In a final blasphemy, Saddam Hussein, who spent most of his life as a murdering secularist, went to his justified death holding a Koran and offering his soul to God, if God would accept it. If God does, He will have to commute the sentences of Saddam's mass murdering predecessors, including Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.
These days, not much that makes religious sense comes out of Iraq, or anywhere else in the maniacal Middle East, but one reasonable statement did pass the lips of Sheikh Sadralddin al-Qubanjib in the Shia "holy city" of Najaf. During a Friday sermon, the sheikh described Saddam's execution as "God's gift to Iraqis" and prayed "Oh God, you know what Saddam has done. He killed millions of Iraqis in prisons, in wars with neighboring countries and he is responsible for mass graves. Oh God we ask you to take revenge on Saddam."
That was a shorter summation than most prosecutors deliver in court, but in the end Saddam's execution wasn't about revenge. It was about justice. Many countries - from Britain, which has abolished capital punishment, to Russia, where a moratorium on capital punishment now exists, have halted executions because they believe, incorrectly, that doing so makes them more humane. It does precisely the opposite and sends the message that innocent human life has less value than the life of a killer. It is more than curious that Britain and Russia, especially, have halted the death penalty for the guilty, but do nothing to restrict incredibly high abortion rates that kill the innocent. This reflects an inverted value system.
One of Saddam's lawyers, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, appeared on the BBC shortly after Saddam's hanging was confirmed, complaining the trial was a "travesty." No, the travesty would have been in not trying and executing Saddam. Saddam mocked the innocent lives he took, showing disrespect to the relatives of the dead who had a valid claim to see justice done.
There may not be much to envy about Iraq these days, but the swiftness of Saddam's punishment is admirable. Had he been in the American legal system, lawyers might have clogged that system for years, allowing Saddam to die in prison. Instead, on Nov. 5, Saddam was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death. After the death order was signed, there was a 30-day window in which to carry out the execution. The Iraqis executed him within hours after the signing of the death order and just a few days after his appeal was denied.
Saddam's hanging will not quell the current violence he helped to foment in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion in 2003. This adds to the importance of the decision President Bush will announce in a few days regarding the next - and possibly final - effort to stabilize Iraq so the elected government might function. Part of that stabilization must include a new vision of Iraq's God, his disapproval of the sectarian killings and the deaths of so many innocents at the hands of insurgent terrorists. Since the West is regarded as the home of "infidels," a religious leader inside Iraq who has more than his own petty interests at stake will have to step forward and effectively call for an end to the turmoil. If such a person exists, he is unknown to the world.
Who will mourn Saddam's death? Probably not his family members, an estimated 40 of whom he either ordered murdered or personally dispatched. He even murdered his own son-in-law, who defected to Jordan and then returned to Iraq on Saddam's promise he would not be harmed.
In a letter addressed to "the Iraqi nation" shortly after his sentencing in November, Saddam demonstrated his self-delusion was complete: "Many of you have known the writer of this letter to be faithful, honest, caring for others, wise, of sound judgment, just, decisive, careful with the wealth of the people and of the state."
That one will bring some laughs among his fellow despots in Hades, just before the letter is consumed in the fire.