Saturday, December 30, 2006

AMERICAN TUNES AND ENGLISH INSTRUMENTS

Saddam is dead. This will hardly have escaped your attention if you've had the television on in the last few hours, especially in England, where BBC 1 has featured nothing else. They've even been kind enough to show, repeatedly, footage of the former dictator being led to the gallows.

Am I the only one who finds that distasteful?

Am I the only one who finds the execution reprehensible?

To be fair, I am against the death penalty anyway. A mass murderer has no moral right to live, as far as I can tell, but I have no moral right to kill him. I am not a good enough man. But this one comes as a result of an illegal invasion and occupation by the world's last superpower and its bullying cronies. The British Government--in an act of backsliding even George Bush wouldn't stoop to--has distanced itself from the execution, saying it doesn't support the use of capital punishment in Iraq or anywhere else, and that Saddam's death was the decision of the Iraqi Government, but unless I have got my chronology mixed up (and I doubt it), there was no Iraqi Government when Saddam was sent for trial. And even at the beginning of the process, execution was the only possible outcome if--and I use the word if with all due irony--he was found guilty. This was a trial for war crimes, remember, established by the victor to (paraphrasing Margaret Beckett's words) hold the defeated to account. It wasn't some internal Iraqi affair. At least have the courage to stand up and say you did it and you're proud of yourselves.

But there is probably nothing to be gained from debating it now. The man is dead. And by showing footage of his execution we are undoubtedly insulting his supporters, and fanatical Islamists who--while having no great love for Saddam--will be inclined to see him nevertheless as a victim of Western imperialism...insulting them with enough force and impact to guarantee instability and extremism in that benighted region of the world for another hundred years. Way to go George, Tony. Way to go, everyone like me who voted for one of these leaders. Way to go, everyone who thinks Iraq is none of their business and skips over that part of the paper to read the celebrity gossip every day.

Like Paul Simon said about another conflict in another dark time in modern history, We come in the Age's most uncertain hour/ And sing an American tune.

Today I'm really struggling to believe that my country stands for anything an honest, decent and fair-minded man to be proud of. What surprises me is that until today I did.

6 comments:

the anonymous chick said...

Your government stands for what you make it stand for, doesn't it? I admit I don't know much about your law there, but here, we are the law. The problem is that too many are comfortably sleeping the great sleep. They can be awakened - I have faith in this. I don't know if it's too late or not. But I know I'm guilty as hell if I don't try. I guess you're at least blogging about it, right? Can Englishmen join the ACLU? Do you have entities like that over there? I'm a member here. I put my money into several organizations, and that's one of them.

Glenn said...

Capital punishment is a crime, simple as that. The State should not have the right to kill, ever.

Bruce Hodder said...

Glenn,
You're right. No exceptions. And for a government, like ours, which actually takes that line not to publically condemn Saddam's execution is scandalous.

Bruce Hodder said...

Hey Anonymous Chick,
Well, maybe I'm cynical, but I'm not sure we have any real power to shape our government. We can, ultimately, boot it out of Downing Street if we get enough people on our side, but what do we replace it with? Our two-horse political system is not much different from the American one: two mainstream, centre right parties who in most respects are pretty much identical (actually, there's LESS between Labour and the Conservatives than there is between the Republicans and the Democrats.)
So, what do we do? How do we effect change?
Rather than encouraging people to engage in the system--which is laudable, don't get me wrong, and much better than just giving up on them--I'd rather just help them, if assuming such a responsibility isn't too presumptuous (I suspect it is)--I'd rather help them to think for themselves, independently, outside of ANY alliegance to party politics or even nation. Each political solution has turned out to be a blind alley, another cause of oppression, more lies. And an educated individualist can't be fooled by anyone.

Glenn said...

There is hope, though. The world IS becoming more civilised. Take the Viet Nam war: it went on for years and years, before there were ANY protests. Contrast that with the Iraq war, where there were massive worldwide protests even BEFORE the invasion began. This shows that people are less willing to accept mass murder as being normal, acceptable State behaviour, than they were, say, 40 years ago. That's a big step forward. Not big enough, because the war still happened, but a step forward nontheless.

the anonymous chick said...

Glenn, I hadn't even considered that. I believe the Viet Nam campaigns began in 1962, right? Nixon was promising to end the war and was elected in '68, but I don't know if there were any actual protests prior to '69. Were there any during the beginnings of the draft in '68? I was too young at that point. I know there began outrage in 1969 when the war expanded into Cambodia and when we realized that My Lai had transpired and had been covered up for over a year. And of course there was Kent State in 1970.

Every Sunday the names of the dead are read where I attend church, but it's limited to our military. Nobody knows what the number of dead Iraqis is, I guess. But we have quite a few members from church joined up with a protest group here, and on Tuesday evening, there'll be a demonstration to mourn the 3,000. It's nice to know that I attend church with at least some people who aren't kowtowing to the "Religious Wrong."