"Make him stand up," the judge ordered. "The court has decided to sentence Saddam Hussein al-Majid to death by hanging." And so it was done. At long last, the "Butcher of Baghdad" has been brought to the justice that he has eluded for far too long.
"Go to hell! You and the court!" was Hussein's response, fitting for a man who was directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and indirectly responsible for the deaths of 1,000,000 during his invasion of Iran. As he was dragged out of the court, he yelped: "Long live the Kurds! Long live the Arabs!"
It was a bright day that broke through the shadows covering Iraq. Amid the brutal reality of bombings, kidnappings, killings, and beheadings that is post-war Iraq, there was finally something to smile about. Finally, the brutal former dictator has faced trial for one of his many, many crimes committed against the Iraqi people.
The reaction among Iraqis was mixed, which surprised me. Predictably, Shiites were exuberant. "Saddam took my sons from me," said a crying Abbas, a Shiite from Najaf whose son was killed by Hussein years ago, to The Washington Post. "What was the crime that my son committed? He was only 4."
Some Sunnis were up in arms in protest, and some even vowed to join the insurgency: "What happened today at the court gives us the resolve and the power to go ahead on the road of holy war," said Marwan Hakam--a Sunni from Tikrit, Saddam's home town--also to The Washington Post. (How anyone could be upset at the conviction of Saddam, whom the entire world-- including the United States when it supported him--knew had committed terrible atrocities against innocent people?)
Reactions aside, justice has prevailed. But the world should not have waited this long. Hussein should have been taken to task for his brutality long ago, and it should not have taken a disastrous invasion to finally bring him to justice. The world remained silent when it knew of the crimes he was committing: executions, tortures, forced deportations, and the unleashing of chemical weapons on his own people. The world should have stood up against him. The Arabs should have stood up against him. The Muslims should have stood up against him.
But no one did for the longest time. On the contrary, many of the world's most powerful nations supported him, especially when he was fighting Iran in the 1980s. Donald Rumsfeld, who recently resigned as secretary of defense, was once photographed meeting with Saddam Hussein himself. It was the result of the ugly game of global geopolitics and the old adage, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
Why do we do such a thing? Why have we so many times remained silent in the face of brutality that occurs practically in front of our faces? We said "never again" after the genocide of European Jewry during World War II, but then came Bosnia. We said "never again" after that genocide of European Muslims. Then came Rwanda, and after Rwanda came Darfur. Why haven't we learned from the ugly lessons of our own history?
Maybe the angels had a point when they told God, after He said that He would create humanity to inherit the earth, "Would you create on it such as who would spread corruption and shed blood? (Qur'an, 2:30)" Did our reputation precede our own creation? But then again, God is God. He rightly responded: "I know that which you do not know (2:30)." God always knows what He is doing, especially when we don't.
I take solace in the fact that even though we have a tremendous capacity for evil, we have an equally tremendous capacity for doing good deeds. We can, and have, spread the attributes of our creator among ourselves--justice, compassion, mercy, and most importantly love. God knows what He is doing. If we were not capable of good deeds, then God would not have created us as His representatives on earth.
So let that fact inspire us to continue the fight against injustice. Let us urge our leaders to put justice above geopolitics. Let us urge our leaders to finally step up and take those who commit injustice to task. Let us urge our leaders never to turn a blind eye to murder and genocide in our midst.) Rumsfeld has resigned, and the Democrats have taken control of Congress. I think change is in the air.
Let the conviction and sentence of Saddam Hussein be the beginning of a new era of peace and justice in our world.