Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dead by 2007. Saddam Hussein.


Somebody was saying something about celebrity deaths coming in threes. This month we've had:

  • Gerald Ford

  • James Brown

  • Saddam Hussein

2. Saddam Hussein.

Although I have much more incentive to have very clear, articulable thoughts about Saddam Hussein than Gerald Ford... my exposure to him, his relevence to our times, his infamous record... I have an easier time discussing and considering an ex-president with a (relatively) unremarkable administration that was finished before I was born. I cannot decide if this is reaction is weird or expected. Sometimes the lack of investment makes conclusions easier to draw.

Of course, there are plenty of conclusions I've drawn about Saddam; it's only that they're foregone conclusions, so obvious that they don't really call for much circumspection. As an illustration of this, I remember attending an antiwar rally before we invaded Iraq. One of the speakers, inostensibly talking about the horrendous effects of depleted Uranium in Afghanistan, commented that Saddam hadn't really gotten a fair shake. I remember thinking, "not really." Certainly, he was betrayed by a powerful neutral-friendly ally, if we could be called that, but he also killed a few hundred thousand of his own people. I was always firmly in the camp, both with regard to Saddam and to terrorists (who need no connection to each other to be individually terrible) that an apologetic stance only weakens our own argument.

I always thought that the "collateral damage" should be considered a casualty, and be subjected to as rigorous scrutiny and investigation as deaths that occur within combat, much as fatal "friendly fire" is treated. Civilian casualties ought not to be the incidental matter that they are.

Maybe I'm making my case more pragmatically than I intended, and maybe I'm not talking much about Saddam Hussein the man himself. But I always thought that up to the war, the antiwar movement was either falling all over itself to comdemn Hussein even while not doing anything about him, or trying to contextualize his actions to some point where they might conceivably be justified.

I always thought that his monstrousness ought to be a foregone conclusion. Following from that point, the world is filled with monstrous dictators, and our desire for justice and/or equilibrium (inasmuch as we can address pomo concerns that we have no such desires) still have to operate on the basis of reality.

It's a confusing point to make, and I don't know if I've been clear. I think it boils down to the Left being the movement championing individual civil rights and liberties, the movement with the greatest desire to define freedom as a necessary aspect of its proliferation, gets a little carried away in not recognizing a distance, even if a distance encompassing lots of gray areas, between those who deserve a fair shake and those who must be accorded one out of necessity. Due process? By all means. The Geneva conventions? Certainly. Let us not be hypocrites. Well, okay, it's way too late for that.

But in our homes and among our friends, let us personally admit that this one man honestly deserved whatever he had coming to him. What we lack in passion, it is perhaps reasonable to lack also in sympathy.




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