Saddam Hussein swung this morning. His hanging made headlines around the world and many in the Islamic world are calling this a war crime. Others celebrate, and I suspect George W. Bush is enjoying a celebratory glass of Pepsi to honor the occasion. Honestly I think getting rid of Saddam was the real reason for invading Iraq, even if Bush might not even admit it to himself. After all, Saddam did try to have his father killed and his continued defiance constituted a blot on the family name.
Given all the carnage Saddam's execution seems almost anti-climactic. You'd think that after three years of war and many thousands of dead (mostly Iraqi) he'd go out like one of the immortals in Highlander. But our world is not a comic book even if George W. Bush thinks like a silver age character. Superman will not appear to save the day. Believe me, I've tried pinching myself and it doesn't work.
Last week conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg honored the life and legacy of Augusto Pinochet by saying that Pinochet was exactly what Iraq needed. ( Goldberg is the man who named the French 'surrender monkees' because they didn't want to sign up for this war in Iraq.) The obvious rejoinder is that Saddam was Pinochet, adapted to the Middle East. In Goldberg's view Pinochet 'restored sanity' to Chile by overthrowing a democratically elected government in a bloody coup d'etat. .
Still, Goldberg has a point. America doesn't have a problem with murderous right-wing dictators so long as they play stepin fetchit. Pinochet knew his place and sucked up to corporate power. Hussein did not, and that's why he died of hanging while Pinochet went down from old age. The truth is that had Saddam kow-towed publicly after his defeat in Gulf War I he would still be in power and the sanctions would have ended long ago. He'd have have been treated like the prodigal son returning, welcomed with open arms.
I think we all sort of hoped that Saddam would break down at the end. He did not, and it appears that he met his end with courage and dignity. I wonder if the same could be said of our President if the hangman came for him. I suspect not. As Ann Richards so aptly described his father, " He can't help himself, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth."