Hussein’s Execution Will Not Solve Anything

COLLIN SULLIVAN
Daily Collegian
Penn State

(U-WIRE) UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Friday’s Daily Nebraskan Opinion page suggested to readers that today I would be expounding on my own personal experience in registering to vote in Nebraska. With Election Day arriving in less than 24 hours, a relevant personal anecdote seemed fitting.

Well, that was before Sunday.

One of the most important political developments in Iraq’s modern history came about Sunday when former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was sentenced to a gruesome death by hanging. Even despite the automatic appeal, it may be only a matter of months before the dethroned tyrant is swinging from the gallows.

All of a sudden, my slice-of-life anecdote about newfound Nebraskanism seems, well, inconsequential.

Here we’re not only talking about the prospect of justice for what the court called “widespread and systematic” persecution of those who inhabited the small town of Dujail after Hussein’s henchmen executed 148 townspeople there. We’re facing the question of fair trials, capital punishment and political engineering to bring about desired outcomes.

Back when Hussein was captured in a spider hole, it was disputed whether he would be tried in international courts or by the Iraqis themselves. The administration pushed for local control, saying Hussein’s persecution mostly affected Iraqis, and if they’re to control their own destiny, it would be appropriate for Iraqis to try him themselves.

Bear in mind, though, that the death penalty is not a possible sentence under international law. Had an international tribunal tried Hussein — or the preferable International Criminal Court — he would have assuredly received a life sentence, rotting away in The Hague, Netherlands, or some other heavily guarded prison for international criminals.

And even if the death penalty wasn’t a big deal — as if the execution of a human being could ever be trivial — human rights organizations came out in the beginning, suggesting Hussein would never be able to receive a fair trial in the land of his own atrocities.

That proved to be true when judge appointments were continually challenged and Hussein’s defense lawyer was brutally murdered. The Anfal trial has become little more than a show trial, with Iraqi government going through the liberal democratic motions to give the impression of fairness and blind justice.

But there was never any intention to provide Hussein with even a shred of fairness in his alleged due process. His conviction and death sentence was a foregone conclusion as soon as the trial began. There was no presumption of innocence, and even though the body of evidence against Hussein is overwhelming and incontrovertible, the very act of a trial itself necessitates that the accused have the opportunity to plead their case to unbiased ears.

And beyond the implications of allowing Iraq to shun many of the same human rights it ignored under Hussein, his execution poses a real threat to whatever semblance of stability the country may be anticipating. In creating a martyr, those who would drop Hussein from the gallows are the same who would instill in his Baathist supporters a sense of backhanded patriotism and revived nationalism.

As if Iraq needs to be divided any further. Hussein’s corpse will be a reminder of American imperialism to those who believed in the fallen tyrant. Expect a bloody retaliation campaign.

Let’s not forget the fortunate political timing of this verdict, either. While it may not be true that the American conservatives in power orchestrated this event to occur just days before an election in which their hold on power would be threatened, we can bet the administration will be touting it as yet another victory in the war on terror.

Hussein has got a foot in the grave, they’ll say, and the Iraqi people are safer, the American people are safer, the world is safer because of it.

Don’t be fooled. Execution doesn’t make any of us safer. It merely perpetuates another problem. Whether Hussein is killed for his atrocities or not, what’s important is that he’s no longer able to commit genocide and crimes against humanity. Sending him to the gallows is but a political gesture intended to make a statement to a population that is further mistrusting the government’s motives and actions in Iraq.

When you vote with me on Tuesday, keep this in mind: Those who would execute Hussein after hiding behind such a blatant faã®´ade of justice are acting in the same way that he did, just not to the same extent.

Even in the midst of a major American election, the new Iraq is looking more and more like the old one. Whether he’s swinging from a rope or sitting on a throne, Hussein’s oppressive ideals live on.