It should be surprising to anyone in the United States that this is even an issue.

I had fully expected Saddam Hussein to die in a gunfight with U.S. armed forces, as his sons did. Granted, I didn't necessarily expect that gunfight to be initiated by Saddam -- I had expected that, after raining bullets and bombs upon wherever they found Saddam, they would claim he sent out the initial shots, thus indicating his unwillingness to surrender.

I don't think this was an unreasonable expectation. A month or so ago, all the neocons in the Bush administration were making the rounds on the "fair and balanced" circuit, telling us how horrible a trial for Saddam would be, how he would make it into a circus just like Milosevic has done, and how we should seriously consider just eliminating him before the notion of a trial came into play. And I think anyone who's been paying attention to the Bush administration understands how these kinds of policies are initiated -- we first get these opening salvos in the media, which lets pundits bat them around for a while until "go" time comes, by which time the American public has fully acclimated to the idea and there's no immediate uproar when words meet reality.

And all the "fair and balanced" pundits warmed to the idea admirably. I was mildy perturbed, considering here we had the so-called "leaders of the free world" sitting around complaining about the pain of due process and fair trials and all that crap. Wouldn't it just be easier if we summarily executed the guy? I suppose. I mean, to be fair, it would be consistent with the legal status of terrorists under this administration, as "enemy combatants" with no legal requirement for representation, speedy trial, etc. I guess that whole "endowed by our Creator" bit only works when you're trying to assert the value of blurring the line between church and state. My mistake!

So anyway, I fully expected Saddam, if he was ever found, to be dead in the process, full of U.S. military-issued bullets. But, as it happens, it seems the troops who took him had a lapse of human compassion -- his surrender was obvious, and I guess they couldn't bring themselves to just throw the grenade into the spider hole. Not that they would have been ordered to, but geez, that would've made things a whole lot simpler, wouldn't it?

If you think about it, Dubya's statement to the public could have been equally applicable had Saddam died in a shoot-out. Change what amounts to an AP lede at the beginning of the speech and you have the same sentiments. And now that he's to stand some sort of trial, it's going to be difficult for us -- not Dubya, us USians -- to put him on trial for atrocities he committed with our implicit support. This is why we kill dictators, after all, or at least arrange for their assassination through paramilitary groups! So we don't have to face up to our own involvement!

So I would suppose Bush's calling for Saddam's execution is just a pre-emptive strike against people of a more sensitive presuasion who might advise a more measured course of action. By making that statement, he gives pundits the ammunition they need to tar nay-sayers as Saddam-lovers. "Aren't his crimes obvious?" "Don't you think killing millions of people deserves the most severe punishment?" "What could his life possibly bring us, or his family's victims, besides a lack of closure and justice postponed?"

And I suppose I don't have any answer to those questions, except to hold up a mirror to such sentiments and ask their proponents if they particularly like the way they look. Is that what the U.S. should look like? A bunch of blood-thirsty capitalists who will invoke our most sacred principles in the pursuit of the death of a single man? I shudder at the thought. I shudder to think I am in the minority.