Legitimacy is a debatable issue. What’s right and what’s not so right varies from multitude of viewpoints and confuses ordinary unbiased minds.

 

Other than legitimacy, which can be structurally defined, and followed across places, people and time; an important characteristics of the wise is prudence. Prudence can’t be structurally defined. Legitimacy works better in a stable, steady environment. For present day Iraq, where starting from its identity to its future existence is at stake, which is far from steady and stable, prudence is the preferred quality in any hypothetical trade-off with legitimacy.

 

It’s only prudence that may offer unlikeliest solutions where the mightiest concede a battle to the weakest at exceptional times to have better control in an ongoing long complex war. The legitimacy of power would never even consider that as a viable option.

 

And it is this same lack of prudence that’s failed Iraqi and US policy makers in bringing Saddam to justice. A 69-year old defeated dictator, who survived an earlier death sentence 43 years back, and who already lost most of his closed dear ones don’t lose much by losing his life in his own country when the country itself is facing imminent disintegration under coalition occupation.

 

Saddam has not been awarded the death sentence. He has rather been gifted martyrdom. He already stated before that he prefers facing the firing squad than facing the ongoing theatrical tribunal. A martyr to the Sunni Iraqis, a martyr to the people who still cared for that Iraqi identity though that’s a dwindling base now, and a martyr to many Muslims all around the world, a martyr who fought against the imperialist, as US is perceived by majority of Muslim community globally is how dictator Saddam may get perceived in fragmented world history, post his hanging. 

 

Prudence is something that scores over legitimacy because what could have been right in peaceful, democratic, truly sovereign Iraq may not be right amidst present stage of unruly affairs where everyday hundreds get killed in a multitude of violence. The identity of Iraq increasingly gets marred over the identity of fractional Shia Arabs (60% of around 26 million population), Sunni Arabs (12% and where Saddam belonged) and finally that of Kurds (20%). One may confusingly but rightfully ask where all the Iraqis have gone.

 

It’s another thing that questions have been raised since the beginning over the legitimacy of this high profile tribunal that found Saddam guilty in crime against humanity, and thereby gave death sentence as a verdict to Saddam.

 

It’s worthwhile to ponder how history would depict this character called Saddam Hussein in the circumstances of his facing the already awarded death penalty, expected to be completed through routine formalities within months now.  The state would kill its past ruler of the state to avenge killings of 148 Shias at Al-Dujail, committed back in 1982. The dictator retaliated against a failed assassination attempt on his life. Associated press described the chief judge to be ‘hawk-faced’. Shias and Kurds expectedly celebrated the decision whereas Sunnis deplored it, strengthening the line of division in the already divided nation as if existing line of division is not enough.

 

Not much was said on what Iraq or Iraqis felt about this judgment, because Iraq and Iraqis seem to be a non-existent identity in present day Iraq.

 

None from rest of the world did know much about this unmanageable division of the sectarian fractions within Iraq. Coalition forces argued Iraq under Saddam to be a threat, and against their interests to justify and carry out their direct invasion of Saddam-controlled Iraq. It was Iraq and Iraqis who suffered from trade embargo and sanctions, seldom was there any focus on Shia-Sunni divide then. The Kurds and their sufferings under Saddam did get some mention in global media occasionally.

 

Now there is no identity of the country and its citizens. It’s the Shia-Sunni-Kurd identity that interprets each incident with fractional individuality and identity.

 

Unfortunately it’s only Iraq that comes out to be the big loser in the midst of ongoing affairs. Unlike Saddam, as a nation state Iraq faces slow grueling death as an identity.  The dictator kept the nation together for more than a quarter of a century, well, let it be through obvious notorious dictatorship. That unity might have costed the nation many-a-life as state-sponsored oppression targeted against Shias and Kurds.

 

Coalition forces and present Government in Iraq too continue their efforts in keeping the nation together, without the state-oppression this time. They increasingly fight to maintain and retain that identity called a single Iraq when a vast majority of its own people prefers the identity of a Shia, Sunni or a Kurd nation. The only common point on which the vast majority of Iraqis agree now is on the tenure of stay of the occupation forces. Here too their opinion is against that of their own Government, and against the interest of the coalition policy-makers.

 

However as the state increasingly fails to reign over terrorism and lawlessness that results in even more deaths and sufferings now than in the whole long tenure of Saddam. Human Rights Watch, a New York based human rights body, estimated regime of Saddam might have been responsible for 290,000 deaths in over more than twenty years. It works out to 14,500 killing a year. Compared to that, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study, released only months back, estimated more than 600,000 loss of Iraqi lives since Coalition attack – first in the war and then in the ongoing civil war.  That coalition attack took place 42 months before that study, and in between America declared victory in its Iraq policy, and installed a democratic Government there. This democratic nation then proceeded with the tribunal of meting out justice to its former ruler following legal framework of a free country.

 

So present round of justice is delivered by ruling democratic set-up and its democratic institutions having a record of 14,285 deaths/month; with no global sanctions, which the former regime of Saddam faced. Present set-up also enjoys the support of the global superpower and with a democratically elected people’s Government in place which obviously should make governance easier.

 

Let’s revisit our figure of deaths under Saddam regime – 14,500/year against an equivalent monthly figure now. What Saddam could not achieve in decades, present ruling democratic Government with coalition help could achieve that in months. Saddam took ownership of his decisions, someone similarly needs to own up and pay for the present bigger mess in Iraq.

 

When and if that happens – this verdict can be termed legitimate. However experience tells us present set-up does not operate in that manner. There are ample examples all around us.  

 

Crime against humanity is a broad phrase and jargon used artfully by its violators and its protectors alike. In India, back in 1984, as then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated, thousands of Sikhs were killed. Few prominent leaders from the then ruling party orchestrated that backlash. Something similar happened in recent memory when Israel attacked Lebanon in search of its two kidnapped soldiers and thereby bombed almost all of Lebanon killing more than 1000 innocent civilians. The cases are similar because someone did fire at Saddam’s convoy back in 1982 from that ill-fated town just like Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers from Lebanon, or some Sikhs were involved in assassinating then Indian Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi or some Hezbollah guerillas played that nasty game for which the retaliation was faced by all alike. Saddam destroyed an orchard; Israel almost destroyed a stated called Lebanon.

 

The power of might always retaliates disproportionately and don’t discriminate between the guilty one and the innocent ones. The same leading coalition, USA that welcomes the verdict now, supplied weapons to Israel to carry out its disproportionate attack few months back on poor innocent civilian Lebanese people, which resulted in the death of nearly one hundred children and women in the 2nd Qana as if one back in  1996 was not enough. Now there is another similar incident in Beit Hanoun in Palestine.

 

Justice has not been delivered in the other two cases. Justice evaded Saddam as long as he ruled Iraq, and as long as his allegiance to US was maintained. Justice would have evaded Saddam had he not pursued his policies that coalition forces increasingly felt apprehensive about him, and they finally made up their choice of eliminating him at any cost, going against UN mandate even.

 

The whole set of circumstances over last two decades make one wonder the cause with the effect. The effect is fine – but is the cause Saddam’s oppressions against certain sects of Iraqis or is it his increasing loss of allegiance from US desired policies.

 

Legitimacy of lot many processes of the world come under question. Prudence tells us not to dig buried painful past, and not to repeat same mistakes again and again paying the same price as has been paid in the past.

 

Back in 1963, Saddam, as a member of the Baath party, was sentenced to death in absentia when he was convicted for colluding in a failed assassination attempt of then Iraqi Prime Minister, Abdul Karim Qassim. Saddam fled to Egypt to return in 1964, was expectedly jailed only to escape in 1967 and then he masterminded the bloodless coup that toppled the Government and made him the vice-president.

 

Had that death sentence been carried back in 1960s, world history and more so history of Iraq would have been different. Justice and legitimacy of justice changed with time, people and places.

 

History would judge the decision not on the basis of its face value – but based on the stature it added to the dictator character of Saddam Hussein. Saddam apparently looked happy and even smiling at the end of the verdict. He played his cards right in the courtroom as the process of justice proceeded. He even called out for forgiveness to his fellow Iraqis in the name of Allah and Jesus Christ, and to reunite. However as Saddam’s end become certain, the grueling end of Iraq also looks imminent. Many see the appointment of Bob Gates as new defense secretary is a move towards the beginning of bipartisan Iraq era. Bob Gates was a member of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that’s expected to release its report soon.

 

The verdict in a sense would elevate Saddam to martyrdom to some section of people and history as the last free ruler of Iraq who did not bow to US-led imperialism. In another verdict given directly by people in mid-term US election, US citizens made their unhappiness clear with President Bush and his Iraq-policies. Rumsfeld has become the first casualty, Blair is in the process of being booted out within next one year; neo-con colleagues of President Bush are also meted with similar fate in stable steady societies where legitimacy is taken seriously with accountability. Bush and Blair, as democratically elected leaders of their respective countries are accountable to their people; and people their no longer approve their Iraq-policies. Bush and Blair is not accountable to the rest of the world does not mean it empowers them to be dictator elsewhere.

 

History would now place Saddam comparatively better with this death sentence whereas history may not be so kind to the coalition leaders. Coalition leaders’ loss since Iraq invasion has been Saddam’s gain in terms of empathy, sympathy, popularity and accountability.

 

But Iraqis paid with staggering 600000+ deaths for the decisions of Bush and Blair just like they paid with their lives for many-a-decision of dictator Saddam before that. Now Saddam having been brought to justice for his misdeeds, what judiciary system would the Iraqis and global leaders design to hold accountability for these 600000+ deaths since coalition attack in Iraq alone, and many more similar deaths all around the world, and thereby establish a global legitimacy of bringing the guilty to justice?

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