Saddam Hussein's hanging: justice was not served

by Riadh R. Muslih

For 37 years since my father was executed for opposing Saddam Hussein’s regime following a secret trial that convicted him of “high treason”, I dreamed and hoped that one day the tyrant would himself stand in a court of law and answer for his atrocities.

It would not be for what he did to my father, but for all the suffering and death that he brought upon the Iraqi people.

I wanted Saddam to stand trial not merely to answer for his crimes and the atrocities of his regime, but to bring to Iraq and Iraqis the novelty of the rule of law--of fair trial and civility in the judicial system that has been absent for much of Iraq’s history for more than 50 years.

I also wanted Saddam to stand trial and serve as an example for other Arab leaders (and far beyond the Arab world) that no matter how powerful and ruthless they may be, there was always the undying hope that justice will catch up with them.

Never in all the past 37 years did I feel a need to take revenge--to shed Saddam’s blood--although that desire for vengeance was not far from the minds of most Iraqis. This includes my aging mother who first said she would dance in the street if and when Saddam fell.

And when he did, she backtracked and said she would do it when he's gone-–meaning when he’s dead.

It may be a symbolic sentiment coming from a very conservative woman who never even danced, or sang in the privacy of her own home, let alone having done this in public.

But it represented the hurt and agony that Iraqis who lived under Saddam’s regime felt about their leader.

What I really wanted in a trial for Saddam Hussein was for it to be fair, open, and impartial.

Even killers like Saddam deserve a fair trial.

I wanted a fair trial because I wished that a new regime would also be a new beginning where everyone, ruler and ruled, were judged equally and fairly. I was hoping a fair trial would set the stage for the rule of law in a born-again Iraqi and Arab society.

And I did not wish him the death penalty.

Why, I was asked time and again. Particularly in light of Saddam’s ruthless history and for his central part in the killing of my own father.

As a matter of principle, I’ve always opposed capital punishment anywhere, any time and for whatever reason.

Animals kill when they are hungry or when they feel threatened. That's self-preservation.

But humans, throughout history and across all cultures and religious affiliations, killed for greed, power, and for the sheer joy of shedding someone else’s blood.

This is utterly wrong, and we as humans must be at a minimum be morally superior to animals, not the other way around.

I particularly opposed the death penalty for Saddam and any other politician in Iraq because killing one’s political opponents (usually of the previous regime) has been a trademark in Iraqi political discourse.

I believed, and still do, that unless and until a new national leader musters the moral courage and say enough is enough, there would be no end to this cycle of victor’s justice that has plagued Iraq long before Saddam came to power.

I wanted, at least this time, someone to show the way to the Iraqis that civilized people do not do things that even animals are incapable of doing: killing for revenge.

I fully understand the rage and anger among Iraqis. Many of them wished to have the dictator not only hanged, but also lynched and his body torn apart in full public view and his flesh given to animals.

This is, after all, still a tribal society governed by tribal mores and tribal justice.

What Iraqis need today is not a leader who merely responds to their anger and need for vengeance, but a leader who will set them on the path that other nations have taken before them.

Justice cannot be served by more killings, even if the one killed was convicted of mass murders or genocide.

The author, Riadh R. Muslih, is an Iraqi-born Canadian. His father, Rashid Muslih, was a former interior minister who was executed in January 1970. This occurred two years after the Baath party, which Saddam Hussein controlled, took power. Saddam Hussein become president in 1979.