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.