In an earlier post I argued that the Saddam hanging was poorly executed, a frat house hazing that showed how lightly the new Iraqi government was taking its responsibilities. Few made the same point until Charles Krauthammer’s column today, which gives much more detail and knowledge than I ever could:
“Consider the timing. It was carried out on a religious holiday. We would not ordinarily care about this, except for the fact that it is in contravention of Iraqi law. It was done on the first day of Eid al-Adha as celebrated by Sunnis. The Shiite Eid began the next day, which tells you in whose name the execution was performed.
“It was also carried out extra-constitutionally. The constitution requires a death sentence to have the signature of the president and two vice presidents, each representing the three major ethnic groups in the country (Sunni, Shiite and Kurd). That provision is meant to prevent sectarian killings. The president did not sign. Maliki contrived some work-around.
“True, Saddam’s hanging was just and, in principle, nonsectarian. But the next hanging might not be…
“Moreover, Maliki’s rush to execute short-circuited the judicial process that was at the time considering Saddam’s crimes against the Kurds. He was hanged for the killing of 148 men and boys in the Shiite village of Dujail. This was a perfectly good starting point — a specific incident as a prelude to an inquiry into the larger canvas of his crimes. The trial for his genocidal campaign against the Kurds was just beginning.
“Finally, there was the motley crew — handpicked by the government — that constituted the hanging party. They turned what was an act of national justice into a scene of sectarian vengeance.”
Read the whole thing.
Once again: If anyone had the death penalty coming, Saddam did, and he did not deserve in any way to die with dignity. But with Iraq hanging by a thread — and the whole world watching — this should have been carried out with the utmost professionalism. It was not, and that’s an embarrassment.
In the larger Iraq debate, the U.S. must decide between taking its hands off the cycle seat (as Rumsfeld put it before his departure) and further helping Iraq along. This incident is evidence the former tactic is necessary — Iraqis won’t take their responsibilities seriously until we make it clear we won’t always be there to bail them out.