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January 02, 2007

What Is and What Should Never Be
Posted by Shadi Hamid

On Sunday, I addressed the timing of Saddam’s execution. The more I think about it, the more this really strikes me as somewhat symbolic of the whole, wretched Iraq enterprise. In many ways, the Iraq war could have been, in different hands, a noble endeavor (at least in theory). If we had done things right, then maybe Iraq could have became a functioning democracy and an inspiring model for the rest of the region. Similarly, the execution of Saddam could have served as a powerful, resonant reminder of a new Middle East to come – a Middle East where rulers would be held accountable by international norms and fair judicial proceedings, and where no one stood above the law. It would provide a cautionary take to the seemingly immortal autocrats of the region – that they too would one day be held accountable for their crimes. After all, here was a man – the supposed second coming of Saladin – whose bloated myth was being shattered, after decades of destroying his country and people. But from day one, the trial of Saddam was a botched effort that fell well short of the acceptable standards of a fair trial. And few in the Arab world saw it as anything more (or less) than a charade.

Staging the execution (by hanging, no less) on the same day that Sunnis celebrate Eid al-Adha was the last in a line of botched imperfections. Surveying the Arab reaction, Abu Aardvark notes that:

The decision to execute Saddam on the Eid has swamped pretty much every other aspect of Saddam’s fate. Anger over the timing has probably overwhelmed any other sentiment (with “it doesn’t change anything, Iraq is still a mess” coming a close second).

To make matters worse, it is giving Arab regimes to deflect attention from their own failed policies on Iraq and just about everything else:

Easy for them to score some cheap points by being on the "right" side of the Eid issue so that nobody pays attention to where they stand on the bigger Iraq or Iran or Palestinian or other issues. 

Unlike many other opponents of the war, I actually believed (and hoped) that something good could come out of the Iraq war. But almost nothing good has. This – the gap between what is and what could have been – strikes me as one of the greatest tragedies of this unfortunate episode.


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Aside from the timing of the execution, one other thing has been bothering me. Isn't it customary for those carrying out state executions to wear uniforms, and to escort the prisoner with some sort of formation and orderly procedure? I only saw some of the film, but the execution team looked like a bunch of guys milling around awkwardly in bomber jackets. This added to the impression that the execution was a thuggish rush job, with little preparation or decorum.

Shadi- you're being way too timid in your reaction- the execution looked very much like it was a snuff film and the fact that the executioners were chanting in favor of Al Sadr, who is a terrorist bent on ethnic cleansing, is utterly despicable. This is what we are spilling so much blood for and spending upwards of a trillion dollars and wrecking our international legitimacy for? This is an utter disgrace.


The idea that military aggression might have been constructive "if we had done things right" has led to our ruinous interventions in the past and will fuel the oncoming military surge in Iraq. Apparently you are really not an opponent of this war or any other. Noble endeavor? In your dreams. How about a functioning democracy in the U.S. That would be a truly noble endeavor.

Well, Don, I was an opponent of the war from day one (and continue to be). But I try to be self-critical and, as a result, my position can change. And that's why the whole Iraq endeavor for me was never black and white. Reasonable people can disagree on Iraq. For "liberal interventionists" such as myself, I think we were willing to entertain the idea that Iraqis (and all Arabs) were capable of democracy and self-government. I still think they are, which is why I remain an idealist in the face of an incredibly depressing reality.

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It would provide a cautionary take to the seemingly immortal autocrats of the region – that they too would one day be held accountable for their crimes.

Ideas or processes that fail only hihghlight what soesn't/didn't work - just don't do them again, try a different way, idea, or subject.

i'm in grad school for that actually.

I want to do this after getting my Architecture degree. I love the feel of deadlines and such.

it's my dream lol but my parents want me to be a CNN type journalist and risk my life in ~the war-field~ because that's more honorable than "getting coffee for anna wintour" (my dad said that)

I am almost finished with my bachelors in journalism and I want to get my masters in fashion journalism after
I graduate.

I, like you, just want to write about fashion forever. I love researching it and learning about it!

Don't let the lack of jobs deter you from doing what you love! Good luck bb!

thank you for this advice. my degree is actually arts/journalism (i wanted a little of both, plus a specialised degree - ie not just arts - always looks better on paper) so i'm completely invested in continuing in these areas :]

Journalism is definitely what I want to do in the future, it is the only thing I see myself doing. Fashion journalism would be a dream, but journalism as a whole is just so competitive that I really have to be ready for everything.

Nietzsche used to say that there are no holy causes and every war just sanctifies every cause. I had a discussion once with my friend Aaron DelSignore about that. I told him that violence crates violence and that's why Saddam's execution was a very bad idea. One can't reconstruct a country when he begins this process with fierceness.

Thank you for your sharing! I like i very much!

Is it possible be writing a lot more about this subject?

Too bad the war in Afghanistan and the situation in Pakistan have yet to be mentioned at this convention. And isn't that quite a swipe at George Bush?

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