’s rope around Saddam’s wretched neck.
The most surprising thing about the circumstances surrounding the hanging of Saddam Hussein is the international reaction to it.
Part of the gruesome ceremony was obligingly filmed by his captors and released to the world press and TV networks. Someone made an “unofficial” record of the actual hanging and Saddam’s last moments, and that too is in circulation.
They show Saddam, dignified and courageous, being jeered at in Shia-sectarian terms by the hangmen or witnesses.
He responds: “Do you consider this bravery?” Someone else shouts: “Go to Hell!” He responds: “The hell that is Iraq?”
Calmly he stood amidst his hooded hangmen and recited a prayer affirming that he died a Muslim, a faithful son of Islam. The trapdoor opened before he had finished his prayer. Saddam Hussein died bravely.
He died in a way which he must have calculated, as much as circumstances allowed him to, for its political and religious-sectarian effect.
There he was, an old, bearded, calm, holy man of Islam, devoutly saying his prayers, surrounded by masked “assassins”, who proceeded to do him in, on camera. He thereby offered himself as a ready-made martyr – even, perhaps, to political Islam, toward which as a Ba’athist he had been a determined enemy.
It can truthfully be said of Saddam’s death that “Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it; he died as one that had been studied in his death.”
Saddam Hussein, mass murderer, died bravely? So? As he said of himself, he started as a militant in the outlawed Ba’ath party, risking his life every day. On the scaffold he played his part in a scene he must in his mind have rehearsed many times before.
It is only in comics for small kids — and in some of the tabloid press! — that such creatures are snivelling weaklings. If you think about it, how could they possibly be that and still play the roles they play and do the things they typically do?
A new “martyr” enters Arabic and Sunni mythology. The Head of State of independent Iraq, deposed by the imperialist powers who illegally occupied Iraq, and have wrecked it, and installed a new Shia elite.
The leader who died bravely, with a Muslim prayer on his lips, at the start of the Sunni Eid-al-Adha (for the Shia it started a day later).
Who died at the hands of the fanatical Christians, George W Bush, his crypto-Catholic stooge, Tony Blair, who are fighting a Crusade, a religious war, against Islam.
The circumstances surrounding Saddam’s death seemed, at least for a while, to alter the way many on the liberal and socialist left felt about Saddam Hussein.
The day before he was hanged, he was just another odious mass murderer, distinguished from such as Assad of Syria and Mubarak of Egypt only by the vastly greater numbers of his victims, Iraqis and others.
The day after, and since, we have had the strange spectacle of a vast outcry in the press of the invertebrate liberals and sharia socialists at the ill-treatment he suffered in his last moments. He became Saddam Hussein, victim!
The outcry has not been about the hanging, but the manner of it, and the fact that it was filmed, and that the films got into circulation. That for instance, was the sense of the comments from Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott.
Gordon Brown – who will continue as much as possible to work closely with George W Bush – has taken the chance to distance himself from at least one aspect of the war. Even Blair, under pressure, has distanced himself from the manner of the hanging.
These people ludicrously seized the occasion to display their finer feelings and proclaim: “these are our humanitarian principles”, and this poor fallen, murdering fascist bastard should have been handled with dignity and treated humanely. Here we stand: we can do no other!
The former fascistic dictator was hanged after something resembling due process – however flawed it was – at the hands of a regime — however limited its power — that came out of the nearest thing to a democratic election in Iraq’s history.
Politically over-sophisticated people — many of whom support the Iraqi regime, which is a Shia sectarian power — suddenly ceased to have a functioning sense of proportion and an adequate political memory.
Had everyone forgotten who and what Saddam was? No — but there is great and growing dissatisfaction with the war, with the way Britain and the US went to war — the Governments lying to the American and British people — and with the occupation. That satisfaction will find a way to come out where it can, and as it can. It did.
Thus the circumstances surrounding the hanging provoked a disproportionate outcry, even from supporters of the war and of the occupation.
Even when one agrees, as we do, that Saddam should not have been jeered at, etc., it is very strange to see people such as Gordon Brown and Tony Blair making cheap political capital on the details of the hanging.
For ourselves, we remember what Saddam was, and what his partisans in Iraq are now.
Apart from arguments denying to the invaders the right to oversee the trial and hanging, and opposition in principle to capital punishment (which we share), there were three “practical” arguments against hanging Saddam.
• This hanging was, and will be seen as, vengeance by Shia Iraq. Iraqi Shia rejoiced in the streets at the death of their long-time oppressor. The Sunni “resistance” declared him a martyr. The likelihood is that the hanging will make the antagonism and conflict between Sunni and Shia, who are already engaged in a partly smothered civil war, even worse.
Saddam Hussein’s blood is most likely to be like petrol on the fire of that sectarian conflict. It may be the point at which Sunni-Shia relations reach the stage of unstoppable all-out civil war.
• The fact that a “martyr’s” death might make Saddam Hussein, who was not far from being a spent force in Iraqi politics, a posthumous force. Saddam had had no leading part in the events of the three and a half years of the occupation; the Ba’ath is only part of the “resistance”. Dead, he may, and the signs are that he will, become more of a force.
• The vast disproportion between Saddam’s crimes and his fate. Taking his wretched life is as nothing compared to the scale of his crimes: there simply could not be proportionate retribution.
The circumstances of his hanging added a new dimension to the issue. To the scarcely believable record of blunders and brutality, the invaders and their Iraqi friends have now added another: they have made a hero out of the defeated mass murderer.
Three questions arise out of Saddam Hussein’s death.
The first is what effect the scene beside the gibbet, his bravery and seeming piety, will have in Iraq and in the region, and on anti-US and “anti-imperialist” forces throughout the world.
Saddam’s behaviour on the gallows will encourage and inspire opponents of the occupation and Islamist opponents of the sinful modern world, whose rulers hanged him.
The second question is related to the first: what will be the effect of hanging Saddam Hussein on Sunni-Shia relations, and on their simmering civil war?
Iraqi Shias, the treasured wrongs of decades in their hearts and minds, rejoiced in the streets at the death of their long-time oppressor. The Sunni “resistance” declared him a martyr — and set off bombs in the Shia areas of Baghdad, to show that for them it will be business as usual.
The third question: will the death of Saddam Hussein discourage the Sunni “resistance” in the period ahead, once the immediate impact has subsided? Plainly, evidently — no.
The kitsch “revolutionary left” has, naturally, joined in the wide outcry against the manner of the hanging.
For three and a half years, the Socialist Workers’ Party has backed the Sunni-supremacist “resistance”. They have steered as close as they could to outright denial that sectarian division is the major element in Iraqi political life now, and that it gives a sectarian character to what they call “the resistance”. In their outrage at the manner of the hanging, where Shias threw sectarian taunts at Saddam, the SWP for a moment “forgot” their customary denial that there is all-shaping sectarianism in Iraq.
This outcry, if only because it is so vague and unfocused, will prove to be inconsequential. It is important only as a symptom of the widespread and justified unease with the war and occupation.
When the neo-Stalinist dictator who had ruled the USSR for 18 years, Leonid Brezhnev, died, Solidarity’s predecessor, Socialist Organiser, carried a short obituary, which ended: “He was a rotten bastard: Hell roast him!” It will bear repetition for Saddam Hussein: Hell roast him! And all those like him who still remain alive and unhanged, free to murder and oppress.
Mourn a million dead Iraqis, not Sadam Hussein! .