Charles Krauthammer

That larger canvas will never be painted. The starting point became the endpoint. The only charge for which Saddam was executed was that 1982 killing of Shiites -- interestingly, his response to a failed assassination attempt by Maliki's own Dawa Party.

Maliki ultimately got his revenge, completing Dawa's mission a quarter-century later. However, Saddam will now never be tried for the Kurdish genocide, the decimation of the Marsh Arabs, the multiple war crimes and all the rest.

Finally, there was the motley crew -- handpicked by the government -- that constituted the hanging party. They turned what was an act of national justice into a scene of sectarian vengeance. The world has now seen the smuggled video of the shouting and taunting that turned Saddam into the most dignified figure in the room -- another remarkable achievement in burnishing the image of the most evil man of his time.

Worse was the content of the taunts: ``Moqtada, Moqtada,'' the name of the radical and murderous Shiite extremist whose goons were obviously in the chamber. The world saw Saddam falling through the trap door, executed not in the name of a new and democratic Iraq, but in the name of Sadr, whose death squads have learned much from Saddam.

The whole sorry affair illustrates not just incompetence but the ingrained intolerance and sectarianism of the Maliki government. It stands for Shiite unity and Shiite dominance above all else.

We should not be surging American troops in defense of such a government. This governing coalition -- Maliki's Dawa, Hakim's SCIRI and Sadr's Mahdi Army -- seems intent on crushing the Sunnis at all costs. Maliki should be made to know that if he insists on having this sectarian war, he can well have it without us.

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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