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Jayne Lyn Stahl Headshot

Accomplice After the Fact?

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Okay, call this gallows humor, but what a fine time to plan an execution on the one holiday that the whole universe celebrates, Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike, the dawning of the New Year. And what exemplary strategizing, too, to videotape the hanging rather than broadcast it live on T.V. But what do you call a country that holds a former president as prisoner for years, and then hands him over to his adversaries to be slaughtered? Well, I think the term accessory, or accomplice after the fact, one who collaborates in the commission of a crime, but is not present at the time of the crime, works.

Make no mistake, hanging Hussein is every inch an American intervention, this is an American execution, this is an example of the Department of Defense suggesting to an "independent" Iraqi judge that the former president of Iraq receive the death sentence and, given Saddam's courtroom histrionics, as well as his obvious alacrity for instant martyrdom, the execution can only be viewed as yet another example of state-assisted suicide.

And, with customary secrecy aimed at concealing duplicity, among other things, we know only that Saddam is being held at the infamous American military prison, Camp Cropper, next to Baghdad airport, so while he is on Iraqi soil, he is in American custody, thus entitled to those protections afforded to any prisoner of war, great or small, according to the Geneva Conventions. And, as his attorney, Al-Dulaimi has repeatedly said, "According to international conventions it is forbidden to hand a prisoner over to his adversaries," (AP) But, cries of righteous indignation against the innumerable breaches to Geneva practiced, and/or sanctioned by, the American government have, for the most part, fallen on deaf ears, so why should this one be any different?

Does it matter that Saddam is, for better or worse, no ordinary prisoner of war, but a former head of state? Will this barbaric form of killing set a precedent for how the world is to deal with future heads of state--put them in a noose and pull? What's more, can there be any doubt, in the mind of any reasonably sane person, that America is pulling the strings? While this administration has pursued this moment with a kind of tenacity, and passion, seldom seen since the days of the Great Crusades, if we are to hang Saddam, what will we do when, and if bin Laden is found, draw and quarter him, or merely burn him in the public square? Call me old-fashioned, but I liked it better when the CIA carried out these kinds of operations.

While it isn't known whether the execution will be broadcast on Iraqi television, there will be video of everything including the former president's last moments. An Iraqi Nobel Peace Prize winner, as well as several prominent human rights organizations, have spoken out against this heinous form of public humiliation and if we can speak up against an OJ interview on Fox, and have it pulled, I think those of us with anything even remotely resembling a conscience left must do the same now.

"The only person who can predict the execution of the president...is God and Bush," said Saddam's lawyer; God ain't talking, and neither is Bush, or maybe God is talking to the Bush. Doesn't it seem like an eternity, but it was on Christmas Day that Pope Benedict appealed for an end to all the violence in the world, and remarked that, despite the illusion of progress and modernity, our need for a savior is desperate. Clearly, the brutal, and barbaric hanging of a man who has languished in prison for years, and who will be excoriated by history, puts us, a planet, no closer to a savior, or salvation, by any religious playbook, and begs the question: who has the moral high ground, and who has the rope.