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Saturday, December 30, 2006

"Hanged by the neck until dead"

There is something illogical - if not completely absurd - about the death by hanging of Saddam Hussein. His execution was, we are told, an antidote to the despicable, horrendous violence and torture visited upon innocent Iraqi citizens by his administration.

I listened, aghast and in horror, as the BBC televised an interview with an Iraqi woman, now living in Dearborn, Michigan, who proclaimed today as a day of "great celebration" in her displaced Iraqi community.

"Oh, there will be great rejoicing," she said, her head covered, as was her entire body, in the modest black cloth prescribed for women by her religion.

"We will dance and sing and rejoice," she said, seemingly completely unaware of the oppression her religion continues to visit upon her merely for being born female - even though she now speaks English fluently and lives in America - the "land of the free and the home of the brave."

I was, I confess, morbidly fascinated to watch the video clips of the last moments of Saddam's life.

I understand that there were those in the observer galley of the death chamber who were calling out insults and taunts to Saddam, as he, ankles and wrists shackled, made his way to the gallows prepared for his hanging.

Saddam carried the Koran in his hand - the Holy Scripture, as he understood it, by which he lived his life - as he shuffled his way to his death.

We are told that he refused to wear a black hood over his head and face. Somehow, I understand that decision, which seems to me to be clearly designed to give greater protection and consolation to his executioners than whatever human pride Saddam might have left.

He was surrounded by four masked men, two of whom held him firmly under his arms, to avoid, I assume, the final humilation of stumbling and falling before his death by hanging. The masked man to his left seemed to be calmly giving him instructions as to what was about to happen to him.

Saddam seemed distracted by the hecklers. Indeed, who wouldn't be?

Finally, he fixed his attention on the hooded man who was telling him what was about to happen to him in the last few moments of his life. He seemed in a macabre and defiant way to immediately understand and comply.

I found it touching, in the most human way, that Saddam was assured that a black cloth would cover and surround his neck before the noose was applied - a way to guarantee, I am told, that the skin on his neck would not be unnecessarily bruised or torn by the noose of rope as his neck was broken and the air prohibited from entering his lungs or brain.

He received some assurance, at the end of his life, of the promises of his faith to be received into heaven a martyr, perfect in body in eternity as he had been given by God on earth.

"Hanged by the neck until dead."

It is a sobering verdict to consider for the wages of one who is undeniably one of the most heinous of mass murderers in our history.

The questions remain to be answered:

Is it enough?

Will it be enough to restore peace in Iraq?

Was the man a monster of humanity or a martyr of his faith?

Can one be both a martyr and a monster?

Does violence always beget violence, or does the violent death of one evil man absolve the violent deaths of thousands of innocent people?

Will we know the answers to these questions in our life and time, or will history claim the final, definitive answer?

God only knows.


Jim said...

I suppose it is hard to offer someone like Mr. Hussain mercy. And it is definitely not Islam: sharia law is rather bloodthirsty.

And yet, I can't help but think that the execution was a bad idea. A bad idea because making him into a "martyr" as the Suni insergants will certainly claim him is likely to cost lives. A bad idea because it denies him the possibility of understanding what he had done -- the ultimate justice I think. And a bad idea because for us, a Western Republic, unbound by sharia, our collective self is violated by the act.

The psalmist asks, "What is man that you should be mindfull of him?" A good question. If we indeed do carry the love of the Creator in us, how can we hang anyone?

I prayed for Mr. Hussain at mass this morning. But even then, it is not enough. We need to stop, be it war or execution.


Eileen said...

I don't think any good was accomplished from this man's death.

But dead he is.