Josh Marshall has some pointed things to say about the trial and, it seems, moments-hence execution of Saddam Hussein. I think it deserves some consideration, so here is his post:
It’s a hornet’s nest. But I’m game. So why not jump in.
“Bush administration officials” are telling CNN that Saddam Hussein will be hanged this weekend. Convention dictates that we precede any discussion of this execution with the obligatory nod to Saddam’s treachery, bloodthirsty rule and tyranny. But enough of the cowardly chatter. This thing is a sham, of a piece with the whole corrupt, disastrous sham that the war and occupation has been. Bush administration officials are the ones who leak the news about the time of the execution. One key reason we know Saddam’s about to be executed is that he’s about to be transferred from US to Iraqi custody, which tells you a lot. And, of course, the verdict in his trial gets timed to coincide with the US elections.
This whole endeavor, from the very start, has been about taking tawdry, cheap acts and dressing them up in a papier-mache grandeur — phony victory celebrations, ersatz democratization, reconstruction headed up by toadies, con artists and grifters. And this is no different. Hanging Saddam is easy. It’s a job, for once, that these folks can actually see through to completion. So this execution, ironically and pathetically, becomes a stand-in for the failures, incompetence and general betrayal of country on every other front that President Bush has brought us.
Try to dress this up as an Iraqi trial and it doesn’t come close to cutting it — the Iraqis only take possession of him for the final act, sort of like the Church always left execution itself to the ‘secular arm’. Try pretending it’s a war crimes trial but it’s just more of the pretend mumbojumbo that makes this out to be World War IX or whatever number it is they’re up to now.
The Iraq War has been many things, but for its prime promoters and cheerleaders and now-dwindling body of defenders, the war and all its ideological and literary trappings have always been an exercise in moral-historical dress-up for a crew of folks whose times aren’t grand enough to live up to their own self-regard and whose imaginations are great enough to make up the difference. This is just more play-acting.
These jokers are being dragged kicking and screaming to the realization that the whole thing’s a mess and that they’re going to be remembered for it — defined by it — for decades and centuries. But before we go, we can hang Saddam. Quite a bit of this was about the president’s issues with his dad and the hang-ups he had about finishing Saddam off — so before we go, we can hang the guy as some big cosmic ‘So There!’
Marx might say that this was not tragedy but farce. But I think we need to get way beyond options one and two even to get close to this one — claptrap justice meted out to the former dictator in some puffed-up act of self-justification as the country itself collapses in the hands of the occupying army.
Marty Peretz, with some sort of projection, calls any attempt to rain on this parade “prissy and finicky.” Myself, I just find it embarrassing. This is what we’re reduced to, what the president has reduced us to. This is the best we can do. Hang Saddam Hussein because there’s nothing else this president can get right.
What do you figure this farce will look like 10, 30 or 50 years down the road? A signal of American power or weakness?
Rhetorical question, sure, but I’d say weakness. But all of us are responsible for this. It really doesn’t matter if you are a democrat or republican or libertarian or green or anarchist: this is our military; this is our president; this is our government, whether we like it or not. And we’ll bear the responsibility–for our mess in Iraq, for our new policy of handling (and torturing) detainees and our fudging of Geneva protections, and for failing to pursue a genuine strategy to neutralize a radical Islamist threat through engagement and smart military application–for generations.